Do Now’s, Bell Ringers, and Warm Ups

Whatever you call them, I love them. My Do Now’s are like the utility infielder of the first five minutes of class – they can serve in so many roles!

Can it help with my Tardy Policy?

You betcha!  As soon as the bell rings, I start the Do Now / Learning Target slide. My kids have a week-long tracker where they have to write the Learning Target and the question down. Then they have to answer the question.

Instead of a timer, I play an upbeat song that lasts about 4-5 minutes. As the song plays, they are doing the Do Now. When they are done, they raise their hands for me to stamp the activity. The stamp is only worth one point, but Wow! I tell you… they are crazy for those stamps. From my continuation school kids in Northern California to my inner city kids in Oakland to the suburban/rural kids I teach now – they all want their stamp!

Don’t tell my principal, but sometimes, when a kid comes in 10 or 15 second late, gets his stuff out, and gets right on the Do Now, I don’t bother marking him tardy. When he does that, I don’t think he was late because he was fooling around, and I don’t want three or four of those tardies to send that student to in-school suspension for the day. I want him in class, learning, where he belongs.

If a student is late, or is just slow in starting, and can’t finish the Do Now before the song ends, no point, and perhaps more importantly for them, no stamp.

Speaking of Songs

The Do Now song sets the mood for the day. My students read very challenging documents. They take pages and pages of notes. They write 4-5 papers of 5-6 pages in length. And yet, many of them tell me that they look forward to my class each day.

I can’t help but think that the music is a big part of that. There is lots of research out there on the effect music can have on mood, here is just one of them.

We work hard, but we have fun while we are doing it.

Does a Warm Up really warm them up?

Yes. Each of my Do Now’s asks my kids to think about what we did in class yesterday or about their homework. For example:

  • “Who said something really interesting in yesterday’s Socratic Seminar? What did she/he say?”
  • “What surprised you in the article you read last night?”
  • “Which of the questions you wrote last night for today’s Seminar are you going to share?”
  • “What was one of the three arguments about ____ that the article made?”
  • “What will your hook for your paper be?”

The questions are quick and simple, but they get the kids thinking about what we did yesterday, what’s coming up today, and about our project in general.

But…

It only works because I read them!

I had a colleague tell me about a teacher in her school who puts a Bell Ringer on the board every day, “Write two to three sentences about…” They kids don’t do the warm up. Why? Because he never looks at them – so they know that the warm up doesn’t matter.

I look at every Do Now, every day.

Occasionally, at the beginning of the year, I’ll see that a student has written, “I don’t know” as his answer. “Unacceptable,” I tell him, “Ask someone at your table. You’re a team, work together.”

Word spreads fast. While I had some “IDK” answers in the beginning of the year, I haven’t seen one in weeks.

How about you? How do your kids start class?

Share your practice in the comment section.

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