Working as a teacher in my probationary year, I have been placed in a group of probationer teacher researchers to complete a piece of research within our classrooms. We discussed areas of our work that we were interested in developing our knowledge of. Starter tasks were suggested as a discussion topic and each member of the group had different experiences; some using tasks as a behaviour management technique, others for assessment purposes.
Our group then decided to examine the possible effects of starter tasks on the class’ readiness for learning.
When discussing Start and Plenary tasks, The Department for Education (DfE, 2004) states that: ‘Fundamental to managing pupil behaviour during starters and plenaries are rigorous planning and the appropriate use of a range of interactive teaching strategies’. Mortimore also highlights the need for ‘structured sessions’ (1988) in order to contribute to effective outcomes.
The common aims were to help pupils to ‘develop their skills further’ (DfE, 2004). They go on to explain that ‘Starters exploit the prime learning time at the beginning of lessons when pupils are often at their most receptive and concentration levels are high’.
Starter tasks are able to:
- ‘hook the learner’ into a lesson by developing the relationship between initial activity and learning intention (Phillips, 2001)
- improve learner’s ability in ‘connecting the learning’ (Smith, 1998)
- be used as ‘management techniques’ for disruption levels (DfE, 2004).
The aim was to evaluate the efficacy of starter tasks to prepare for learning and to evaluate the implications on our future practice.