How to Create an Anticipatory Set

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Famed educator Madeline Hunter developed a list of seven elements that powerful educators incorporate into their lessons, ranging from the opening hook to communication of the information to the check for understanding and closure. The first of Hunter's concepts is the anticipatory set, an opening activity that engages students and connects to the lesson's purpose.

Creating an Anticipatory Set

  • Choose an activity for the anticipatory set that focuses on the concepts of the lesson and will interest students in the ideas. Connecting with information they already possess can be a powerful introduction. For example, a lesson about fractions might open with a question about how students might cut up a pizza. Reminding students of previous lessons makes strong educational relationships, so summarizing what types of governments the class has already covered creates a good start for introducing a new type. If you have previously taught democracy and aristocracy, ask students to list the major ideas about each to help compare and contrast dictatorships with these other styles. Open-ended questions can be effective, such as asking what students think of when you say the word "love" for a lesson about symbols in literature. Role playing a boss-employee conflict could set up a language or communications lesson. Use a variety of activities and a mix of visual, auditory and tactile components to keep students interested and your lessons creative. Relate the anticipatory set clearly to the lesson so students understand the relationship. For instance, a discussion of recent sporting events will likely not relate clearly to Harper Lee's "To Kill a Mockingbird," but conversation about a racially motivated crime would.

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