If you’re looking to have more wonderful, productive days like these, take a second to reflect on the first few minutes of your class. Are the students ready to get to work, or do you spend the first few minutes of class trying to direct their minds and conversations to focus on the lessons? I’m all about the warm-ups when I am juggling attendance, homework checks, and odds and ends. But sometimes, I just hate to spend even a minute on the tedious tasks. Once in a while, it’s great to just shake it up!
I have noticed that on days when I have been able to quickly grab students’ attention, my day has been easier and much more enjoyable. It’s all about those first 3-5 minutes of class. Sometimes, of course, we have to review homework or give a quiz. But for days that you need to introduce a new topic, just jump right in! Here are some ideas to get your lessons off to a great start.
Cracking a joke or telling a quick, funny story that relates to or introduces the topic is a sure-fire way to quickly grab your students attention. A friend of mine begins each lesson with a giggle-worthy math meme on the smartboard. It’s simple, takes seconds of your time, and sufficiently relaxes your students so that they are ready to roll. Check out some of these fantastic math memes on pinterest!
Click here to read all about The Brain Benefits of Humor in Math Class!
2. Rearrange Desks
Stacey Lloyd, a high school English teacher, suggests playing around with the layout of your room. She shares, “The school day is habitual and routine and students become lazy in their comfort; so shake them out of it! Move the desks into pairs one day, into groups the next, in a circle the following day. I find that whenever I do this, the students come in and do a ‘double take’.”
This strategy works if you only do it every once in a while! It’s all about the element of surprise.
Students in middle school and high school (or any age, really) love to talk to each other. In today’s technology-obsessed world, providing a few minutes to interact face-to-face is so valuable. Start off your lesson asking a question either about previous material or to introduce today’s lesson, and have your students turn and talk to a partner to brainstorm the answer. Then, return as a whole class and discuss.
This 2-minute activity not only provides social interaction and co-construction of knowledge, but it immediately draws students in and gets them thinking.
When students see a gorgeous, finished mind map that represents what they’ll have in their minds and in their notebooks by the end of the period, they can actually get excited to learn (yes, even teenagers… I’ve seen it happen!). Doodle Notes get the kids so ready to jump in. It’s amazing how motivational they can be. Plus, they are the perfect, easy way to provide your students all of the brain-benefits of visual note-taking! Visual note-taking is a surefire way to build connections in your students' brains and increase:
- problem solving ability
- and much more!
If your students are new to Doodle Notes it helps to model a student sample of the doodle note sheet before jumping in. This helps your students get comfortable and creative, and guides them to begin to think using the right side of their brain. For more tips for implementing doodle notes, go here!
In addition to boosting comfort and creativity, showing an example of a completed doodle note sheet gets your students excited to try it on their own! A lot of kids instantly switch their attitude from “Ugh, notes and lecture AGAIN” to “Huh, cool! – we can actually use colored pens and do sketching and doodling to make fun visuals today?!?”
Some days, youtube really saves the day. To start off class on the right foot and grab my students’ attention, you can (rarely!) show a quick youtube video that pertains to the topic that day. Students instantly calm down and relax when they see youtube up in the front of the room and you flick off the light switch!
Don’t waste valuable class time; make sure the video is relevant! There is so much out there, but a few of my go-to youtube channels are Songs by NUMBEROCK, Math Antics, and Cool Math/ Science Videos! If any video is bit too long for your liking, consider splitting it up and watching a little bit each day throughout the week.
It might be common sense, but keep in mind that these strategies will not work if you implement the same trick every day! Part of the improvement in engagement comes from breaking the monotony of the day!
What are some of your tips or tricks on engaging your students in the first few minutes of class? The more insight, the better! We’d love to hear in the comments below!
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