How time flies! It is the first day of school, and then before you can turn around the end of the school year is approaching. Time in the classroom is a precious commodity. Every second counts! So what are some strategies we can use to improve our time management and increase productivity for both our students and ourselves?
Take a lesson from the Boy Scouts: be prepared. Get to school early and get materials and equipment ready for the day. This way you can “hit the ground running” when your students come in, and no instructional time is lost while you are getting ready.
Encourage a climate of urgency. Have the attitude that every second is precious. Every second wasted is a second that students are not learning, and that is not ok! After all, learning is the most important aspect of what goes on in the classroom!
Have a free choice board available for early finishers. Those who complete tasks early need to be productively engaged. If they are not peer tutoring or helping another group complete a task, they should be actively working toward finishing one of the items listed on the free choice board. This could include studying domain specific vocabulary words, writing in a journal, reading a book, or whatever you deem valuable and appropriate.
Use a timer and/or music for faster, smoother transitions. Give students a time limit. It could be 30 seconds to a minute, depending on what needs to be accomplished. Reward the first group of students that has completed all of your requests. Playing a short clip of music from a computer, CD, or mobile device is also effective and fun for the students. Vary the music to fit the mood and tone of your classroom, your students, and yourself. Challenge your students to accomplish the transition before the music stops. Consider even using this short transitional clip of music as a lead-in to your content lesson. You will be amazed how much time you save!
Time students when they are solving problems or discussing lesson content with partners or groups. This keeps the pace of the lesson moving, and students aren’t as likely to get stuck or distracted. After the time limit has expired, share and discuss the completed mini-task with the class, and move on to the next part of the lesson. This method is effective because it gives students a chance to process and share the content of the lesson verbally with a group or partner in short snippets. This breaks the lesson up, and as a result, keeps students more engaged.
Utilize signals for activity changes. Students love variety, so collect some noisemakers (or even sound files on your mobile device) to use as a signal when you want the attention of the entire group. This is a time-saving, immediate way to focus the group when needed.
Remember that children thrive on routine, so stay on schedule! Even if you don’t get to the end of your lesson, find a “Plan B” stopping point, and move on to the next scheduled part of your day. You can always come back to it later if there is time. If not, at least you are getting everything in that you originally scheduled. Will you feel sometimes like you never finish anything? Yes! However, staying on schedule helps you keep a healthy pace, and exposes students to the maximum amount of content you had planned.
Being an effective time manager in the classroom is one of the characteristics of a highly effective teacher. Remember to keep that sense of urgency about time and learning alive in your classroom!