Published 21st December 2016

Even if you have the most exciting TEFL lesson planned, the first few minutes of your lesson are crucial to ensuring that your learners are interested in what is about to happen. The first activity you decide to do in class can determine whether your learners will switch off and think about their weekend plans or sit up and take notice. No pressure, then.

To help you out, here are some failsafe ways to start your lesson so that your learners won’t even realise the lesson has begun!

Tell a personal story

Learners love to find out more information about their teachers and this is a fun, easy way to start the lesson and get them interested. For whatever the topic of the lesson is, think of a story from your personal life that relates to the topic. For example, if the topic is rules and regulations, tell your students about how strict your parents were (or weren’t) or a time when you broke a rule and the consequences. The funnier the story, the better.


Come up with a few songs which relate to the topic in their titles or in their lyrics. Play snippets of the songs to the class and they must try to figure out what the link is. For example, if the topic is relationships, you could play Just The Way You Are by Bruno Mars, Rude by Magic! and I Miss You by Blink182.


The same can be done with pictures. Find a set of pictures which all relate to the topic in some way. Show the class the pictures and they must decide how they are connected.

Find Someone Who

Utilise this famous activity by creating a worksheet specifically related to the language or topic. If the topic is sports, for example, you can create an activity where the students must find someone who plays tennis or who has won a medal or who doesn’t like sport.


A quick way to start the lesson is to play a quick game of Pictionary. Start by drawing pictures related to the topic on the board for the students to guess, and then you can let the students take your place and draw the pictures themselves. The same can be done with Hangman.

Video Clip

It’s so easy to find a video clip these days. Before your class, jump on YouTube and find a clip related to the topic; maybe you already know of a scene from a movie which would be suitable. It doesn’t need to be long and you can play it more than once for the students to understand what’s happening and how it could possibly relate to the upcoming lesson.

Bear in mind that these activities are meant to be short and sweet. They should not include a language focus but instead are simple ways for the students to become engaged and interested to start the lesson.