Engagement Triggers

Anticipatory Set, Hook, Entry Event

Engagement Triggers are short introductions to a lesson designed to activate prior knowledge and capture students’ attention. Engagement Triggers generate curiosity which causes a release of pleasure hormones in the brain. The connection of a topic or activity to pleasure increases students' desire and ability to actively engage with the material and learn. Effective Engagement Triggers often incorporate thought-provoking questions, intriguing images and readings, or real world-examples that evoke shock, wonder and connection.

Ready-to-Use Resources

Graphic Organizer

Graphic Organizer for Making Connections

Graphic organizer for making connections to new content. Give the graphic organizer to students to track their ideas as well as promote engagement during preteaching activities.

Grade 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 · Reading, Writing, Math · 1 pages

Graphic Organizer

KWL Chart

A KWL Chart that can be used to activate students’ background knowledge. Give the chart to students to track ideas as well as promote engagement during lessons and activities.

Grade 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 · Reading, Writing, Math · 1 pages

Implementation Tips

Keep Brief
Design the Engagement Trigger to be a small portion of the entire lesson. For an hour long lesson, five minutes is an ideal length. Use Engagement Triggers to introduce a topic and capture students' attention and avoid extending the activity (e.g. engaging in a prolonged classroom discussion).
Be Energetic
Use high amounts of energy and excitement during Engagement Trigger activities. Show excitement by varying your tone of voice and volume and using exaggerated body movements. This triggers students' brains to pay attention and can spur curiosity and engaged learning throughout the lesson.
Use Strategically
Use Engagement Triggers when covering unfamiliar topics or activities, or when students are unlikely to be excited about the subject. Plan to use Engagement Triggers when introducing new units that include material that students are likely to experience as difficult to master or irrelevant to their lives.
Tools for Engagement
Include various types of Engagement Triggers in lessons to keep things interesting for students. Possible tools to capture students’ interest include props, songs, games, quotes, anecdotes, questions, passages, facts, statistics, analogies, images, and other media clips.
Make Connections
Refer back to the Engagement Trigger activity throughout the lesson or unit. Doing so strengthens the connection between the academic content and the initial activity and generates excitement. When planning the lesson, make sure to highlight opportunities to refer to the initial activity. Also, during the Engagement Trigger activity, make note of any significant comments from students that can be referenced later in the lesson.


Multiple Modalities
A science teacher introduces the topic of photosynthesis. As the lesson begins, the teacher passes out a flower to each student and instructs them to examine the flower using touch, sight, and smell. Next, the teacher asks students what they know about this plant and its processes. When a student mentions photosynthesis, the teacher gets excited and reveals, "That is the topic of the day!" Then the teacher introduces the topic with a song about photosynthesis. Throughout the lesson the teacher sings segments of the song that relate to the material.
Small Groups
Before a unit on the Revolutionary War, a teacher has students form small groups for an Engagement Trigger activity. The teacher has each group collaborate to draw a picture of Paul Revere that must include items that indicate the time period and one fact about Paul Revere or the War. The students are allowed to use the internet for research. The students share their drawings with the class and post them on the wall.
KWL Charts
Before an introductory lesson to William Shakespeare, an English teacher shows the class a picture and introduces him briefly to the class (e.g., “This is Shakespeare”). She then has the students work with a partner to complete a KWL worksheet. The students work together to list what they know (K) and what they want to know (W) about Shakespeare. As a closure to the lesson, the students come together with their partners to complete the L section of the KWL chart by writing down what they learned.
Classroom Norms
A seventh grade teacher notices that some students are frequently talking out of turn and making inappropriate comments while others are presenting and decides to review the classroom rules and norms with the class. As an introduction, the teacher shows the class a one minute video clip of a teenager singing a popular song in front of a respectful audience. Then the teacher asks the class to list the behaviors of the audience and how they helped the singer during the performance. The teacher refers to the students' ideas when reviewing the classroom norms.

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