The Power of the Timer

Years ago, like most novice teachers, I struggled with classroom management.  I struggled with keeping kids on task and completing assignments.  It was so frustrating!   I had so much to offer, but they wouldn’t let me help them.  My low-achieving high school students sensed my frustration and seemed to revel in it.

comark_utl264I had to do something.  We were losing the battle against every teacher’s enemy — time.  We were wasting so much precious time.  Students who were already performing below grade level were falling even more behind.

The ramifications:  Wasting seemingly insignificant amounts of class time quickly snowballs into huge blocks of valuable instructional time.

For example, five minutes squandered each and every day is the equivalent to being 20 days absent.  Look at the math:

5 minutes a day X 185 instructional days = 925 minutes
925 minutes / 45-minute instructional period = 20 days

My classroom situation was critical.  If I was being completely honest, I was probably wasting more than five minutes a day.  When I assessed my situation with the help of my mentors,  we determined one of the primary issues to my poor classroom management was pacing.  They had too much time to accomplish tasks, so the students had no sense of urgency.  They had time to chit chat AND complete the activity.  Paradoxically, the more time you have, the more time you waste.  Too much time is counterproductive.

Implementation of the plan:  Set a time limit for in-class assignments and stick to it!  Originally, I used an old kitchen timer to signal the end of time, and I called out “two-minute warning” when time was almost up.  When the timer chimed, I said, “Pencils down.  Pass your papers up.” Or, “Close your book and take out your journal.”   I briskly transitioned to the next activity and enforced my established late-work policy.  After additional guided practice or modeling, I timed the next block of discussion or independent practice.

It was magic.  Students quickly (I’m talking two days!), adapted to the implementation of a timer.  With the timer, they began to efficiently complete small and large tasks.  This efficiency bled into transition time from one activity to another, thus eliminating another instructional time waste.

I was able to plan multiple strategies or activities for one class period.  The lessons became more engaging and productive.  Student achievement increased with the use of a classroom timer.

Timer Benefits:  The take away: 

  • Most classroom management issues are eliminated.
  • Increases student focus and productivity.
  • Rigor increases incrementally.
  • Utilizes all valuable instructional time.
  • Emphasizes the importance of meeting deadline.

Visual Timers


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