Try these tips to manage time and increase classroom efficiency:
1. Keep students on task during activities: Use visual timers during class activities such as think-pair-shares, group work, timed individual assignments, etc. A visual timer is one that enables students to “see” time.
2. Save class time by using efficient note-taking practices: For example, rather than have students spend valuable class time copying notes that the teacher writes on an overhead projector, whiteboard, chalk board or LCD Screen, give students a copy of linear notes as well as a blank graphic organizer based on those notes. Rather than copy notes, students fill in the words of the graphic organizer. This not only saves tremendous class time, it presents the notes in a linear as well as graphic mode and still requires students to pay attention because they have to fill in the missing words.
3. Get students to class on time: Choose a ‘gripping’ novel, or a short educational game (Around the World, Vocabulary Hang Man, etc. One that would only take about five minutes to complete.). Every day, exactly as the bell rings, start reading or playing the game. Students will rush to class to avoid missing the ‘fun’.
4. Use song clips or cell phone ring tones as timers. Sort them by how long they take to play through and use them as auditory timers for the students. Whether it’s a transition or a non-reading activity (Avoid playing music while students are reading.) the music will cue students in to the ‘time’ and keep them hopping.
5. Keep lengthy group work activities on target: When giving students a good chunk of time to work on a project, for example, twenty minutes; tell students that you will do a ‘check-in’ every 3 min and 22 seconds. (Or some other odd time) Why not five minutes? Because the brain likes novelty and they are more likely to pay attention to something like 3:22. Then set your visual timer for that amount of time. When the time’s up, stop the action and do a “check-in” with each group. This should only take a minute or two. Have students whip around the room with a quick report. This allows you to zero in on the students that are struggling to get started and stay abreast of the students who are barreling ahead and may finish early.
6. Get through your lesson plan with minimal distraction: Summarize what must be accomplished in a period of time in a bulleted list. Try to keep it to four or five bullets. List the bullets on a flip chart pad or white/chalk board. Draw check boxes next to each bullet. As the class completes each bullet, ask a student to check off the completed item. If the bullets are checked off before the end of the allotted time, students are rewarded with ‘talk time’, an educational game that they love to play, or another incentive. Say, “When we finish these bullets early, we have time to do something fun!”
7. Provide an environment that makes writing more efficient AND saves time: When assigning students a writing assignment, structure 10+ minutes (or more) for students to create a mind map of their ideas. When assigning students a project, structure time during class for students to create a plan. When students start projects with a ‘map’ of where they are going, the quality of their end product not only improves, they work more effectively and efficiently, thus saving time.
8. Give students clear directions so the need for repetition is minimized: Write your directions, assignments, sequences of activities, etc. on the chalk/white board or PowerPoint screen. Have one or two students paraphrase the instructions out loud for the class. Paraphrasing not only allows the teacher to determine how clear the directions are, but it provides the directions once again with a different voice.
9. Say it so all can hear it: If all students could hear what teachers said, or were listening, class activities would move along faster. If possible, use a wireless microphone and a speaker in your classroom. Teachers who use such a system for ‘one’ student in the class who needs it as an accommodation report that they notice a marked difference in the class; all students hear and respond better. This step saves time because teachers repeat and re-teach less.
10. Allow students to contribute to managing THEIR class: Assign them jobs, or if appropriate, have them come up with a fair system of assigning jobs. Students can not only help with taking attendance, and collecting and passing papers; they can contribute to creating memory devices (mnemonics), songs for learning, vocabulary cartoons, flow charts and graphic organizers. Find out what strengths students bring to the class and use those strengths to differentiate lesson plans and learning materials.
11. Students who take time away from class must give time back: Restitution: When students caused the class to lose time because of poor behavior and disruption, I require them to make it up to the class. Students might have to prepare and present a 20 minute lesson, come after school to tutor another student for 7 minutes, work on the computer to create a crossword puzzle worksheet, etc. They must give back for what they took away. This is not only an effective deterrent to wasted time, it can be a positive experience for the student and an opportunity for you to build rapport and relationship with the student.
12. Shorten the time it takes to prep: Use internet resources to provide ready-made materials for your lesson plans.
For more information on differentiation strategies to reach ALL learners, see Susan Fitzell’s book, Special Needs in the General Classroom, Strategies That Make It Work. Available in both print and electronic versions!
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