Writing a Lesson Plan: Anticipatory Sets

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To write an effective lesson plan, you must define the Anticipatory Set. This is the second step of an effective lesson plan and should be written after the Objective and before the Direct Instruction.

In the Anticipatory Set section, you outline what you will say and/or present to your students before the direct instruction of the lesson begins.

Purpose of Anticipatory Set

The purpose of the Anticipatory Set is to:

  • Provide continuity from previous lessons, if applicable
  • Allude to familiar concepts and vocabulary as a reminder and refresher
  • Tell the students briefly what the lesson will be about
  • Gauge the students' level of collective background knowledge of the subject to help inform your instruction
  • Activate the students' existing knowledge base
  • Whet the class's appetite for the subject at hand
  • Briefly expose the students to the lesson's objectives and how you will get them to the end result

What to Ask Yourself

In order to write your anticipatory set, consider asking yourself the following questions:

  • How can I involve as many as students as possible, piquing their interests for the subject matter to come?
  • How should I inform my students of the lesson's context and objective, in kid-friendly language?
  • What do the students need to know before they can delve into the lesson plan itself and direct instruction?

Anticipatory Sets are more than just words and discussion with your students. You can also engage in a brief activity or question-and-answer session to start the lesson plan off in a participatory and active manner.


Here are a few examples of what an "anticipatory set" would look like in your lesson plan. These examples are referring to lesson plans about animals and plants. Remember, your goal for this section of the lesson plan is to activate prior knowledge and get your students thinking.

  • Remind the children of animals and plants they have studied earlier in the year. Ask them to name a few of each and tell you a little bit about them.
  • Ask the class to raise their hands to contribute to a discussion of what they already know about plants. Write a list on the blackboard of the characteristics they name while prompting them and offering ideas and comments as needed. Repeat the process for a discussion of the properties of animals. Point out major similarities and differences.
  • Tell the children that it is important to learn about plants and animals because we share the earth with them and depend upon each other for survival.
  • Read a book that you have read to the students earlier in the year. Ask them the same questions to get them thinking and to see what they can remember.

Edited By: Janelle Cox