Jump-Starting Your Class with SET Activities

By Rod Lucero

Looking for ways to jump start your class each day while engaging your students right from the Get-Go? Including SET activities in your lesson plan could be the answer.

Regardless of class size—though it is especially true in large lecture formats—the effectiveness of these activities has been well documented by scholars researching and writing about the art and science of lesson planning.

What's a SET Activity?

A SET activity is a hook creating a Primacy Effect, or first impression. It should be brief—30 seconds to two minutes—and be intentionally related to the specific lesson you have planned for the day.

Properly implemented, SET activities pull everyone’s "voice" into the room, setting the stage for students to proactively build a positive classroom culture. With their collective "voice in the room" students help create a learning environment in which they will, generally speaking, willingly participate.

A good SET activity establishes the flow and momentum of the lesson by:

  • Providing a transition between the before-class "babble" and the beginning of class.
  • Empowering class participation by engaging students immediately with the content.
  • Building class anticipation for the forthcoming lesson.
  • Demanding previously learned skills be practiced in the current lesson.
  • Serving as a grounding-point pulling all students onto the same page and into the here-and-now of the current teaching session.
  • Help students discern their own meaning of the learning.

You might also note that implicit in a good SET activity is the opportunity for instant evaluation and assessment of your students' prior learning and current progress. This is especially important, strategically, as you assess your effectiveness transferring complex content, new concepts, and challenging ideas.

Here are some examples:

  • Review the names of all your students (...do this in the first part of the semester).
  • Partner your students up to share with each other one thing remembered from the last class meeting (....you could then pair up groups of partners for a more dynamic sharing).
  • Have groups of three reflect upon how the homework assignment ties the last class meeting to the current.
  • In pairs, have your students share one moment of Aha! gleaned from a previous lesson, and one of bafflement.
  • Based on the prior lesson, ask students to prepare a "quote" or thought for the current lesson. Call on three or four to share their quotes or thoughts. (This helps in the transfer of knowledge)
  • Read an excerpt from an appropriate text and ask for student interpretation and analysis.
  • Go around the room asking students for one-word responses to quick prompts like:
    • Where is your head today?
    • How was your weekend?
    • How will you participate in class today?
    • Last night’s reading assignment was_________________
    • I applied what I learned in this way…?
  • You might also want to try some non-verbal SET activities like:
    • Write a quick paragraph sharing your insights on yesterday’s material
    • Share, by drawing, painting, poetry, or song, your understanding of this week's reading assignment. (right/left hemisphere engagement, as well as engaging multiple intelligences, {Gardner})

Copyright and Permissions:

Dr. Rodrick Lucero is the Master Teacher Initiative (MTI) coordinator for the College of Applied Human Sciences at Colorado State University. He is an Associate Professor in the School of Education and the Associate Director for the School of Teacher Education and Principal Preparation (STEPP).


Peter Connor - TILT Web Content Writer and Editor