Anticipatory Set: Capture Student’s Attention from the Beginning

An anticipatory set engages students from the beginning and is necessary for learning and a happy classroom environment. The question is how do we engage students so that they are curious and motivated to learn? The answer lies within the planning and execution of your anticipatory set. Once you have identified your unit and lesson objectives it is important to spend time thinking about the big picture. Your anticipatory set will set the stage for learning for the entire unit.

At the beginning of a unit is a great time to plan that real attention grabbing activity. Then the anticipatory sets for the following lessons can be engaging but do not have to be as elaborate as the one you should plan for introducing the unit. Before we move on to HOW to plan an anticipatory set, let’s look at the components of one.

anticipatory set

An anticipatory set guides student learning into a new lesson by having them recall past information by activating their schema, stimulating their interest and increasing student motivation needed for learning. It involves class participation and leads to the learning objective for the lesson. It should be a fun but concise and short activity taking up less than 15 minutes for a unit introduction and 5 minutes for a lesson.

When planning, the anticipatory set comes after setting the lessons objectives but during instruction, the anticipatory set is the first activity the students engage in.

Now we come to how we plan an engaging and fun anticipatory set. A really good anticipatory set will have the following components:

  • Support learning objectives
  • Activate prior knowledge
  • Use the students senses and/or stir the emotions
  • Segue into the “input” stage of the lesson

Follow the anticipatory set with the lesson objectives and purpose. Students put forth more effort if they understand what they are learning, the purpose and goals. All of the energy you put in these two activities will pay off during the unit and lessons since you are activating the brain for optimal learning.

Building Blocks of Anticipatory Sets

Here are some strategies and building blocks to use for designing an anticipatory set. Combine and use them to create the perfect hook for your students.

  • Quote: Find a quote and use it in your classroom. Display it on your whiteboard, print it out and tape it on the floor or your door, print off a copy for your students in jumbled order and have them “crack” the sentence.
  • Prop: A prop can be a physical item that relates to your subject and objectives. Display it museum style, encourage interaction with the object and/or use it for a show and tell. You can have them walk through the “museum” and make observations and connect it what they think they might learn.
  • Media: A video, audio, newspaper articles or images can enhance your hook. With websites like brainpop, youtube, discovery science, etc. there isn’t a shortage of media that can be used.
  • Story: You can tell a personal story, a story that relates to the objectives, describe a scene or event from history; read a passage with the target grammar (mentor texts), etc.
  • Analogy: Analogies make concepts easier to understand and more relatable. To come up with a good analogy, list characteristics of the concept, list characteristics of something relatable to your student’s lives and then find relationships between them.
  • Challenge: Design a game, riddle, or something that needs to be solved.
  • Survey: Create a survey.
  • Scenario: Set a scene for a problem and have the students brainstorm possible answers.
  • Experiment: Conduct an experiment.
  • Word Associations: Give students a set of vocabulary words and have them make a connection.
  • Dress up: Find a costume or create a skit based on what students will be learning.
  • Writing Prompt: Students will answer a question, brainstorm, activate prior knowledge, etc. about the topic.
  • Scavenger Hunt: Students will gather information on topic.
  • Joke: Telling a joke related to the topic will get kids laughing and get the brain activated!
  • Assembly Line: Use your imagination to create this set. The purpose is the process in which students will add something until there is a finished piece.
  • Picture Puzzle: Take an image and cut it up, students will put it together to find out what they are learning about.

Once you welcome your students into your classroom it is important to get and sustain their attention. Planning and executing really great hooks sets the stage for subsequent learning. Now that you have many different ideas to design the perfect hook, you’re ready to experiment and see what works best with your students.