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### Overview

This is the first in a series of posts that attempt to shine a light on some of the support work I am fortunate enough to do with the maths departments I visit. Posts will include:

Developing a departmental approach to… the Do Now (this post)

For more information about my CPD, departmental support, and coaching, please visit here.

### Why focus on the Do Now?

Quite often, Day 1 of my support work with a maths department will end with CPD on the Do Now.

I am a great believer that if you get the Do Now right, it can set up the rest of the lesson. If students crack straight on with work the moment they enter the room, they are more likely to carry this effort through into the rest of the lesson. Likewise, if a teacher begins the lesson with reliable whole-class checks of understanding and appropriate responses to those checks, they too are likely to carry this pedagogy through into the rest of the lesson.

Of course, the converse is also true. A sloppy Do Now means both teachers and students are playing catch-up for the rest of the lesson to try to get focus and learning back on track.

**Do Now: Seven Key Ingredients**

I see lots of effective Do Nows, but most have the following ingredients in common:

The Do Now has a clear purpose. It is usually either a retrieval opportunity to ensure students do not forget things they once knew, or an opportunity to assess prerequisite knowledge for the idea being taught that lesson to ensure the foundations are secure.

The Do Now has a standardised format, so students know what to expect. An unfamilr structure risks sapping up their attention or providing a barrier to them starting.

The first question is the easiest and does not require any equipment, so all students can get stuck in straight away.

To Do Now contains no more than 5 questions. This ensures the Do Now does not dominate the lesson, and so that teachers can respond accordingly to each question as needed.

If the purpose of the Do Now is for retrieval, the teacher tracks the topics covered, so there are no gaping holes in the topics students are asked to retrieve over a given time.

There are whole class checks for understanding when the teacher sees the answers of all students. This enables teachers to get a more reliable sense of what students know and do not know that they can get by asking for a volunteer or Cold Calling an individual.

The teacher models and then rechecks for understanding if the whole class check reveals that knowledge is not secure, so they have evidence that their intervention has been effective.

*Does your Do Now have all of these? *

*What have I missed, and what should not be there?*

### An example from a school

During lesson drop-ins on a recent support visit to a school, I noticed how inconsistent the Do Now was across the department. Some colleagues were asking students to answer on sheets, others in books, others on min-whiteboards. When reviewing the answers, some colleagues dived straight into modelling, others called for volunteers, some used Cold Call, and some asked their students to show their answers on their mini-whiteboard. Some teachers spent 5 minutes on their Do Now, others 30 minutes.

This was a surprise to the Head of Department. He had a certain way he wanted the Do Now to be delivered, which he assumed all his colleagues were following. When we dug a little deeper, it turned out that this was discussed briefly in a meeting at the start of term - when colleagues’ heads are full of a million other things - and not revisited again.

The Head of Department had read my post on How prescriptive should a Head of Department be?, and was happy to give his staff more clear direction. So, between us, we came up with a procedure for the Do Now for all staff to follow.

We presented this together to the department, and then opened up the discussion to see if there were any questions, clarifications or objections. Colleagues were challenged to choose one class to trial this with for one week, after which time the department would reconvene to reflect on what was working and what was not. The CPD session ended with a chance for colleagues to plan and rehearse what the Do Now would look like for the first lesson with their chosen class. All colleagues left the session happy to try the plan.

I wanted to share what we agreed here in case it is of interest either:

To compare to how you deliver your Do Now

To reflect on how you would feel being given so much direction

### The new approach to the Do Now

**Use the Flashback 4s, but remove the vocab check**

The school already used the White Rose maths curriculum materials, so had good four-question retrieval starters in the form of Flashback 4s already available. We discussed how moving forward staff should make a note of which topics were being covered in these starters to ensure nothing was being left out.

**Students do not copy the question down**

Students love copying questions down as it allows them to take a cognitive break whilst *busy tricking*. As students rarely, if ever, use their exercise books for revising, there is little point in them copying down the questions of the Do Now. Instead, let them get cracking straight away with the maths.

**Students write their working out and answers in their books**

Books was the medium students were most used to doing independent work on, and evidence in books was a big thing in the school, so this seemed sensible to keep.

