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Do Now

Do Now: What is the purpose of such an act?

Every teacher knows the wonderful term, “do now.” Before today this term was nothing but an ideal thought, another bureaucratic must, passed down from the board of education or the school administration. It was a way to keep students busy while taking attendance, writing out the aim or simply getting organized before the start of a lesson. It sometimes worked, but most of the time was simply one more task not completed by students.

I should preface this story by saying that many of my “do nows” up until this point have dealt specifically with the text we are reading. I also have simply asked for volunteers to share their responses before moving into the lesson, as opposed to calling on individuals. When I did begin to call on certain students I found that very few students were actually completing the task. They had no reason to do so. I had to think of some way to hold them accountable for this short period of work.

My new tactic, which is working quite well, is to insure that each student reads and discusses their response. If they don’t have it done I count it as a zero towards their class participation grade.

Not only has this been keeping them quiet, thinking and working during the first few minutes of class, but also it has been creating great classroom conversation, which I have yet to really have with them.

Today however, it worked more than ever. I had a very powerful experience which stemmed from the “do now” I put on the board.

I posed the questions, “Have you ever had anyone close to you die? How did it make you feel and did it change your outlook on life?” When responding, two girls were so emotional they began to cry. They shared details with the class that I could have only dreamed I would have heard. I was so shocked when the first girl got all choked up and couldn’t make it through her answer that I didn’t know how to respond. I wasn’t prepared for this sort of emotion in the classroom.

It didn’t stop with her. Another student then told us about a friend of hers who had passed away at the age of 17 due to a drug overdose. She told the class how “no matter how many needles he stuck in his arm,” he was still a great person. She explained that her outlook on life changed after this incident. She now knows “life is too short” and you have to make the most of it.

Every person in the class was so attentive – it was definitely a first. I don’t think they’ve ever listened to each other quite this much before. I feel that sharing such personal and emotional information was intriguing to them. They then turned the tables and wanted me to answer it as well. And I obliged, then moving them into the lesson of how does one characters death impact another characters outlook on life.

I couldn’t believe how such a simple “do now” could guide my entire lesson in such a successful manner. Of course there were some students who did not take it seriously and even laughed at those who were upset, but at least today, they all had something to say.

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