I make the most of every minute
I can recall several instances where I failed to follow the time constraints of a lesson plan. Although I've always known that timing of lessons is crucial, I believed little to no damage was done in only a few minutes being unaccounted for. My thinking changed after reflecting on how just a few minutes can dramatically impact the outcome in other areas of practice; like healthcare & sports.
Goodwin & Hubbell's comparison to other professional practices helped me to be more intentional about my use of time throughout the day. I've learned that not all time is created equal! It is beneficial to think of time in four categories (Aronson, Zimmerman, & Carlos, 1998) when planning and teaching; allocated, instructional, engaged, and academic learning time. All plans are birthed from the instructional time since instructors use this time as a "frame" or "base" to build on. Academic learning time, however, is the time in which all teachers are hopeful to reach, but rarely do! This precise period when an instructional activity is perfectly aligned with a students readiness, is almost always cut short. The "few minutes" wasted with housekeeping procedures, reinforcing behavior expectations, and instruction that is not diffenciated has added up.
Here are a few ideas to help add to students' academic learning time:
Since learning occurs when students are given activites aligned with their readiness, diffrentiation is a crucial piece to making sure time is being well-spent. Frequently using and collecting student data will help with grouping them according to their readiness. Less time is spent trying to re-teach or clear up misconceptions because the teacher has used frequent checks for understanding as data points. Now, instead of teaching only in whole group, the teacher can plan a small mini-lesson in order to facilitate more targeted groups of instruction; maximizing academic learning time.
Here is a picture of a drawer full of differentiated phonics activities for students to work on during literacy stations. Students are taught the "color" of their group and know to grab materials that match their group level.
Here is another example of how to make every minute count! Plan station rotations and create a visual aid with names of the students in each group. Literacy groups and their rotations are posted so transitions can be quick and expectations are clear & consistent.
Visual and Audio Timers:
It's not enough to just have a time written down throughout my lesson. Using timers in the classroom helps keep both the students and teacher accountable. My most successful lesson yet occured a few days ago when I used timers throughout the entire lesson. I noticed a certain sense of urgency in my students as well. They understood that they only had a certain amount of time to complete the task and this motivated them to get right to work. The timers reminded me to stay focused on the learning goal since I could see/hear every minute passing.
Morning Message Routine:
Providing students with an activity to get started right away can help manage those housekeeping tasks that are necessary to start the day. (i.e. attendance, homework, breakfast) I am teaching my kids a morning message routine which will be the same regardless of the task given. Students come in, check their name off the breakfast list, and grab their breakfast. ( This saves me time since the list is already completed and they are responsible for getting their own breakfast). Next, they sit at their desks and begin eating and working on an activity they have practiced several times before so there are minimal interruptions. Once they finish the tasks, they know the expectation is to check/share their answer with a partner. This saves time with classroom management by minimizing disruptions from students who complete the task early. This routine is also a great source of data since students grading can be used as an informal assessment and provides an opportunity for peer-to-peer feedback. Using a timer during our morning message reinforces the importance of this time for students. They can see the time passing and they know that soon they run out of time if they don't make every minute count.
Alford, I. (n.d.). Establish a Culture of High Expectations. Retrieved from