Work The Clock
Time is arguably the greatest resource you can have in the classroom. Often it can work against us, there is never enough of it. It can slip away if not considered deeply when planning lessons which makes it important for me that I maximise every second in the classroom.
The best way that I have found for my own lessons to use time wisely is to show the clock wherever possible. This helps me make clear time periods for work and it also allows students the opportunity to self regulate against the time. Additionally, an excellent way to keep the pace high and build momentum in your lessons is to narrate the time, use countdowns and utilise odd increments of time. This will build up to keep a good pace in your lessons and keep the students focussed.
I use countdowns for so much in my classroom. For simple tasks such as tidying up and for larger tasks when I am counting down the end of an extended period of work, ten minutes of writing or working through a question set.
Narrating the time provides a sense of urgency, for example when tidying away resources I often say ‘you have ten seconds to put this away and be standing behind your chair’ and then begin counting down slowly. This motivates the students to complete the task and more often than not the students are behind their chair with a few seconds to go. Of course, I thank them and praise appropriately.
I regularly send students off into a turn and talk and will say before they dive in that they have thirty seconds. After I have circulated and heard what I need I will begin counting down to bring attention back to me by saying ‘conversation done and eyes to me in 3,2,1’. It is useful here to narrate the positive when you are counting down, for example ‘eyes to me in 3, 2, james is ready, thank you enisha and 1’.
For longer periods of work I often countdown the end in order to bring attention back to me. It's also useful to narrate at the beginning and perhaps in the middle of the time. For example to start students you could say ‘you have eight minutes. get to work.’, during the time when students are working independently you could highlight how long they have left, ‘we have about two minutes left, use the final few minutes to XYZ.’ To close an extended period of work I make clear that it will be finishing by instructing students to ‘put your opends down and have eyes to me in 3,2,1.’
Show the Clock
For these longer periods of work, and for some shorter times, I share a timer with the students. I mainly use this website because they have a variety of options but I love the super fullscreen mode. I do this because I like to make the time visible to students and it also helps that I try to avoid the ‘how long is left sir?’ type questions. They do still occur but by showing the clock it helps students understand that I value time and I allocate it wisely, it also helps students to be attentive to the time they have to complete a task. As Doug Lemov notes ‘ showing the time gives rise to a time sensitive culture… showing time also allows you to talk less about time.’
Often I’ll complete a period of instruction with ‘you have three minutes to complete two questions on your own, off you go’ and simply start the timer. This signals the students to get to work and keeps a good pace about the lesson. However, I have often been wrong or not expected how long a task might take and discover while circulating that more time is required. With the online stopwatch I can change this quickly and outline that ‘you have been working hard on this and it looks like we need another two minutes’ or ‘it looks like we are almost finished so I am going to shorten the time, I can’t wait for you to share your responses’.
This is a summary of a few ways that I utilise time to good effect in my classroom. By showing the clock and using countdowns regularly I keep a good pace in my lessons and ultimately the students become used to the time allocations. I think this helps students know that we won't be spending forever on this or that.
How do you use time in your classroom?