Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Nine Ideas for Making the Most of Instructional Time

So much for students to learn and so little time!  We all feel the time crunch, each and every day. There isn't anything we can about the number of minutes in the school day, but we can do a few things to make the most of those minutes.  Here are nine suggestions for stretching instructional time:
1.  Teach routines and procedures for handing in papers, lining up, transition times, etc.  Students should know exactly what is expected so time is not wasted and you don't find yourself answering questions about how, when, and where.  A bunch of time can be saved in the little details. Start teaching routines on the first day of school and reinforce them as needed.
2.  Have your students start the school day when they walk into the classroom, not when the bell rings.  Teach the beginning of day procedures, such as: put your backpack away, hand in your homework, make your lunch choice, and sharpen your pencils.  These things should become an automatic part of arriving in the classroom.  Hold students accountable for doing these things without a reminder.  Post a reminder list in the classroom or put it on student desktops.
3.  As soon as the beginning of day procedures are finished, students should be responsible for starting on the first assignment of the day.  This should be review or practice with something they have already learned, so they can be 100% independent.  I give my students until first recess to get this finished.  If they don't finish the daily "Warm-up" by the time the bell rings to officially start the school day, they slip it into their folders and finish it up when they have a few minutes.
4.  Schedule core academics early in the day when students' energy levels--and your own--are highest.  You'll accomplish a lot more.
5.  Integrate lessons and instruction whenever possible.  For example, use a science concept as the topic for a writing assignment.
6.  Be clear, in your own mind, as to the objective of each lesson and choose the most effective and efficient way of using the lesson time.  For example, I could give students a chunk of Play Dough and have them form little balls to create an array for a multiplication lesson.   However, since my objective doesn't really involve creativity and tactile stimulation, giving each student some counters or colored plastic disks to make arrays, or having them draw an array on their individual white boards will cut the time involved in this lesson.
7.  Organize your classroom so that supplies and materials are readily available to teacher and students.  Also, plan student seating so their attention is focused on the front of the classroom, or where lessons will be presented.
8.  Engage all students.  Rather than having them respond one at a time, use group responses, or have students ask and answer questions with a partner.   Everyone does everything.  Students are not allowed to disengage and fly under the radar.
9.  Use homework assignments as extended practice for concepts and skills presented in class.  Don't send home meaningless assignments.
Each of these suggestions can save minutes, and minutes certainly add up, especially over the course of the school year.