Providing Lesson Focus with ‘Do Now’ Experiences

flickr photo by hans s shared under a Creative Commons (BY-ND) license

One of the most effective ways to ensure a focused start to your lessons is to implement a culture and consistent practice of ‘do now’ experiences.

From the Teach Like a Champion blog:

“The first step in a great lesson is a “Do Now”– a short activity that you have written on the board or that is waiting for students as they enter.  It often starts working before you do.  While you are greeting students at the door, or finding that stack of copies, or erasing the mark-ups you made to your overhead from the last lesson, students should already be busy, via the Do Now with scholarly work that prepares them to succeed. In fact, students entering your room should never have to ask themselves, “What am I supposed to be doing?” That much should go without saying. The habits of a good classroom should answer, “You should be doing the Do Now, because we always start with the Do Now.”

An effective Do Now should conform to four critical criteria to ensure that it remains focused, efficient, and effective:

  1. The Do Now should be in the same place every day so taking it and getting started is the habit of all your students.  The options for where it goes:  1) You can write it on the Board- ideally in the same place everyday or post it on a piece of newsprint having written it in advance.2) You can put it in writing on a sheet of paper or as the first page in a packet for the day’s lesson(see technique #19, Double Plan). You’d then either leave the Do Nows in a stack on a table or desk just inside the door and that students take as soon as they enter or place a Do Now on each student’s desk before they enter.  (I tend to see this one most at the elementary school level)
  2. Students should be able to complete the Do Now without any direction from the teacher, without any discussion with their classmates and in most cases without any other materials save what you provide.  So if the Do Now is to write a sentence interpreting a primary source document that is an 19th century Punch cartoon, that cartoon should be posted somewhere easily visible to all or else copied into the Do Now packet.  This by the way his a significant benefit to paper-based Do Nows and probably explains why over the past four years I’ve seen more and more of them—and fewer DO Nows on the Board—in top teachers’ classrooms. Some teachers misunderstand the purpose of the Do Now and use a version of the technique that requires them to explain to their students what to do and how to do it: “Okay, class, you can see that the Do Now this morning asks you to solve some typical problems using area. Remember that to solve area problems, you have to multiply.” This defeats the purpose of establishing a self-managed habit of productive work. If you have to give directions, it’s not independent enough.”    Read the rest of the post, including samples, here.

For more examples of how to use “Do Now” strategy in your classroom, check out the Teaching Channel. 





Eliminate Fear from the Classroom

creative commons licensed (BY-NC) flickr photo by Dystopos:

Plenty of studies have demonstrated that when humans are stressed or afraid, they cannot learn. This ASCD chapter by Bob Sullo outlines how and why to eliminate the use of fear as a behavior management strategy for students and classrooms.

“Despite compelling evidence to the contrary, many teachers still believe that fear—fear of failure, fear of an unwanted call home, fear of the teacher, fear of ridicule, or fear of an unpleasant consequence—is a prime motivator for students to do high-quality work. The intentional creation of fear in the classroom remains one of the most widely used strategies for managing student behavior and encouraging academic achievement.

But fear compromises our ability to learn. In this chapter, you will meet a well-intentioned teacher who undermines his capacity to inspire high achievement by creating a classroom environment infused with fear.”   Read the entire chapter here.

Building Cooperative Environments

creative commons licensed (BY-NC-ND) flickr photo by Pensiero:

Dr. Lori Desautels recently published an interesting piece on Edutopia with an update to class roles. She writes:

“Last week as I was driving to one of our large, diverse public elementary schools to speak with teachers about connection, my mind went to a different realm of classroom structure and function. I began to think differently about what bonding and empathy look like in our classrooms. Traditionally, we give students classroom responsibilities with different jobs (paper passer, line leader, errand runner, etc.), but what if we built relationships and trust through leadership and caregiving roles? These roles and responsibilities call us to explore an emotional climate in our classrooms that would breed service and compassion. When we engage with one another, feeling the power of our compassion and service, the neural circuitry in the brain shifts, and our “reward system” of dopamine and serotonin sharpens our focus, emotional regulation, and engagement. We prime our brains for deepened learning and social connection.” 

Read the entire piece here.

30 Techniques to Quiet a Noisy Class


Photo Credit: wildxplorer via Compfight cc

Todd Finley wrote a great piece for Edutopia with a variety of non-traditional attention-getting strategies for classroom teachers. He begins:

“One day, in front 36 riotous sophomores, I clutched my chest and dropped to my knees like Sergeant Elias at the end of Platoon. Instantly, dead silence and open mouths replaced classroom Armageddon. Standing up like nothing had happened, I said, “Thanks for your attention — let’s talk about love poems.” Keep reading here.