Maximizing the First Five Minutes of Class

The first five minutes sets the tone for the rest of your class. If it goes well, class goes well. If it doesn’t, good luck having a productive, positive class period. A messy beginning of class not only encourages misbehaviors we then have to deal with, but it also wastes our students’ time. Here are some guidelines for making it a success:

Make it productive. The most critical component to a successful beginning of class is giving students something specific to do that takes at least 5 minutes, whether procedural, substantive, or both. Setting a timer can also help ensure that students are quickly getting busy on that productive assignment so that you can quickly take care of administrative tasks and begin class. Opinions vary on whether or not silence should be required at the beginning of class. I tend to prefer it because it immediately allows them to disengage from whatever was going on outside of my class and engage with our class content during the ‘Do Now.’

Make it predictable. If students always know what to expect when they walk into the room, the beginning of class will soon be smooth and productive. The type of activity doesn’t have to always be the same, but the process should be. For example, if the ‘Do First’ or ‘Energizer’ is always projected on the board and the power point slide you use is always formatted the same way, kids will have a predictable routine to rely on when they walk in the room. Every time you change the routine, you’re inviting questions and confusion and wasted time; not a good way to start a positive class experience.

Make it clear. Whatever the opening routine and activity, students should be able to do it without any explanation or assistance from you aside from the written directions. If students aren’t clear on how to complete the task, they’ll either choose a new task like chatting with a neighbor or you’ll waste much of their work time trying to clear up confusion.

Keep quiet and calm. Your demeanor and noise level will be reflected in your students. As students work, try to make sure you’re not distracting them by speaking aloud unnecessarily or running around the room trying to get things in order. Every time you repeat the directions, speak to a student from across the room, or give repeated time checks, you’re interrupting their processing time and creating an environment that feels hectic and perhaps disorganized. Instead, model being calm, quiet, positive, and focused and you’ll see that reflected in your students.

The result? That palpable buzz of focused, positive energy your students feel and carry into the rest of your class!

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