“Ok, so who can tell me about the six aspects of a civilization?” I looked around. It was the beginning of class and all I heard was a deafening silence accompanied by students who had question marks in their eyes. No one knew the answer, which was unfathomable to me because it wasn’t a hard question. All I needed were six students to say one answer each. In addition, I had just spent a whole lesson the day before teaching the answer to this question. It was obvious no one remembered. It was even more obvious that I hadn’t taught it well enough for it to be remembered. I once had heard of German psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus theory of the forgetting curve, whereby it was determined individuals forgot a large percentage of what they learned. However, I knew I could get my students to remember more than just a few facts. But how?
The answer was the Do-Now. After my first year of teaching, I realized that asking disengaging recall questions at the beginning of class was not an effective strategy in reviewing content with my students. However, the Do-Now’s purpose is to “spiral” or review content, extending learned information from one lesson to the next. A Do-Now can also introduce a concept one would want to teach in a lesson where the entire onus of learning is put on the student. Put into action, A Do-Now is an engaging, five minute independent and silent activity that occurs at the beginning of class. Yet how can all of this be achieved in under seven minutes? By keeping it simple.
I began asking engaging and higher level questions that would allow my elementary and middle school students to express their opinion using previous knowledge. If you were living under Hammurabi’s laws, would you follow them? Why or why not? Are they fair? Do you think animals should be free or live in zoos? I then observed colleagues and worked with my instructional coach to find creative ways to review content such as having students answer a question on a post it note and then get up and post it somewhere in the room. Other Do-Nows included vocabulary bingo, content charades, vocabulary Simon Says, and countless other activities that engaged and challenged student thinking.
The Do-Now has multiple positive effects that I never considered as a new teacher. First, having a beginning silent activity gave me time to check homework while getting the students settled both behaviorally and academically. It also gave me the opportunity to circulate and observe students who needed help or were about to misbehave which allowed me the ability to effectively employ classroom management techniques. Second, the Do-Now was often a hook that engaged students and got them excited about what we would be doing that day. Third, since I incorporated movement into some of my Do-Nows, my more impulsive students were able to release some energy in moving around before a longer period of sitting. Fourth, students were able to review or preview content that actually helped them learn content. I was also able to use Do-Now’s to review information students hadn’t learned well. Fifth, the Do-Now provided a routine for my class each day and students knew what to expect. Sixth and finally, the Do-Now allowed me to build relationships with my students because they knew we could learn and have fun at the same time.
Teacher’s Tips: How can I incorporate Do-Now’s into my lessons?
* Links to Cool Timer and other timers
Video on Do-Nows
I am an education coach and consultant as well as an executive functioning coach for children struggling with ADD/ADHD. You can also check out this blog at aquinaseducationcoaching.wordpress.com and