Utilizing Chatbots for Interactive Do Now Activities

There has been a lot of talk surrounding artificial intelligence (AI) in the current academic year. While generative AI is not flawless, it can function as an aide and partner for teachers. Just like any tool used in the classroom, AI-driven tools necessitate your skills, knowledge, and proficiency to maximize their potential. You can utilize this technology to organize all aspects of the school day, including a “Do Now” task.

You may already be acquainted with Do Now tasks, which are quick tasks for students to engage in upon entering the classroom. These tasks can initiate a new lesson at the start of the period or facilitate the transition between different parts of the day. In a high school setting, this task could kick in as soon as the class begins. For elementary students, a Do Now can bridge the gap between a math lesson and the segue into a science lesson.

While these activities serve various purposes, their goal is usually to spark students’ interest in a topic, help them focus on the new segment of the day, trigger prior knowledge, or gather information on their existing knowledge about the subject.

Here’s where chatbots like ChatGPT can assist teachers in saving time by acting as rapid collaborators to create intriguing Do Now tasks. Though I often cite ChatGPT as the exemplar chatbot, there are many alternatives you can explore. Consider checking out Claude, Perplexity, or Gemini. My recent podcast on March 19, 2024, Easy EdTech highlighted tips for leveraging Gemini (formerly Bard).

Leveraging AI for Do Now Tasks

When employing a chatbot like ChatGPT, you can start with a basic prompt that you refine with subsequent instructions, or you can commence with a detailed prompt. For instance: “Provide me with a list of Do Now activities suitable for introducing an eighth-grade persuasive writing lesson.”

Expanding your prompt at the outset typically yields higher-quality responses. For example: “I am an engaging eighth-grade teacher looking to start an impactful lesson with a Do Now that strengthens the students’ grasp of persuasive writing hooks. Create a list of activities under five minutes to introduce this concept and gauge student understanding. Also, my students are enthusiastic about the upcoming Summer Olympics.”

Although a lengthier prompt requires more typing, it generally results in better outcomes. In the extended prompt, I included:

  • My role or the role I want the chatbot to assume: “an engaging eighth-grade teacher.”
  • The objective: “start a lesson with a Do Now activity enhancing students’ understanding of persuasive writing hooks.”
  • The task, with specifics: “List activities under five minutes to introduce this concept and assess student understanding.”
  • Additional details: “students are excited about the Summer Olympics.”

Alternatively, for a primary classroom scenario: “I am a first-grade teacher known for integrating literacy skills with social studies content. I aim to begin a lesson with a Do Now activity to promote student comprehension of community roles. Suggest activities taking around five minutes to stimulate prior knowledge. Additionally, students are familiar with vocabulary like volunteer, firefighter, and doctor.”

Once again, investing more time in a detailed prompt can yield superior outcomes. The comprehensive prompt included:

  • My role or the desired chatbot role: “a first-grade teacher integrating literacy skills with social studies content.”
  • The objective: “start a lesson with a Do Now activity for better understanding of community roles.”
  • The task, with specifics: “Suggest activities taking about five minutes to activate prior knowledge.”
  • Additional details: “students are familiar with vocabulary like volunteer, firefighter, and doctor.”

Additional information may include student interests, local or state standards, vocabulary students are learning, past successful examples, or examples of what should be avoided. Adding these details can improve the outcome. If you miss these in the initial prompt, you can always provide clarifications in response to the initial output. 

Interacting with a chatbot resembles a conversation, allowing you to iterate until you obtain a strong response. Chatbots can be used to generate content supporting various subjects like English language arts, social studies, math, and science. 

Before using chatbot-generated responses, scrutinize them carefully. Verify that the information aligns with your instructional objectives and is factually accurate. Keep in mind that AI tools such as ChatGPT may exhibit biases reflective of their extensive language model (training data).

In the “Assess” chapter of my book EdTech Essentials: 12 Strategies for Every Classroom in the Age of AI, I outline ways to leverage generative AI tools for efficient formative assessment data collection, aiding teachers in saving time amid instructional planning and personalized learning for students.

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