If there is one thing that will make or break a lesson, it is how the teacher gets the class started. Any delay in engaging and capturing students focus will result in a slow start from which it is difficult to recover. Ways to do this have been given different names for different generations. Madeline Hunter called it the Anticipatory Set. Others have written about the hook. What they are all talking about is the need to get your students attention, and to establish relevance immediately. The hook gets their attention. Doug Lemov in his book, Teach Like A Champion, described the hook as “a short introductory moment that captures what’s interesting and engaging about the material and puts it out front…it prepares students to be brought up to the material.” Lemon identifies three kinds of hooks; they are story, analogy, prop, media, status (describe something great), and challenge.
I recently attended a class on the unwinnability of the “rat race.” The teacher identified five traps to avoid. As he named the first trap, he mentioned that he had placed several rat traps around the room, and cautioned us all not to get caught in one, he then took the stick that was in his hand and sprung one of the rat traps, placed on the floor behind one of the tables around which we were seated. With the loud snap and the jump of the trap, he had all of our attention in a hurry. It combined the element of surprise, entertainment, and a good word picture to capture our attention. The mouse traps were an effective hook, and an example of a prop.
Relevancy is established by applying previous learning and experience. A short time spent on practicing previous learning is also done soon into the lesson. I used previous learning today by immediately using slur markings on lyrics instead of musical notes. I placed a slur mark underneath each syllable of lyrics that had two pitches assigned to it to make memorization of the melody easier without reading music notation. My students performed a slur while seeing a slur added to words they were familiar with. The new use of slurs got their attention, and made learning the new song more interesting. I then moved on to another part of the song that included another type of articulation, the accent. I added accent marks to the lyrics, and then taught them how I wanted the accents sung. They knew where to sing them from the markings, so they could concentrate on how to sing them. Now when they see slurs and accents, whether in music or lyrics, they have a better understanding of what to do with them.
Once the teacher has established a reputation for attention grabbing and relevant beginnings to a lesson, the folderol than can easily hijack the beginning of a lesson disintegrates, as student anticipate something worth seeing and hearing. That is why, I believe, the beginning of the lesson is called the anticipatory set. It is a set of strategies that teaches the students to anticipate something worthwhile, while it also anticipates what is to follow in the lesson.