Do Now

A Do Now is an activity at the start of a class to instantly get students in the correct mindset for learning or in the middle of class to have students check their understanding. It is commonly brief, usually not longer than 5 or 10 minutes. This activity is most successful when it becomes a routine in your class.
A Do Now is a great way to have students refresh on previous class material. If students know it is part of the daily routine, it can help motivate them to prepare for current class material. It is both a good way to get students warmed up at the beginning of class or have students check their understanding in the middle or end of class.


Establish a consistent schedule.
  • It is best practice to use do­nows on a consistent basis, so once you start to use them, commit to employing them throughout the semester. They can be used from once a week to daily.
Decide on an aspect of a previous lesson or reading about which you want to query the students or a topic related to the upcoming activity.
  • Review the outcomes of your previous lesson(s) and decide what content will be the focus of the Do Now activity. It could be a concept that caused confusion, an important learning goal, a required fact, etc. 
  • Or the Do Now could focus on priming the students for an upcoming lesson. Review the content of your current lesson and decide what content will be the focus of the Do Now. It could be a concept from homework or pre-class reading, a key concept for the day's lesson, etc. 
Choose a brief activity.
  • The entire Do Now process should take no more than 10 minutes.
  • The prompt can be open­ended, a specific question(s), or a short active learning exercise. Some activity options include:
    • a quick write
    • journaling
    • discussion (either whole class or small group)
    • quizzes
    • games
Create necessary materials and have them ready at the beginning of class. 
  • Any handouts, tools, or other materials should be ready for the students as soon as they walk into the classroom.
  • If your Do Now relies on materials that students bring, ensure that you have extra for those who forget.
Post clear instructions in the classroom.
  • Have the instructions for the Do Now written on the white/chalkboard or projected big enough so it grabs the attention of students.
  • If you are using the Do Now at the start of class, make sure students are aware of the Do Now exercise.


Call attention to the instructions.
  • Point out the instructions and the location of necessary materials at the beginning of the activity. If it is at the start of class, make sure students see the directions as they enter and get settled.

Keep the room quiet as students perform the task.
  • For a Do Now that involves individual work, keep the room quiet. 
  • Ensure students start working on the activity right away if it is at the beginning of class. It may take time to get them into the habit at first.
Use the time to check­-in with students. 
  • Walk around the room and take notice of students work. This can be a good time to check-in with students who have questions or are struggling with course material. Be tactful and try to do this as unobtrusively as possible. The focus should remain on getting students ready to learn.


Have a system to collect material students make from the activity.
  • Have a designated place for students to submit their work from the Do Now, if needed, to avoid confusion and speed up the process.

  • Alternatively, if the activity is being used to introduce the lesson of the day through small group discussion, presentations, etc., you will naturally follow up on the activity and might not need to collect anything.

Provide feedback to students in a timely and consistent basis.
  • If students know that you are actually reading and/or offering feedback on their work, it will deter them from not completing the task or passing in an incomplete assignment. You do not have to review them every day. It’s most important to be consistent throughout the semester.
Reflect on the Do Now with the class.
  • Bring the class back together and review the Do Now. For example, if there is an answer to a problem, have a student share their answer. To ensure all students are on the same page before moving on, make sure to highlight and rephrase the correct solution and problem solving strategies. 



Written by Lauren Britt­Elmore
Doctoral Candidate, Higher Education
Harvard Graduate School of Education

“Do nows” are brief starters or warm-up activities that occur at the beginning of a lesson. As a teaching strategy, “do now” activities are rooted in constructivist theory (Dewey 1916, 1938) and student-centered learning (Hinton, Fischer, & Glennon, 2012), both active learning theories. 

Today, “do now” activities are widely used across elementary, secondary, and higher education classrooms. The activities usually last between three to ten minutes (Morris, 2007), ranging from responding to prompts to asking questions, and exist in formats such as writing, discussion, quizzes, or games.

Examples from research and practice prove “do now” activities to be effective across educational settings, although mostly in primary and secondary classrooms.  An example from higher education is a roundtable review, where, at the beginning of the class, students write down one important idea from the previous lecture on his or her paper, pass the list to the next person, and ultimately return to the original owner with a list of key takeaways for future review and study (Kohler-Evans, 2009).

Researchers found “do now” an excellent technique for classroom management. It helps to “set the tone for the day” (Perez, n.d.) with a purposeful start. As students are kept on task from the moment they enter the classroom, instructors will save the efforts of getting students back on task when the lecture starts. Also, with a small, non-threatening starter activity that most of the students can work on individually, instructors are allowed to focus on students who are disengaged or have special difficulties, making sure the entire class will be ready to embark on new content.

“Do now” activities are also facilitators of student motivation and engagement. Brief and engaging activities help to create a risk-free environment at the beginning of the lesson (Bonwell, n.d; Bonwell, 1995), and encourage group learning (Michael, 2006). They help prepare students to participate in more traditional class activities. This ultimately leads to improved learning outcomes.

To implement “do now” activities most effectively, practitioners have suggested supporting the assigned activities with proper assessment and feedback to “encourage would-be ‘Do Later’ or ‘Do Never’ students” (Ginsburg, 2011). For example, instructors can create a Do Now sheet for each student and collect the week’s work to rate using a point system (Walton MS Teacher Tools, n.d.). 

It is also important to link the activity with what the students have learned previously and what they will learn in the new class. Instructors are recommended to write the activity instructions on board or project them, to save the time spent repeating what to do and to attract students’ attention when they come in. Finally, the most frequently used strategy involves using Do Nows as a routine, so that students form the habit of immediate focusing on learning when they step into the class.

Written by Danxi Shen, Ed. M., Harvard Graduate School of Education
and Heather Frances, Ed.M., Harvard Graduate School of Education


Beck, D. & Eno, J. (2012).  Signature Pedagogy:  A Literature Review of Social Studies and Technology Research.  Computers in the Schools:  Interdisciplinary Journal of Practice, Theory, and Applied Research, 29(1-2), 70-94.

Bonwell, C. Active Learning: Creating excitement in the classroom. 

Bonwell, C. (1995). Building a supportive climate for active learning. The National Teaching and Learning Forum, 6(1), 4-7. 

Dewey, J. (1916). Democracy and education. New York: Macmillan.

Dewey, J. (1938). Experience and education. New York: Macmillan.

Ginsburg, David. (2011). The “Do Now” or “Do Never”. Coach G’s Teaching Tips, Education Week teacher blogs. Retrieved from

Hinton, C., Fischer, K., & Glennon, C. (2012) Mind, Brain, and Education. In N.

Hoffman, A. Steinberg, & R. Wolfe (Eds.) Student at the Center Series.

Kohler-Evans, P. (2009). How to Get Wet without Plunging In: Creative Ways to Start Class. The Teaching Professor, 2006(1).

Morris, Harriet. (2007). Starter and Do-Now Activities. Perspectives On Education. Retrieved from

Perez, Sandra. Classroom Management Inventing Your Own "Do NOW" Activities. ESL Teachers Board. Retrieved from

Walton MS Teacher Tools. BBC2 - Do Now. Retrieved from


Do Now Tutorial

Below we have annotated lesson plans for selected examplary activities from our database that highlight various ways to incorporate Do Now activities into the classroom. 

(1) Blitz Theses: Students respond to a quote by formulating arguments for or against the position on the spot.  Find the original activity in our database here.