Get Your Tech Up Part 1: The Do Now

logoThere are a lot of things you can do to move your classroom into the Twenty-First century. A great, easy way to get started is to tech up your Do Now. I tech up my Do Now with Google Drive and Poll Everywhere.

If you’re not familiar with Poll Everywhere, you should be. For me, Poll Everywhere is the text message based student-response system that has allowed me to tech up and simplify a lot of my classroom routines. It’s everything you want the tech you use in your classroom to be: free, makes life easier, fun for students, doesn’t require student registration, and it always works. As a bonus, since it is text message based, students don’t need a smartphone or internet connection to participate.

My Do Now is one of the most important parts of my classroom routine because it is preventive classroom management; it helps stop problems before they start. My Do Now sets the tone for my class by giving students something meaningful to do as soon as they enter the classroom. This allows me to stand at the door during the passing period. I say hello to students as they walk in and if a student is coming in with the wrong attitude, I can set them straight before they even enter my room and infect my other students.

After passing, while students are working on their Do Now, I quietly take attendance on my phone, then make my way around the class to check in quests, address any questions or concerns students may have, and ask students how goes their recent game, vocational project, performance, last nights video game session, etc.. Building a relationship like this, by spending a few seconds with a kid individually, is really important. I care about my kids. By knowing what they do outside of my classroom, and showing an interest in it, I’m letting them know I care. By letting a kid know I care, they are far less likely to disrupt the class and much more likely to perform; in my career, many kids have told me, “I’m only doin’ it cause I like you.” I’m cool with that. During these rounds, if a kid is, as I call it, AAF’n (Actin’ A Fool) or Castin’ Shade (seems to be up to something), I can squash it then and there. So, with my Do Now, I have two opportunities to correct negative behavior in the first five minutes of class and two opportunities to build relationships with my students. Pretty valuable.

A good Do Now must be meaningful and hold students accountable. I teach English, but you can adapt my Do Now to any subject. My Do Now has two parts. The First part is the SAT question of the day. Every piece of research I’ve ever read says teaching students vocabulary and grammar as a separate lesson doesn’t increase their skill in either; it’s wasted time. I like starting my Do Now with a SAT question because it is meaningful (they know how important the SAT is) and it allows me to teach students grammar and vocab in short bursts, which is better for student learning. There are a ton of free SAT questions online, like College Board’s daily SAT question, so they are easy to find. After I find the SAT question I want to use, I login to Poll Everywhere.

This is what my SAT Do Now poll page looks like. After the page loads, I click stop poll, edit (above the blue box), then copy and paste in the new question and answers, and finally restart the poll. It takes less than a minute. In between classes, on my phone or ipad, I click Clear Results so each class starts with zero total results. It is important to start each class with zero results because if you have ten kids in class, you want to see ten total results, so you know everyone participated (which is rarely a problem, since kids like to use their phone in class).

Basically, with Poll Everywhere the kids text the code associated with their answer to the “phone number” (in this case 7777) and will be able to see their answer appear on the board instantly. Very cool. Poll Everywhere has a great help section to get you started, so I’ll just give you some tips. In the red box, the top button hides the results of the poll. You should hide the results of your poll (as shown in the picture) so students aren’t influenced by what others are voting. Below that, still in the redbox, is the button that makes your poll full screen. In the yellow box you will find the different ways students can respond to the poll. I un-check everything but text message. Text message is the only way I want my students to respond and by leaving only text message checked you get the added benefit of making the poll look a lot cleaner since every check box adds more to the poll. It gets crowded quickly. In the green box, an awesome new feature PE has added is the timer. You can set it to anything and have it count down. I use this so students can see how much time they have to complete the entire Do Now (not just the SAT question). It keeps them, and me, focused. Finally, if you wanted to, you can download the poll as PowerPoint slide in case you wanted to insert a poll into a lecture (which I will write about in another part of this series).

The second part of my Do Now is the journal. You should have a journal, no matter the subject, and it should be part of your Anticipatory Set; the part of your lesson that activates students’ background/prior knowledge. I make my journal part of the Anticipatory Set by asking students a driving question that will be related to what they are, or will be, learning. I’ve teched up this part of my Do Now by having every kid share a folder with me on Google Drive. This folder is labeled as {Period, Last Name, Do Now}. In this folder is a Google Doc labeled the same way. After the SAT question, they open the folder, open the doc, put the day’s date and write their journal. Make sure you have students put the newest journal on the top, so it’s easier to grade. I check the folders at the end of the week to make sure they are done and grade them as pass/fail (done/not done) so kids are held accountable.

Students are generally excited to come in and do their teched up Do Now. When I poll them at the end of the year, I am always surprised by the number of people who list the Do Now as their favorite part of class. Whether you decide to tech up this way, another way, or not at all, remember that students will never admit it, but they like routine and order. By holding them accountable through grading their Do Now and going over it as a class, a Do Now is not time wasted, but valuable time used to build relationships, improve classroom management, teach the little, important things that don’t require a full lesson, and help your lesson get started off right.

Thanks for reading. In part two, I will tell you how you can get your closure’s tech up. If you have any questions drop me a comment, e-mail, or Twitter bomb! Until next time, thanks for reading and GLHF.