Heads and tails  – an active starter

Heads and tails is something I have ‘stolen’ from quiz nights that I have attended and applied it as a starter in lessons to introduce content. The only preparation you need is to devise the question which students need to guess the answer. For this activity, the question must require an answer which is a number. For example, some of the questions I have used in this activity are –

– How many states did Roosevelt win in the 1932 Presidential Election?

– In which year did King John agreed to the Magna Carta?

– What was the highest population of Hemel Hempstead during the medieval period?

For ease of presentation and to focus concentration it is useful to have the question typed on a PowerPoint slide and shown during the activity. The activity works in the following steps –

– Ask the students to stand up.

– Set the question and give students a moment to think of an answer.

– Set the activity – a student will guess the answer and give a number – the rest of the class will respond to this answer in the following ways; if they think the answer is higher than the number given, they will put their hands on their heads, if they think the answer is lower, they put their hands on their bottom (hence the title of the activity), if they think the answer is correct, they cross their arms.

– Once everyone has made their guess, the teacher, reveals whether it is higher, lower or correct. If it is higher or lower, that is all the teacher says, they do not reveal the correct answer. Those students who have got it incorrect (ie. The guessed the answer is lower and the answer is actually higher, for example) have to sit down and are eliminated from the game.

– This process is repeated with different students giving an answer which others respond to and as the activity progresses, students are being eliminated round by round until the answer is found 

This is an engaging activity which adds a sense of competition and excitement at the beginning of a lesson. The activity is quick and easy to prepare as well as to execute during the lesson which involves all students. It is also a crafty way of checking prior knowledge too.

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