The five most important minutes of a class…

There is no question, the more I walk the halls between transitions from class to class that the make or break moment of any lesson, any class is the first five minutes.

Without question, most teachers will agree that that every moment is precious, but there is something about the first five minutes that can set the stage for an amazing class or one that is lackluster, unproductive, and in general a waste of what could have been a great day.

Now that is not to say that you can not save your class if you have had a disastrous start.  I do believe that on occasion you can, recover, but it takes time of which we often as teachers have little to spare.  Therefore, why not start the lesson right.

In my opinion, having observed many teachers in many subjects, I do believe one of the biggest challenges teachers face in the first five minutes is brought on by themselves. Very simply put, they don’t teach. Instead of starting right away, the first five minutes becomes time for business, reorganizing, etc.  After awhile, students catch on that there is nothing important happening at the beginning of the class so they linger in the halls a little longer, they talk with friends, they don;t rush to get themselves ready for the lesson.  In general they waste the time much like we do as teachers and then in turn we get angry they are late, talking, not ready and we have suddenly started on a bad note.

So how do we prevent this loss of time?  I guess that depends on the teacher – but here are a few suggestions that I have seen work successfully in getting the students to work quickly and starting the class on a good note;

  • Start your lesson with a Do Now – “not just a do this and sometimes I will walk around and look at it do now” but one that is graded or at least turned in for some credit.  If the students know that it matters to you, then in turn it will matter to them.
  • Consider a Quick Quiz – these can be on anything from the material covered in the lesson before to something as simple at 2+2, as long as the student’s know it counts as a grade and that it only happens in the first five minutes and they can not make it up.  It won’t take long for them to be in their seats to make sure that they getting the points they deserve.
  • Distribute Entry Slips – these quick questions are the similar to an exit slip and often times allow the students to foster deeper thinking about the lesson.  It is also a good way to help the students make connections and think about what they have already learned.

Now, many teachers may already be doing these things, but the key to them is to do it in the first five minutes and not accept it after those five minutes.  The longer we linger in the doorways as a teachers and beg the students to join us the more time we lose and the less control we have.

The first five minutes.  In so many ways the difference between success and failure.  Five minutes that we as educators decide whether we want to be productive or whether we want to lose the students before we even gave them a chance to start.


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