Getting them in and getting them started

I am currently mentoring two Troops to Teachers – one for History, the other for RE. I think these subjects have a lot in common. One thing I know is that both trainees need to be on top of behaviour from the beginning of every lesson. That is helped enormously if they get the pupils into the class room in an orderly fashion and get them working straight away.

I remember reading Rob Phillips’ article on using, what he called, initial stimulus material, also known as a ‘hook’, as pupils entered his room. It is something I have tried to do every lesson. If there is something for pupils to do on entering your class room you can afford the time to stand at the door welcoming them in. By ‘something to do’ I don’t mean a word search or similar (although I can see how these do have their place in a History classroom) I mean a well thought out question linked directly to the lesson’s or sequence of lessons’ objectives.

For instance, when I teach the impact of the Treaty of Versailles using information from the excellent Re-discovering the Twentieth-Century World: A World Study after 1900 I start with the famous Will Dyson Peace and Future Cannon Fodder cartoon ( This cartoon is shown on my whiteboard with simple questions around the outside: ‘Who are these men?’, ‘why is the baby crying?’, ‘when might this cartoon have been drawn?’ that sort of thing. I can have this on the board ready and as pupils are entering my room I can still welcome them as well as pointing them to the questions.

This cartoon then forms an integral part of the lesson, rather than a stand-alone ‘starter’ that is not referred to. Firstly, we analyse the cartoon for its message, pupils annotate their own copy. Secondly, we compare this to a German cartoon of the same period (the above text book has a very good one). Both of these cartoons refer to the Treaty of Versailles in a negative way. This then frames our enquiry for the lesson. Our third task is to deliberate the terms of the treaty from the viewpoints of the major countries involved. Generally a quite robust discussion ensues as pupils voice their opinion on the harshness or otherwise of the treaty. Whatever their viewpoint they all understand the cartoons. Finally, we come full circle to Dyson and ask if his cartoon is correct in its message that the treaty will lead to another war in 1940. There is no shortage of opinion.

Of course there are a number of ways you can use ISM – why not have a go and let us know how you got on.

You can find Rob Phillip’s article on the HA website at:  

Do follow the HA on Twitter @histassoc for more updates, to send comments and to share ideas.


Thanks to Richard Kerridge, St Joseph’s College, for this post. 

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