**5 minutes, silent, independent work**

The Do Now should help provide a calm, focused start to the lesson, and should be an opportunity for students to see what they can remember on their own, not what they can remember using cues and hints from their partner. We also wanted to ensure the Do Now did not dominate the lesson, so 5 minutes felt a good time to aim for, with colleagues circulating the room during this time to better judge whether more or less time was needed.

**When instructed, students copy the final answer to Question 1 nice and big on their mini-whiteboard, hover facedown, and show in 3, 2, 1…**

This was the most significant change to the department’s practice. As I have previously written about, when students’ work is confined to their books or a worksheet it prevents the teacher from seeing the responses of all students. But this can easily be solved by asking students to copy their final answer, without the working, to the first question on their boards ready to show the teacher when instructed. Now, the teacher can see every response, nice and clearly, so immediately knows where understanding is at.

**The teacher responds accordingly**

This single sentence masks the most complex phase in this process. Now we have the data, how do we respond? I have found it useful to think of three common scenarios:

Nearly everyone has the correct answer - and by that, I mean 90%+

Some students have the correct answers

Very few have the correct answer - and by that, I mean fewer than 20%

Here are the ways we decided to respond in each scenario:

Let’s take a closer look at each one.

*Nearly all correct*

This needs to be quick, 20 seconds maximum, otherwise we may pay the opportunity cost of digging deeper and find ourselves running out of time when understanding is not so secure. Asking a student who got the question wrong to repeat part of our explanation is a better way of assessing whether their understanding is moving in the right direction than the classic: *Does that make sense?*

*Some correct*

Here the suggestion is to collect together the different responses. If the culture in the class is such that students are happy to share their thinking, the teacher can grab a couple of boards and hold them up for comparison. If not, the teacher can simply note down different answers without attaching them to a student and write them on their board. The teacher then refers to these answers during their explanation.

But the response does not end there. The only way to know if this explanation has been effective is to ask students a follow-up question - a question on the same topic, of the same difficulty, presented on a separate slide, that the students answer on their mini-whiteboards. If students nail this follow-up question, then great. If they struggle, it is best to move on and come back to the topic when the teacher has more time lest the Do Now start to dominate the lesson.

*Few correct*

Here the teacher asks students to lower the boards and listen carefully. They then explain the answer and check students are listening by getting them to repeat back key parts of that explanation. And then we have the all-important follow-up question again that will give us the evidence if that explanation has been effective.

**Repeat for Q2, then Q3, then Q4**

Students clean their board and then copy their final answer to Question 2, hover, show when instructed, and around we go again.

And there we have it. I then asked colleagues to discuss and share their concerns, many of which revolved around behaviour and pace. But all left happy and willing to try this out with one class of their choosing, for one week, and then come back together as a department.

*How does this compare to your Do Now process? *

*What do you like, and what don’t you like?*

### So what happened next?

The very next day, I saw the new approach in practice in a Year 7 lesson. Here is the Do Now:

Students answered in their books first:

And then after 5 minutes, the teacher asked them to copy their answer to Question 1 nice and big on their mini-whiteboards. Neartly everyone got Question 1 correct, so the teacher confirmed the answer and moved on.

But Question 2 confused some students. Notice how this girl has an answer of 30:

There was a range of answers in the room, so the teacher did what we had discussed. He referred to those wrong answers as he developed his explanation:

But how did he know this explanation made any sense? He asked a follow-up question of course:

How did the girl who got the initial question wrong get on? Nailed it:

What do you think of this approach to the Do Now?

How does this compare in terms of the level of direction in your department?

Let me know in the comments below!

**🏃🏻♂️ Before you go, have you…🏃🏻♂️**

… checked out our incredible, brand-new, free resources from Eedi?

… read my latest Tips for Teachers newsletter about a different approach to Cold Call?

… listened to my most recent podcast with Ollie Lovell and Zach Groshell?

… considered booking some CPD, coaching, or maths departmental support?

… read my Tips for Teachers book?

Thanks so much for reading and have a great week!

Craig