I have been told that I must begin every class with a “do - now” in the form of an “essential question”. I find this to be very time consuming, both in creating the question and collecting the papers, correcting them, grading, recording grades and returning the papers. The students do not engage in this start-up and hand in low quality responses. Can you suggest some ways to make this process more productive?
Dear Classroom Colleague,
It’s always good to look for better ways of doing things that consume a lot of your time and do not produce any evidence of student growth or learning.
I’m going to tell you what has worked for me and teachers I have mentored and then I’m going to open this up to others who will add their thoughts. Please let us know what works for you so we can share your ideas with others.
The key element in implementing new strategies is to get student buy-in. Students need to see that the “do - now” question is important and useful. It’s essential that it relate to the work for the day. It should build on student experience either in class or in their lives outside school, and foreshadow future work. For example, when I introduce my Ecology Unit’s first activity I ask students to record in their notebook a response to these questions: “How might you handle an unwanted pet, such as a turtle? What is the most humane and responsible thing to do with these animals?” These questions build on real life experience, directly relate to what we do in class that day and foreshadow our work on human impact on the environment. Once students see the connections they usually engage more thoughtfully.
Regarding efficient use of your time and collecting evidence of student growth I suggest these responses be recorded in a place that the students will revisit so they can actually see how their understanding changes. I used a notebook where all their work was recorded. Some teachers use a separate journal that students can take home without fear of losing all their classwork. The responses were not corrected every day. They were called in on a regular basis for teacher comment. Regardless of your particular way of managing this approach it’s important to note that it works because it assesses meaningful growth and understanding, which is all any of us want to spend our time on.
Expect some more suggestions soon and be sure to let us know how they work out.