The First 10 Minutes

The other day a student from a class before mine came out of the classroom and said, “Did I miss anything the first ten minutes I wasn’t there?” And the student to whom he was speaking said, “No. Not really.”

Oh, really?!

I hope no one says that about the classes I teach. I try not only to fill every minute of every class with something worthwhile, with some great “takeaway,” but I also try to see to it that each class begins with something valuable. It’s always important to pique interest, create anticipation, and provide continuity at the beginning of any new undertaking, including a seemingly run-of-the-mill class, task, or meeting.

I begin most of my classes with a ten-minute “starter” I call “Protocol.” Protocol is an opportunity for a student to review the contents of the previous class period, and then in some way carry that contents and those thoughts forward into the current class period. Over the years students have conducted game shows like Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune, they have created their own media presentations, or they have used crossword puzzles or fun quizzes.

The results have been very positive:

  • The students making the presentation have had to engage the material and learn it better themselves.
  • The students in the classroom receive the benefit of reviewing material in a fun atmosphere.
  • All material along the way is reviewed so that there is less “cramming” when it is time for an exam.
  • The first ten minutes of each class period are advantageous to the entire class.
  • Protocol is a springboard for new material.

This method works well in many areas of life, business, or ministry. A good book always has a great first sentence. A good meeting always has an energizing and creative start. A good sermon has an interesting introduction.

Books, meetings, sermons, and many other things in life benefit from reviewing older material and springboarding into new. The whole idea is to build on things we know so that we retain the old, engage the present material, and look forward to what we are yet to learn. I’m working through that process right now while I am learning all about creating and maintaining a self-hosted blog. It’s both frustrating and exhilarating, but boy, have I learned a great deal. And I can’t wait to learn more…building on top of what I already know.

How can you use the concept of “Protocol” in your work or daily life? How do you take advantage of the first ten minutes? I’d love to hear your ideas.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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3 thoughts on “The First 10 Minutes

  1. Tom, this is so rich a topic I could go on a couple of tangents. But I'll start with kudos for your brave willingness to turn a class over to another (a student, even!) in the first few minutes! When teaching, the spectre of "control" tends to lurk close by for me. Maintaining control over the situation and the material can become obsessively important. I love your idea to abandon the stranglehold control from the get-go! How freeing that might be for a classroom!

    Arden (Dad) spent a long period using an idea similar to your Protocol in worship. I remember it as being especially effective: Worship began each Sunday with a greeting from him … and then a brief summary of where we've been (e.g.: if we'd been working our way through John, what had happened in the last weeks' readings). This would always lead into some teaser about what we were about to see—how we were about to encounter the Christ—this week. It built both continuity and a sense of anticipation!

    Also (to shamelessly plug a product … but a least it is one I truly believe in as a "gift to the Church"), I wrote a Prayer of the Day series entitled "Proper Prayers for the Church Today" which incorporates the ancient Collects, the readings for each Sunday (all three series—whew!) … and it's all done responsively as a litany, so the congregation participates. Again, as the Collect comes so early in the service, it builds an anticipation that continues through the Service of the Word. I offer it up as a suggestion for getting that Protocol idea into weekly worship. You can look it up at Creative Communications.

    Sorry if that seems self-serving. Do love the Protocol idea. I've got to work that into more of my classroom experiences.



    • Don't ever be sorry about promoting your awesome materials. They are fantastic, and I have used some of those Collects. They truly do "collect" the thoughts of the people of God and provide anticipation for what God is going to do in the next hour.

      An aside…Oh, to have had an opportunity to sit at your dad's feet in his congregation, and learn from a master.

      • I say this with with utmost humility, Tom, having finished Arden's sentences (and he mine) for more than twenty years on a professional level: "The mantle is passed," he said two nights before he died. Apparently, "I and the father are one." Likewise, I feel I've met your Dad in you (your Son, too). This is the great and honorable mystery of "the apostolic train." Choo-choo! Chug along, my friend!