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Why I Love the Do Now

Looking for a lesson starter to focus your class while you welcome your students and take the register? In her first NexEdBlog, Miss Davies shares how she uses Do Now in her classes.

When I started working at my current school, I found the concept of the Do Now a little bit strange. For the first six years of my career, I had been used to lining students up outside the classroom, getting students in and then starting with the register. Sometimes I would have a task as students were walking in (for example, playing them a piece of music with questions on the board), but this was not a routine in the classroom. Moving to a school with no bells, where students can enter the classroom at different times, the importance of a task on the board has become clear.

The one big rule for the Do Now? Students must be able to complete it without teacher intervention or supervision. This enables the teacher to be on the door greeting students or speaking to individual students before the lesson officially starts. As a Do Now should only take between three and five minutes to complete it also means that you can do the ‘class admin’ (for example taking the register, handing out resources) whilst students are completing the task – it’s a form of ‘lesson multi-tasking’!

I tend to use the Do Now as a form of retrieval practice (a hot topic in education at the moment!), testing students on previously learnt knowledge, whether that was in the last lesson or several weeks or months ago. Depending on the class and age group, I will either get students to write down the answers (this will be more likely with Key Stage 4 and 5) or I will get answers from students (either by hands-up or cold-call questioning). This is more likely with Key Stage 3. Within the department, we are going to introduce mini whiteboards at Key Stage 3 to ensure that every student is engaged in the Do Now at the start of the lesson. 

I’m also a true believer in routine. By starting every lesson in this way, it means that students are aware of my expectations for the start of every lesson and that learning takes place from the minute students step into my classroom. It helps to set the tone for the lesson. It can also help with how the rest of the lesson will go. If a misconception in understanding is identified during the Do Now (based on knowledge learnt in a previous lesson) I can weave this into my lesson to ensure that that misconception is addressed and removed by the end of the lesson. 

Here is an example of a Do Now that I have recently introduced into my GCSE lessons. The students are currently studying the Star Wars set work (Edexcel) and I have been setting theme ten key terms to learn each week (my version of the vocab test) and they have five minutes at the start of the lesson to write them down into their books. For the first two weeks I have used key terms from their current set work; in future weeks I will be mixing current key terms with previously learnt key terms from other set works. This will encourage students to also revise from their previous booklets. It is simple, self-explanatory and does not rely on teacher intervention:

If you are looking for a new routine as part of your lessons, I would highly recommend the Do Now. They are short, snappy and set the tone for your lesson.

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The author

Miss Davies is an experienced Subject Leader for Music at a London secondary school. Having qualified with a PGCE from University of Wales Institute, Cardiff, she worked in the South Wales for two years before moving over the bridge, being based in Reading and London for the last seven years. She is currently working towards the NPQML, with a focus on improving progress at Key Stage Three through assessment and feedback. She takes an interest in teaching and learning, curriculum and leadership. She always has far too many books in her to read pile!

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