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Instructional Practice

The Silent First Five (and 5 Tips to Make It Happen in Your Classroom)

Written by Jaclyn McCormick, TE Instructional Coach

Imagine silence, absolute silence. All students diligently writing with their materials out and brains hard at work. You, the teacher, stand by and monitor this beautiful scene and marvel at how well the classroom functions. Where is this magical place? It’s in your classroom. Every day. It’s the silent first five.

The silent first five is a simple routine I implemented while teaching when I realized more often than not I was already frazzled within the first 5 minutes of class. After the multitude of questions coming at me from every direction, the loud and off topic conversations, and the general chaos that was ensuing in my room while I ran around trying to pass out papers and re-direct students who were not yet in their seats I was exhausted and frustrated before class even started. Sound familiar? These five tips to get the silent first five started in your class.

(I want to preface this by saying that the silent first five is a routine that HAS to be taught and practiced. Teach these expectations like you would teach any other routine or procedure in your class.)

  1. Make sure the students have a do-first or do-now to do EVERY DAY no matter what, and make sure that it is always posted in the same place (a hand out that is already on their desk when they come in, a slide projected on the white board, etc.). Consistency is the key for the silent first five.
  2. The do-first should be long enough that all students will be writing, yes writing, for the entire five minutes. Students need to be held accountable to put their pencil to their papers. Scaffold the questions so that the first few are accessible to all students, and add an extension question or an open-ended response question to the end to ensure that even those super speedy kids have something to do for the entire five minutes.
  3. It has to be silent. That means no questions from you or from the students. Explain to students that they need to try their best to complete all questions on the do-first, and there will be time for questions after the first five is over.
  4. Use a TIMER! Timers are a teacher’s best friend. Have a visual timer, and communicate to students that within one minute of the timer being started everyone should have all their materials out and be working on the first question. Follow through with a consequence to students who are wasting time.
  5. Stand back and marvel at your work. Don’t pass out papers, don’t follow up with students about test scores, just silently walk around and monitor student behavior. If you are silent, the students will be silent. One of the best pieces of advice I got as a teacher was, ” You are trying to do too many things at the same time.” Stop and watch what the students are doing, that is your job during the first five minutes of class.

What do you do to make the first five minutes of your classroom run smoothly?

Share your ideas in the comment space below. Sharing is caring! J



One thought on “The Silent First Five (and 5 Tips to Make It Happen in Your Classroom)

  1. Jaclyn – I love your post! When I was teaching, the first five minutes was my saving grace. I wasn’t a naturally organized teacher and so that silent space not only started my kids off in a focused way, it also gave me a safety net. If I had misplaced a material, forgotten about a student who was absent the day before and needed a handout, or needed to check-in with a student about something, I had that space to make sure my head was in the game. As I stood silently watching them at the front of the room once they came in, I could take a mental inventory of what needed to happen before INM and then could calmly take care of it as the kids were settled into their work.

    Posted by Petra | October 17, 2012, 10:46 am

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