How the First Five Minutes Can Save Your Lesson Plan

Chad OstrowskiBlog, Innovate Better, Manage Better, Tech Better, The Method

How the first five minutes can save your lesson plan

There are a lot of factors that go into the success or failure of any lesson plan. Your students, activities, management, planning, formative assessment, available resources, and probably 1,000 more things I’m not thinking of at the moment. One thing has helped me improve the success rate of my lessons is the first 5 minutes. I have created a simple routine in my classroom that gets my students focused, ready, and primed to continue their journey of learning.

Let me preface this by saying that my classroom is mastery based and my students are working on several different things at any given time, based on where they are at and what they have mastered. This has lent itself to the routines I’ve put in place, but I am confident that any classroom can benefit from a consistent, routine start.

Let’s break down the first five minutes of your lesson plan, to improve your success.

1. Goals

When students walk in to my classroom, they get their folders (learning portfolios) from the class bin. They then take out their “goal sheet”. This goal sheet includes the date, the learning target (which should also be posted somewhere in your class), what they are currently learning (or working on), and what they want to get done or learn by the end of the lesson. This not only creates a routine for your students, but focuses them on the learning that will be taking place.

This is even more important to your lesson plan if you have students working on different things simultaneously, like in my classroom.

2. Pair and Share

Once goals have been written (2 minutes)…the class does a quick “pair” (1 min), and “share”.

  • Pair: Students discuss their goals at their tables, which allows them to compare their own goal to others and reflect on their own work as well as support and critique other students goals. Having your students discuss their goals and any questions they have before class begins will increase responses, because they have already shared their response with another individual, or heard an idea they can use.
  • Share: Have a few volunteers or chosen students share their goals for the day. This increases student ownership of learning and increases accountability.

3. Skill Drill

Take a few minutes to do a “skill drill.” As a class, review materials from previous units, or do some formative assessments or demonstrations that are targeted to the current topic of study. The class review is a nice litmus test to see how everyone is doing on basic concepts that have been covered or if they are retaining information from previous units or basic skills.

The skill drill is where I place my previous “do now” or “bell ringers”. This varies in length from a quick 60 second review to a 6-8 minute group activity, depending on my students’ needs or the content being covered. Because they have just discussed their learning targets and goals for the day, this is also empowering for students as their knowledge grows and they become more confident with the material.

4. Accountability

Now that your students are focused on their learning for the day, they have reviewed any needed content, and they have shared their goals with their tables or the class, there is no excuse for them to “not know what’s going on.” If students do not know explicitly what your expectations are or what they are supposed to be learning, how can you expect them to meet goals or objectives? Putting accountability on you students gives them more power. So far, this has increased my students’ performance and on-task time tremendously.

If you approach all your lesson plans with these four parts of the first five minutes, I am confident you’ll increase your success rate. Not to mention, if your administrator walks in and asks a student “what are you learning today?”, they can answer confidently, which makes you look awesome!

No matter what lesson you’re planning, follow this routine or make one that works for you. This will help the awesome lesson you had planned more effective, and it will help your entire day go better.

If you want more help, or have a another great way to start a lesson plan, let me hear it! shoot me an email.

Happy teaching!