No matter how long you have been teaching, you know the chaos of trying to get students settled after the bell rings. Backpacks rustling, chatting from the two kids in the back that you keep meaning to separate, and kids tapping their pencils waiting for you to take charge can make the start of class difficult.
The first three to five minutes of class set the tone for the entire period, so what you say and do makes a big impact on how well the next hour or two will go. Here are three ideas to help you mix up the day without lowering the students’ morale.
This technique is unique because it takes up class time to talk about things that are not actually related to class. At the beginning of class, instead of standing at the board or behind your desk, pull up a chair to the middle of the room where the students can see you and take a seat. Give your “good morning” speech and then ask the kids if they have any news. This could be about a fun place they went on vacation, their new pet, or even how they are feeling that day. It is a good idea for you to say something first to model how they can share their thoughts.
The first few times you try this, you will probably have absolute silence from the students. After they become familiar with the routine, though, some students will open up. Giving them a chance to express their feelings at the beginning of class will hopefully keep them from acting out as much during your lesson.
“Teamwork Bell Ringers”
The goal of Bell Ringers is usually to get the students to sit down and work individually on some type of warm-up problem you write or project on the board. With this style of Bell Ringers, though, the kids work together to solve a problem, usually for some type of reward. This lets them chat and move around the classroom to burn through some of their restless energy before class really starts. Try to find problems that require multiple steps and are somehow personal to the students. One teacher, for example, had her high school Algebra students try and figure out her age by providing them with certain dates and time frames. The winning team or individual won a piece of candy.
“Last Class Review”
It is always a good idea to refresh students’ memory of the last lesson you taught, and by opening with a review, it is easier to move into the day’s lesson. Teamwork also comes into play here; let the kids divide themselves into groups of 3 or 4 students, and then pose a question to each group, one at a time. If the group gets the question correct, they get a point. If not, the next team can try to “steal” the point by answering the question correctly.
These kinds of review games are typically saved for test review days or the day before Spring Break, but opening class with something fun and exciting will help the students stay engaged during the rest of the class.
Teaching comes with a lot of challenges, but getting class off to a good start should not be one of them. Whether you choose a game or a class discussion, giving students a positive way to start class will keep them from acting up quite as much. After all, these activities are a privilege, and privileges can be taken away if need be.
It is not necessary to open class with an activity every day as long as the kids know that they will have a chance to get involved in the lesson and do something exciting a few times a week. Cut down on the chaos by making your classroom different and engaging. Your students will thank you for the change of pace.