The First Five Minutes of Class

students in class

The opening five minutes offer us a rich opportunity to capture the attention of students and prepare them for learning… Their bodies may be stuck in a room with us for the required time period, but their minds may be somewhere else entirely.

James Lang suggests four ways to gain students’ attention in The First Five Minutes of Class

Open With Questions

Lang suggests that answers on their own are not that interesting, unless you know what the question is. Start class by posing a few key questions, then at the end of class, revisit them. This frames the class, and gives mental ‘hooks’ to hang the new information on, and in the end reminds them that the class had a purpose.

What Did We learn Last Time?

It’s a good idea to start class with a review of what was covered in the previous class. But rather that the teacher do it, have students recall key points and themes. This encourages recall and encourages learning through the ‘testing effect’.

What Did we Learn in Previous Courses?

Delving deeper, pre-test what students know ( or think they know) about the subject from previous courses and generally. Firstly, this engages what their brains already know about a subject, encouraging deeper and wider connections with the new material. Secondly, it reveals preconceptions and misconceptions that student may already have about the subject.

Write It Down

All three of these activities are more effective if students write their responses down. It engages all the students, not just those who would put their hands up; it encourages engagement and thinking in class, by making them active participants; it improves recall through kinesthetic engagement in the remembering and writing process.

Investing in the first five minutes will pay off in the rest of the class.