How to start a lesson

I have been teaching English for about 12 years. Talking about my experience, there has never been anything more important than to be prepared for the very beginning of the lesson. Teachers and instructors which I had a chance to know and to work with, never underestimated this part of the lesson and tried to make it more interesting, more effective and more fruitful. But it depends, of course. Let me speak about my experience and the ways I always start my lessons. My ideas are in no way related to any textbook and also it does not matter which level you teach, because these ideas are quite adaptable to any level.

  1. Greetings. For so much time so far I have been using simple ‘How are you?’ to begin the lesson. Can you guess, what I could hear? When I heard “There’s nothing to boast of” I was delighted, but usually I could hear only “I’m fine”. I found a way of drilling asking and answering the first questions in the classroom. I prepared a set of cards for students, the first was called “How To Greet” and the second was “How To Respond”. I put these two piles of cards in front of the students and asked them to practice each word with a partner. Then I usually regroupped my students and they could try to use as many word expressions as possible and to respond as well.
  2. News. On Mondays I usually have classes in the very morning. Sometimes it is difficult for my students to begin speaking English straight away after entering the classroom. So every week I ask my students to prepare a couple of news they read or watched on TV the day before and to be ready to share with their partners. It usually takes them 3-5 minutes, and that is enough for the quick start and after this activity I am pretty sure they are willing to speak and read English.
  3. Quotation. It is a nice idea to start a lesson with a quotation. It can be related to the topic in the textbook you are currently teaching, or if your students are of a stronger level, you can provide them with a quotation related to politics or current situation in the world. The thing is that you do not reveal the whole phrase to students at the very beginning. I usually use a projector or a board to write a quotation with gaps and I usually write words to fill in the gaps randomly to allow students to think for a while, and in doing so, they will read a quotation they were supposed to guess. As a follow-up activity students are free to discuss it in pairs or in groups.

Currently I am still on the look-out for ideas and activities to start a lesson. Please, share yours in comments!