About the Author

Michael Doig is a science teacher, web developer, and avid traveler who lives in Brooklyn, NY. He graduated from the University of Hawaii with a degree in Zoology and from Pace University with a Masters of Science in Teaching. He currently teaches Earth Science in a New York public high school.

The Anatomy of a Do Now

student thinking

Starting your lesson with a Do Now is good practice. It sets the tone for the class, gets students settled in (because they have to do it now), and ideally makes them think. A Do Now is a question or quote that either reviews or introduces a topic to students. But what constitutes a good Do Now?

Let’s take a look at 5 different types of Do Nows.

Review

This is probably the most common type of Do Now. After a topic is taught, a question that assesses the previous lesson is used as a Do Now. Review Do Nows allow the teacher to determine if students understand a topic before continuing. However, it can become the only type of Do Now question used and students will grow tired of them.

For example after studying the water cycle, the following question is given:

Do Now: List the major components of the water cycle and explain the role of each step in the cycling of water.
Milky Quartz
After we study the process for identifying minerals, I like to ask the following question.

Do Now: You are walking down the street and you come across a mineral that is white-ish in color and does not bubble with acid. After a few simple tests you discover the mineral can scratch glass. Using your ESRT, identify the mineral.

Quotes

Using quotes is a refreshing way to assess what students know about a topic. Reflecting on a quote also opens up different avenues for discussion once a topic has been covered. Quotes make students think, because there isn’t just one answer. Quotes also make great writing prompts.

You can find tons of science quotes at sites like Quote Garden or Quotations Page. If you are looking for a quote on something specific, do a google search for the topic name + quote. For example, search “geology quote” for a quote on geology.

After studying the water cycle, you might give the following quote as a Do Now:

Do Now: What did the author mean when he wrote the following statement?
glass of water
All the water that will ever be is, right now.
– National Geographic, October 1993

Opinion

Opinion or empathy questions are a great way to make students apply what they have learned or to see what they know about a topic. Typically a situation is given and you ask students how they would solve the problem or how they would deal with a certain situation.

Do Now: You have been shipwrecked on an island and you are the only survivor on a remote deserted island. What are the first three steps you would take to ensure your survival? Why?

Do Now: You run into a man selling gold chains for extremely cheap prices. Describe two scientific tests you could perform to determine if the gold chains were real gold or just fake imitations.

Another great opinion question type is the “If you were…”. Asking the students to step into the shoes of a leader or scientist.

For example, when talking about pollution and the use of fossil fuels, I might ask students the following:

Do Now: If you were the President of the United States, what steps would you take to decrease America’s dependence on fossil fuels?

Brain Teasers

Brain teasers are just fun, and they definitely make students think.

Bowling ball in bucket

Do Now: If I were in Hawaii and dropped a bowling ball in a bucket of water which is 45 degrees F, and dropped another ball of the same weight, mass, and size in a bucket at 30 degrees F, dropping them at the same time, which ball would hit the bottom of the bucket first? Same question, but the location is in Canada?

After studying latitude and longitude, I might give the following brain teaser:

Do Now: There is a house with four walls. Each wall faces south. There is a window in each wall. A bear walks by one of the windows. What color is the bear?

Photograph or Video

Using photographs and video is going to become more common place. People expect to see photographs and video of things they are learning about. The best part about using photographs and video is that you already have the tools to make this happen. Most new digital cameras also take video. If you keep an eye out you can find tons of interesting science images in your area. Besides, being a good observer is part of being a scientist.

After talking about the sun traveling through the southern sky in the northern hemisphere, I would give the following image. I might tell students that fungi does not like to grow in direct sunlight.

Do Now: Using what you know about the motions of the sun, explain the image below.

Anatomy of a Do Now

When talking about the motions of Earth and the Sun I would show the following video and ask students to explain what is happening. Then I would ask students to model this using a plastic tree, flashlight and a digital camera.

Do Now: In your own words, explain why the shadow of the tree is moving.

Conclusion

Do Now’s are a very small, but important part of building great lessons. Using a Do Now for every lesson lets you assess students and lets students know you prepared for them. Coming up with original and interesting Do Nows can be a challenge, but now you have five different types of Do Nows to use when planning. Modifying these five major types can lead to all sorts of interesting Do Nows. I’m sure many of you have some great ideas, please share them in the comments.

Do Now Tips

  • Do Nows should be short, they should not take students more than 5 minutes to complete.
  • Survey the room and give students points for completing the Do Now.
  • A good Do Now must be relevant to the lesson.
  • Use a timer, it creates a sense of urgency.

RSS Feed for This Post1 Comment(s)

  1. gravatarfreddy | Sep 22, 2009 | Reply

    i think that a do now is a great way of starting a lesson because its some what and introduction to the lesson. also helps to understand the topic more

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