Who uses a timer in their classroom for lessons? I know that some are not big fans of using a timer for any reason, while others find (and research bears this out) that a timer can be one of the most useful teaching strategies to help motivate students.

But it can also be a useful tool for improving collaboration between co-teachers.

Teaching strategies - Use timers in the classroomI recently was working with two co-teachers and saw them using a visual timer. I asked them, “Why do you use a timer?” and was surprised at their response. I thought they would say that it was to motivate students, by using it as a timer for them to race against or make it a game, for example.

The general education teacher said to me, “You know what? I don’t do it for the kids. We had a problem, my co-teacher and I: staying on schedule with our lesson plans.”

Both teachers nodded. The general ed teacher continued, “My co-teacher would start talking to elaborate on what I was teaching, but she’d go on and on. We were falling behind and weren’t finishing our lesson plan.”

“That’s right,” the special education teacher said. “So, we talked about it. And we came up with a solution. We set a timer for each chunk of our lesson plan. Then, I knew—because I could see the visual timer—when I needed to stop talking.” They both laughed, clearly comfortable with their working relationship.

So, I asked them, the timer benefits the two of you?

“Not just us,” the general ed teacher replied. “It keeps us on track, but it also keeps our students on track because they also know the time frame for the activity. Everybody stays focused.”

The two teachers said they were accomplishing much more within the time they had for class because they accomplished their teaching objectives within a pre-arranged chunk of time, and because the students were more focused on those objectives in the same time frame.

So, if you’re already using a timer for some things, or haven’t tried it yet, try expanding the ways you use your timer to clearly define the chunks of time available for you and your co-teacher to better manage the teaching implementation you plan on using in class. It can make a world of difference and really help you get the best bang for your time spent.

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