I love teaching middle school, especially 7th grade. The kids are goofy, energetic, and super squirrels (...squirrel!). They’re also pre-teens, and trying to fit into the limbo world where they’re not quite kids, but not quite teenagers. Many of my kids have faced challenging family situations that preoccupy their thoughts while in school.
Knowing things are sometimes distracting outside of class, whether it is friends, family, or both, I start my class with a warm-up. This is usually a silent individual activity that activates prior knowledge, or asks students to review what they learned last class.
In April 2015, I changed the way I did my warm-ups. And I had major positive results. Immediately.
I implemented the Daily Check-in Form. I still called it a warm-up, but the purpose expanded to ask students about their day.
Before we continue, please fill it out here.
Your warm-up questions are:
- Who do you teach?
- What made you interested in this blog post topic?
- How do you currently start your class periods, meetings, or workshops?
Ok, now that you filled it out, let’s continue. (If you didn’t fill it out, go back and do so. It’s good for you to actually go through the experience, not just open up the link!)
When students arrive for class, they line up in 2 silent, straight, and smiling lines outside. I invite them in, and they walk in silently (we don’t do it right, it’s back outside to do it over), and begin their warm-up on their iPad. I have a set of Slides for each lesson, and the first Slide is always the warm-up questions.
I reuse the same Form everyday and for all classes. At the end of the week, I hide the previous week's rows on Sheets.
|Three check-in questions with running averages.|
I know some of you are asking, why are you SO strict on coming in silently? Two reasons: First, it helps my students settle in and make the transition to class time. Second, it helps me setting in and make the transition to teaching. I use that time to take attendance, quickly check in with individual students, and skim their warm-up answers.
From this daily warm-up, I have learned many essential things about my students, from death of family members or arguments with friends, to excitement over weekend plans or their deep love of tacos. These are things my students may have been too shy to tell me, or I likely would not have taken the time to listen to their needs.
|Screenshot of the Sheet. I use conditional formatting|
to make it easier to skim how students are feeling.
If there’s a concern, I’ll pull the student aside during class and chat privately about what they shared. If they rank their day as a 1, then I’ll make sure I make it over to their desk more frequently, offer a friendly smile, and start a conversation. (I don’t take them aside, unless they show additional signs of being upset or stressed in class.)
The day I first implemented this warm-up, I learned that my student’s uncle died the week prior. Over the next three weeks, she lost three more people close to her. Because she willingly shared this with me, I was able to support her emotionally in class, and refer her to our counselors for additional support. I am 100% positive this prevented serious behaviors in my class, because she had struggled all year with attitude and off-task behavior.
When I present at conferences and workshops, I often start my session with an identical Form--I ask about participants’ prior knowledge on the topic and goals for the session. I feel like this helps me connect to my participants in the limited time we have.
I’m grateful for this simple tool that has helped me build community in my classroom!
Love this idea? Here’s the Form template.
Have fun with the Form, make it work for you, and please share!