The “Do Now”

It is referred to variously as a Do Now or a Warm-up or, if you are a hard-core edu-dork, an Activator. There may be other regional variants. And if you are a vice principal who is really intent on showing how out of touch you are, you can require teachers to engage in these at the beginning of staff meetings. It never fails to make you the object of ridicule after the meeting! Never.

This is the thing that all of the kids are supposed to be engaged with actively, meaningfully, and immediately as they walk into your classroom. Typically it is a prompt written on the board or maybe a handout students pick up as they walk in. It asks the student to do something. Right away. NOW!! That’s why it is called a DO NOW.

Active engagement. Some math problems from yesterday for review. A reflection on last night’s reading…that nobody read. Maybe a prediction about something. Get started right away and write your response in your journal. Share with a partner. Then we might talk about it for a while as a class.

I have some things to say about the Do Now.

In my school, the Do Now was a requirement…a non-negotiable, as the current administrative edu-slang prefers.

OK…you think…I can manage this. I put a Do Now on the board every day.. But it is fraught with complexities and unseen pitfalls. I have run afoul of the authorities for my Do Nows many times. Here are my reflections of the Do Now:

1) If the Do Now really works well, you may end up generating an interesting discussion in the class that takes too long. Many students may want to share their responses. Other students may want to revise their answers or offer a rebuttal to another student. This free-for-all of thought and discussion can seriously impair the rest of the period…for some reason…If the mini-lesson gets moved 6 minutes later and didn’t have a bridge from the Do Now, then how will anybody be able to learn anything for the rest of the period? The whole unit may have been destroyed by this wise-ass Do Now that made so many students want to think and talk. The precise length and content of the Do Now is critical.

2) For example, in order to illustrate the importance of the Do Now, I was once told by an administrator that if my Do Nows were more engaging I would see higher attendance in my classes. So, is she a) Retarded, b) Brainwashed, c) Spineless, or d) Just Grasping at Straws? You make the call;

3) Why shouldn’t the choice of Do Now be completely up to the teacher’s discretion? I’m sorry if the Do Now was simply a question about government that I thought was interesting and didn’t relate specifically enough to today’s standard and objective on Federalist 51 and the separation of powers. Forgive me. And piss off.

4) If I teach 2 or 3 classes, I might have to come up with 400-500 of these fucking things every year. I’m not going to hit it out of the park every time. So, relax. I mean, jeezus, have you ever been to any of the meetings you have led? They are fucking terrible and everybody agrees that they are 97% a waste of time. You need better Activators, at least. But, really, you should focus on the part of your job that isn’t just nitpicking how I do mine. Try to do something useful;

5) The Do Now is really about crowd control. It’s not about education. It is part of the routines and rituals that must be practiced and rehearsed. Over and over. This is about having no down time; active learning and engagement. Busy, busy, busy. And it is not reasonable. Is there any profession where you would be expected to go to 4 or 6 back-to-back meetings all day long, every day, and not sort of roll into one and ease in and chat with your friends before the meeting starts? I’m not saying it’s not helpful. It is a good way of keeping order. And kids need more guidance than adults. But I think that for administrators to pretend that the primary objective of the Do Now has anything to do with academic engagement is transparently disingenuous. And teachers smell it. It is about control of a captive population that doesn’t really want to be there. Remind you of anything?

Mr. Teachbad

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