by Terry Heick
It’s Sunday night.
You love teaching, your love your classroom, you love your students (most of them), but you’re tired.
This doesn’t mean you’re not willing to work, but it makes the fountain of good ideas run a bit dry at times. So here are 12 ways to start class tomorrow. How well these work likely depend on what time the class you use them in starts. Some will be great for an early class, but flop after lunch; others, vice-versa.
1. Count To Ten
All students stand in circle. First student says “1,” or “1,2.” The next student picks up where that student left off, and can say a maximum number of 2 numbers. The movement continues clockwise until it gets to 10, where that student has to sit, and the game starts back over at 1 at the next student. Note that there can be no pausing or silent counting—any pauses or indications the student is counting/calculating forces them to sit.
Also, pouting or talking during counting results in elimination from future rounds. The big idea is to count strategically so that you can keep from saying “10.” The best part of this activity is that it can give some students who may not be the “best” at anything all day long a chance to win.
If less than 95% of your students are smiling the whole time, you’re doing it wrong.
2. 60 Second Talk
Students are chosen to give 60 second talks on anything, from self-selected topics they are passionate about, have specific expertise in, etc., to topics given from teacher.
3. With A Ridiculous Debate
Debate Beyonce versus Rihanna, colored pencils versus crayons, Apple versus Android, or the best way to break up with a girlfriend or boyfriend. Require students explain their reasoning with evidence, data, or some other compelling support.
4. With A Confusing Analogy
City block: city: paragraph structure:_______ is not confusing. Civil Rights: United States::________: Facebook is.
In the right context, confusion can be disarming and fun.
5. With A Snarky Tweet
Tweets are short, quick, and to the point. Find one that’s sets up the lesson—or that doesn’t, frankly: it’s short, quick, and to the point either way.
6. With An Impromptu QFT Session
These aren’t “fun” on the surface—and frankly, beneath the surface either, but QFT sessions are brilliant ways to move from topics and ideas to questions and eventual learning pathways. Fantastic for self-directed learning, project-based learning, or even a typical academic lesson.
Excellent as a pre-assessment as well.
7. With Silence
First 10 minutes are in complete silence. Notes only—students can pass notes provided they’re willing to staple whatever they write to the bulletin board as they walk out.
You probably can’t just bust out the meditation rugs tomorrow, but you can prime them for such a move with a little quiet time. Good for the soul—and the teacher’s nerves.
8. With A Write-Around
Hand the first student in each row a piece of paper with a sentence stem, question, or topic on it, tell them which direction to pass when they’re finished, then give each students exactly 30 seconds to write and pass. This is a powerful way to get hesitant writers and speakers to give their opinion, and build off the statements of others.
9. An Intelligence Squared Podcast Excerpt
There are lots of podcasts out there worth your time, but this one is particularly good. There is a proposition given, then each side—two panels of experts—debate the proposition with timed responses.
Good for content knowledge, but also helpful to model what’s possible in a debate. You’ll only have time for an excerpt—and I’d choose something polarizing that won’t put them to sleep—but next time you use the podcast series (and you should), they’ll be familiar with it.
10. A Rump-Shaking YouTube video
And it doesn’t have to be earth-shattering, substantive, or narrated by Sigourney Weaver. Just play something fun—or groovy.
11. Read To Them
Read to the kids–K-12 they love it no matter what they say. Read an excerpt from Wendell Berry, an excerpt from Plato’s Cave, a few of Shel Silverstein’s poems, or a picture book to front-load a unit or even as a writing prompt.
12. With A Personal Story Or Picture
Tell them a story from your childhood, or something that occurred to you this weekend. Or a time recently that you were confused and how you responded. Or times you’ve let yourself down–and what you did to correct it.
Human teachers > expert content distributors.