What is a Clean Opening? Do you have one? In LIFE Skills you really need one!
I have been in a lot of classrooms and seen a little good, a little bad, and some straight up ugly… but the thing that can make a huge difference in where a teacher falls in that continuum is if they have clean openings.
Students in LIFE Skills need all the instruction they can get, but somehow they get robbed everyday of a few minutes here and there of instruction because they are waiting for their teacher. The waiting can come when they get to class a little early, they the teacher needs a few minutes to deal with a problem or a student, or just in the transitions. The minutes start to add up… in a school year hours, days, even weeks can be lost waiting.
So what is a clean opening?
What does it look like? And how can it reclaim some of these lost minutes? Well, to start, think of your favorite television show. What do they all do in the first few minutes of the show? They all recap the big moments from this season… They want you to remember where you left off and get you invested again quickly. They also throw something in the beginning that is exciting! They want you psyched up for what is coming. What else do they do? They give you a teaser before the commercial. They get you excited for the episode and leave you with a little cliff hanger so you don’t get distracted and flip channels or go to the bathroom. So… Recap, Excite, Tease. And they do all of this before the first commercial break- in the first 7-10 minutes of a 60 minute episode.
Let’s apply that to the classroom.
Clean openings need a bit of recap. We review the materials from a prior lesson or reinforce a skill that we need to master to build on it as we move forward. In LIFE Skills, an opening activity that is solidifying a pre-requisite skill is a must. It helps if this is an independent skill that can be reviewed in about 3-8 minutes. We want it ready for students when they come in and want them to be able to do it without any help from an adult. Remember this is a review.
Now to Excite.
Small groups to warm up on the topic for the day is nice- students talking and socializing with each other as they come up with the definition for a word or idea, brainstorm, populate a Venn Diagram, or something else physically active, activating their schema, and that is quick as well- less than 5 minutes.
Okay- here is where you put on your entertainer cap.
You are giving them a little teaser before you get into the lesson for the day. Tell the students WHAT they are going to do or learn today. They want to know and you need that little reminder of the purpose of your fabulous instruction (and your paras want to know too). This takes just a minute, but is so important and often overlooked.
Recap. Excite. Tease.
And it does not necessarily matter which order you do this, but the entire three step process takes about 10-12 minutes. Now you can move into your great instruction with a beautifully clean opening! Pick one of these and start doing it tomorrow- step up your game!