Feb 14, 2011

Zoom In: Do Now

I borrowed a page out of Mr. G's book -- literally, more or less -- and made Do Now sheets for the students that they could hold on to for the week.

Until recently, I collected half sheets of Do Nows from students. I found, though, that students were getting confused about where they jotted down some of their notes or ideas because I did not give the Do Now half sheets back (shame on me). I hope that this way, with the Mon-Tues-Weds-Thurs-Fri Do Now sheet, they'll be able to track what we've covered over the past week.

Another way that I tried to improve our Do Now time is that I initialed students' sheets if they had finished/attempted the question. Even though I walked around and checked for progress before, the fact that I was now marking their papers motivated students to show me that they attempted it. I have a hunch that the students whose Do Nows were blank prior to today were attempting the problem in their head, but if they were not confident in their answer, they would not put anything down. Since I am giving credit for work shown, I get to now see students' thinking and reasoning regardless of correct answers.

Students have plenty of time to get from one class to another; as they enter our classroom, there is usually a minute or two of settling down before the bell rings. At first, I wanted for students to enter the room quietly and calmly. I'm starting to let go of that fantasy, though. The kids always file into the classroom excited about something: Valentine's day, a game that was on the night before, a project that we are doing in science, the fact that their dog just had puppies... the list goes on. They crazy. My friend gave me a nice analogy today:
"Sometimes, when I'm at home and watching TV, I put the TV on mute so that I can do something for a moment. When I'm done with whatever it was I was doing, I un-mute the TV. To my surprise, the volume is incredibly loud and blaring at me! I did not notice how loud the TV actually was until I compared it to complete silence. When students are walking into the classroom, they might be coming from a fun activity, or from the lunch room, or from the loud, crowded hallways, and they do not realize how much of that loud energy they are bringing with them into the classroom. I think that when students are in the classroom, it's important to bring the noise level down to complete silence for at least a moment; that way, students will have a frame of reference for their own volume."
I'm learning to allow students to shake off their crazies until the bell rings. Once the bell rings, I told them that that is a signal for us to be in our seats and working quietly and independently on the Do Now. It sometimes takes a moment, but I'm learning to be OK with that because the kids are 8th graders: they're silly and they're very emotional. My main focus in terms of volume now is to give kids a frame of reference of where our volume needs to start in our classroom before we can start adding volume throughout the period.


EMily H said...

I hope this system works for you as well as it works for me! I teach high school, and the Monday-Friday Do Now sheet is my favorite way to handle bell work. Other teachers who I've shared my "Do Now" sheets with (who previously had kids use a notebook) have been amazed that students will put in more effort simply because they have a handout that has boxes to fill in for each day. I can't explain it, but I certainly take advantage of it! :)

Some things I've found over the years:
*If your students lose their Do Now sheets a lot, try copying them on colored paper each week (if you can afford colored copy paper(. I use green paper for my geometry classes, for example, and I love being able to say "I should see your green Do Now sheet on your desk" at the beginning of class. It makes it easy to get a visual of who is actually getting started right away, and it's easier for students to find in their folders.

*I have started putting important events (quizzes, tests, half days) by the relevant days on the Do Now sheets. It helps cut down on the "I didn't know there was a test" excuses and helps students plan their week.

My students likewise come to class a little loud and crazy (or a lot!), and they don't even have the excuse of being 8th graders! :)

April Isabel said...

Thanks for the advice! I'll definitely print next week's sheets on colored paper.

You're totally right about students taking a liking to filling in these boxes. My kids very carefully cross out Mondays when there's a holiday, etc. etc. to make sure that they are filling out the correct box.

My cooperating teacher took over the class on Monday last week and did not give them their Do Now sheets. When I handed one to each student as they entered the classroom, I heard a few "Yes! The Do Nows are back!"

It's always nice to start of the class period with a 5-min feeling of success and a refresher from yesterday. It's also nice to have those 5 min to figure out who's absent, who's back from being absent, and so on.