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.