One great way to get intermediate and upper level students engaged and curious about an upcoming book or film is to ask them questions pertaining to its plot before they begin. This not only activates students’ brains and imaginations as they consider what might be ahead, but it also provides a “back door” opportunity to introduce students to key vocabulary they might need as they progress through the story. For example, if students were about to watch the film “Star Wars,” some of the questions might be: “Have you ever learned a family secret?” “Have you ever fought for a cause you believed in despite overwhelming odds?” or “Have you ever received a message that you didn’t quite understand?” This activity is especially entertaining when you include unique events from the story into the mix: “Have you ever had a friend that only growled to communicate?” Such questions captivate students’ interest and when those events actually occur during the reading or film, you can almost see the lightbulb go on over each student’s head.
Many of us have used Kahoot, Quia Web, Google Forms, or any number of other online tools for quizzes, but they come in handy for survey questions like the ones above too. In an instant, students can see their classmates’ answers. From here, have students complete simple statements such as “I’m surprised that …” or “I wonder why ….” using the results of the surveys and then discuss with each other.
The low-tech version of this introductory activity is easy to execute, too. Simply write or print each question on a piece of 8 ½ x 11 paper and hang them around your classroom. Then give each student a sheet of stickers (stars or dots work great!), and have them place a sticker on all of the questions to which their answer is “yes.” This could be done with students signing their names too, but the stickers preserve student anonymity and thus may yield more authentic responses.