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Teaching Strategies to Get Students Primed

Jordan Catapano

“What are we doing today?” Teachers might recognize this question as the daily greeting from many of their students. For years I gladly fielded this question from multiple students period after period. It’s never wrong for students to ask this question, but I slowly began to realize that my first moments and teaching strategies with students were squandered explaining exactly what we would be doing with ourselves the rest of the period. I like my teaching strategies to be transparent with students, and now I have better teaching strategies that inform students what we’re doing, help them get set up for the lesson, and give us more time to build relationships and maximize our first moments together. Doesn’t that sound like a winning solution?

So here’s my simple method: post a Daily Agenda that gives the day’s lesson for students to see when they walk into the classroom.

Teaching Strategies: What to Post On Your Screen

All you have to do to make this work is create a simple slide presentation that displays the information you want students to know right when they walk in. I use PowerPoint or Google Slides to do this.

Here is some information you might want to include on your Daily Agenda slides:

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  • “Today I will be able to …” You can focus on what skills or knowledge the lesson will revolve around. This helps students know exactly what they should be able to do by the time they leave.
  • “I will get there by …” Briefly state what the main lesson or activity is, especially what actions the students will do throughout the lesson.
  • “Why am I doing this?” This all-important question helps students understand the relevance and application of the material. If your class has specific standards or objectives, it might be helpful to display those that relate to the day’s lesson.
  • “I should take out …” Tell students what supplies or materials they should have out, so they can get prepared right away.
  • Agenda. Spell out for students the exact steps that the lesson will entail, so they see what specific tasks they can anticipate.
  • Homework. If students are expected to do work outside of class, list what it is and its due date.

Impressive Results From This Simple Tool

Post your Daily Agenda slide at the beginning of class, every day. It’s important for students to see this slide consistently so they begin to look at it every day. As you begin to use this Daily Agenda tool, if students ask, “What are we doing today?” or other similar questions, then direct them to look at the slide first.

By doing so, you end up with a number of positive results. First, this saves you and your students time each day. Instead of teachers having to answer questions about the agenda, materials, and homework for student after student, they can begin class on their own terms. Time can be spent answering more unexpected questions or just building relationships by conversing with students.

Also, posting a Daily Agenda saves instructional time; if students know what materials they should have available, they can take those out before class even begins. Rather than the teacher trying to gather everyone’s attention and give directions, students are all ready to go.

Finally, Daily Agendas help everyone stay organized. During the class period everyone knows what the next steps are. Once class is over, anyone can look back at the agenda slides to see what occurred. If a student misses class, access to Daily Agenda slides will help them see what they missed and know what’s expected. Sharing these with parents is also a great way to inform parents with what’s going on in class on a daily basis.

Bonus Daily Agenda Tips

Want to make the most of posting a Daily Agenda? Try these bonus tips!

Go over the plan together. Instead of just passively posting this for students to see, take a few moments to go over the agenda together. No, this doesn’t save you time, but it does make sure that everyone knows the plan, and students understand exactly what’s expected of them. Students are more likely to achieve the learning goals if they know what they are in advance.

Use an Exit Slip or review. At the end of class, go over the learning objectives together. If students knew what they were supposed to learn, then ask them to think through how well they actually learned those by the end. Have students complete an exit slip, or just discuss as a class how their learning went. This reflection helps to develop metacognitive strategies.

Post the times as well. If you really want to stay on track, post the exact times certain activities will take place. This helps you and your students know exactly how each activity will be paced and to anticipate the next items coming up.

Post it in advance. Why not give students a sneak peak of tomorrow’s activities? Share with them tomorrow’s slide in advance, or at least complete slides in advance for students and parents to view on their own!

With Daily Agendas, your students are well-equipped to begin each class period in a way that’s likely to maximize your time together. Try it yourself and see how it improves your experience.

Are you going to try Daily Agendas now? What else do you already do that helps to streamline your class? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Jordan Catapano is a high school English teacher in a Chicago suburb. In addition to being National Board Certificated and head of his school’s Instructional Development Committee, he also has worked with the Illinois Association of Teachers of English and has experience as a school board member for a private school. You can follow him on Twitter at @BuffEnglish, or visit his website www.jordancatapano.us.