15 Interesting Ways To Start Class Tomorrow

by Terry Heick

How should you start class tomorrow?
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 15 ways to start class tomorrow. How well these work depends on how you use them, the tone of your classroom, and even the timing of when you give them a go. Some will be great for an early class, but flop after lunch; others, vice-versa. Try one, then share how it went or ideas better than these via twitter or facebook.

1. With A Team-Building Game
One example? Count To Ten.
For 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 idea for the students is to count strategically so that they 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 90% of your students are smiling the whole time, you’re doing it wrong.

2. 60 Second Talk
Students are chosen to give Ted Talk-style 60-second talks on anything, from self-selected topics they are passionate about, have specific expertience in, etc., to topics given by teacher. The only rule is that they can’t stop talking and maintain credibility.

3. With A Ridiculous Debate
Debate colored pencils versus crayons, ice cream vs cake, or even something a bit more serious like self-driving cars versus light rail and bicycles–even 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 Smart Tweet
Tweets are short, quick, and to the point. Find one that’s set 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 Meditation
Or maybe meditation is in the cards.
It’s not a good thing to just wing this one. If you don’t have a decent grasp of meditation yourself, you’re not only going to have difficulty teaching it but will likely not even be able to ‘sell’ students on the idea of it to begin with. Do some reading if this is something you want to use–but done well, it can be a huge boon to your classroom all year long.

9. 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 student 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.
Skills: Teamwork; sportsmanship

10. An Intelligence Squared Podcast Excerpt
There are lots of teaching podcasts out there worth your time, like 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.

11. With A YouTube video
And it doesn’t have to be earth-shattering, substantive, or narrated by Sigourney Weaver. Just play something fun. Creative. Confusing. Silly. If you have a specific purpose for the video, by all means choose a video that fits that purpose. Just realize that ‘teaching content’ isn’t the point here–or at least doesn’t have to be.

12. By Reading 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.

13. With A Personal Story
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.

14. With Instagram
Find a viral pic, and go. Writing prompt. Discussion point. Debate topic. Analytical practice. Explicit vs implicit.

15. With A Write-Around
Write a ‘conversation starter’ or thinking stem (e.g., ‘Summer reminds me of…’) on a sheet of paper. Actually, try four sheets of paper–different stems on each. Place them at different points in the classroom, explain to the students how the papers are to rotate so that everyone gets each sheet in even time.
Explain to the students that they are to read the comments from other students before leaving their own ideas. That way, one can build off of another. They can also, if they choose, leave something completely independent.

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