Have you ever been told that you should plan out your class time efficiently and that your students should be working “bell to bell,” either in your education classes or by an administrator? Me too. And I am sure we all agree that that idea is great in theory, but hard in reality. Hard, but possible. Maximizing class time takes some strategic planning and effective procedures. The strategies listed below will help you with the planning and procedures, so you can maximize your class time.
Plan for buffer days.
When I plan out the content pacing at the beginning of each semester I try to leave a buffer day at the end of each unit. While it may seem like you’re losing class time, this actually allows you to stay on pace for the year. If you get behind one class, you don’t have to stress about where to fit that content in. If you don’t need the buffer day, then you can be ahead of your pacing. And don’t we all love that feeling?! It also builds in an opportunity for the fun, enrichment activities we don’t always have time for. Or allows for supplemental instruction before an assessment for students who are struggling. In my opinion, buffer days are a win-win no matter how they are used and allow us to make the most of our class time!
Utilize a Digital Agenda.
A digital agenda not only maximizes class time, but also saves space on your white board. A digital agenda, whether on PowerPoint or Google Slides, allows you to have the work/answer for the bellringer ready to go on the next slide (if you’re projecting it). If you share the agenda with students, the agenda for the day can include all links they will need ready to go in one place. I love using a daily digital agenda so that I can look back on it when preparing bell work and such the next year.
Take Roll in the Hallway.
I absolutely love greeting my students in the hallway! It’s a small moment in time, but can have a big impact on your relationship with students. While you are asking about the game last night or commenting on their fun t-shirt, simply mark them present for the day. Maybe that’s on a printed roster on a clipboard or a digital roll sheet on your ipad. However you choose to do it, mark students present (and tardy) and then when you walk in the room, you already know exactly what to input for attendance! This habit also helps reduce the chances of forgetting to take attendance.
Students grab handouts as they walk in the door.
If you’re like me (especially before the pandemic), you can sometimes have 3-4 handouts in a single class period. Passing out worksheets and such can take up precious time! A few years ago, I switched to having my students pick up the handouts for the day as they walked in the door. I have a cart similar to this and put each needed handout on a separate shelf. As students walk in, it’s immediately on their right and they know to grab a paper from each bin. After class, it’s really easy to transfer the leftover handouts to your absent bin!
Designate student jobs.
Do you have tasks that need to be completed in transitions or supplies that frequently need to be handed out and then picked back up? Assign these tasks to students. It will cut down on transition time and free you up to do something else!
Gather daily supplies at student desks.
If you have your desks grouped, put a bucket or drawer tower at each group with supplies that students frequently need. This will keep students from getting up from their desks as often and therefore cut down on distractions. If you can’t have your desks grouped, make sure students know where to get extra daily supplies so they don’t have to interrupt class with that type of question.
Have enrichment ready for early finishers.
Nothing derails a class like students with nothing to do! I usually run into this problem during the last 10 minutes of a class when some students have already finished their practice. Your type A students will just start working on homework for another class, but sometimes students will start talking or playing on their phone, distracting the students who are not finished yet. This is why I like to have options ready to go for students who finish early. Maybe it’s working through some Boom Cards (check out my Geometry Boom Cards here!) or a Sudoku Bulletin Board to keep their brains working or a card sort over past material you want them to keep fresh. The key is to make sure they don’t feel like they’re just doing more homework. Keep it fun, so that they still want to finish early!
Make time for Brain Breaks.
How does adding something else maximize time? Brain breaks make sure your students stay in the right mindset for learning! These short breaks keep students alert and give their brains some rest time. With the right brain break, students also release any pent up energy, allowing them to focus better during the next learning segment. So while you may lose a few minutes, you more than make up for it in gained quality learning time.
If you’d like to learn more about how to implement brain breaks in your classroom, read this.
Teach Procedures Thoroughly.
None of the tips above will maximize any class time if students do not properly know and carry out your classroom procedures. I spend so much time the first few weeks of school training my students in my procedures. Every single class period they are taught and assessed on what I expect of them in my class. How do you walk into class? What is the first thing you do? How do you turn in work? How do you return calculators? It takes away learning time in the beginning, but you more than get that time back throughout the year when you don’t have to spend time correcting students on procedural hang-ups.