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Do-Now: Is this a bandwagon I need to be on?

June 17, 2012

In my end of year meetings, and throughout the year, I hear my colleagues discuss the do-now that they use for their classes. Kids walk in, they do a thing, class begins. Presumably the thing relates to the work they did last night, or the day before. I’ve never done this in any concrete way. Perhaps I should?

I’ve been toying with some sort of a 5% doing-your-stuff grade chunk, a do-now homework wrap up seems like a decent way to do that. One clear problem I see is that, in general, I’m bad at asking easy questions. I don’t understand them. When I sit down to write a test my brain initially sorts the questions it comes up with into too-easy, easy, hard, and too-hard. The too-easy questions barely seem like questions, they’re more like vocabulary binaries, and that category largely goes unpopulated, I just don’t think of the questions at all. “What is the acceleration due to gravity on the surface of the earth?” At most that’s one step. I would never ask a question like that on a test (I stared at the screen for a couple of minutes before I was able to come up with something that easy), but perhaps that’s the sort of thing I need to shoot for on a do-now?Β  If they did their reading or paid attention yesterday, full marks, if not, no credit. Coming up with these questions will be a challenge. My usual technique of taking the pulse of the class and directing accordingly won’t fly. I’ll need to come in with a specific do-now, left to my impromptu devices I’ll start ratcheting up the difficulty so that I avoid boring or insulting them. No matter how many times I remind myself I just can’t seem to process the fact that they are not going to be insulted, and they’re largely ok with being bored by easy. Who is ok with being bored by easy? Who doesn’t get insulted by easy questions?!…

Kids, dummy. Kids. Kids who don’t necessarily want to become physicists. Kids who are often still scared and scarred by science and math and their own brains in general.

One Comment leave one →
  1. June 17, 2012 12:23 pm

    I don’t think the “do now” idea necessarily needs to be a physics question or even something different every day. I think it could be something like having them write down something they are confused about, or something they think they’re starting to really understand, etc. Or it could be starting whiteboards of homework problems. Or really anything. I think the idea is just that the kids know the routine of what they are expected to do when they get to class, so the start of class is more efficient.

    I don’t really do anything specific like that now. I usually wait until most people are there or it is a minute or two after we are supposed to start, whichever comes first, then I say something like, “we were in the middle of something, right?” if they haven’t already gotten started. Usually we were in the middle of something, so that works, and they pull out their packets and get back to whatever they were doing last time.

    My first year teaching, I taught math at a different school (Algebra I β€” fun class πŸ™‚ ). I didn’t really know what I was doing then, but I made up a lot of things to do. For each night of homework, there were about 5 or 6 kids assigned to specific problems. Everyone did all of the problems (or they were supposed to, anyway), but those kids knew that they would be doing their particular problem on the board the next day. My start-of-class routine consisted of the students who were in charge of homework problems for that day immediately finding a spot on the board and putting up their work while the rest of the class came in, found their homework, settled down, checked out the homework problems the others were writing on the board, etc. It was loud and looked like total chaos, but worked really well (and didn’t take much time at all). We fixed any problems with their work, then moved on to the plan for the day. When my department chair observed me, he told me afterwards that he was about a minute away from intervening when suddenly everyone was sitting down, quiet, and paying attention. Not knowing what they were going to do, I guess it looked like I just had no influence over the class at all and that they just ran wild every day. In reality, it was a pretty well-defined routine that the whole class knew how to pull off in a pretty efficient manner. Anyway, I think my point was that you don’t need to give up the first few minutes of class time to brainless fact questions to establish a routine. There are probably endless varieties of good “do now” type activities. πŸ™‚


    Oh, PS, I think some people also call these “bell ringers”, which could come in handy if you want to search the Internets for more ideas. πŸ™‚

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