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May 28, 2015 | Volume 10 | Issue 18
Table of Contents
Super Power Your Time Management Strategies
As classroom teachers, you have superpowers. You have the power to learn a new curriculum within weeks, to learn dozens of students' first and last names in mere hours, and to remember who is allergic to what and who can sit with whom within minutes (or seconds). Still, time management may be perplexing. In my work with classroom teachers, we often troubleshoot the best ways to make use of any given time, especially when it feels like there is never enough of it. Lately, I have been considering how teachers of kindergarten through 8th grade students can make the best use of instructional time. Here is a quick guide to how you, too, can become a Super Time Management Teacher (cue theme music).
Superpower Strategy #1: Understand what instructional time is, and get clear on why maximizing it is important.
Sometimes, we forget that what we are really trying to do is prepare our students for the world beyond the four walls of our classroom. This is easy to forget. Before you do anything else, go back to this idea: what lies underneath any layer of content instruction is the preparation students need to participate in the world as independent beings with healthy and productive lives. Much of our work revolves around content-based learning, but we cannot get to the content without the structure.
Maximizing your classroom time is not only about making sure your students behave well enough to learn the stuff in your planner; it is also about teaching students how to be in the world.
Superpower Strategy #2: Break big parts into small parts and be consistent every day.
Are you clear about how you are using instructional time? If you are not clear, your students will not be clear. Break larger chunks of time into smaller parts, and be consistent about those smaller parts each and every day—use the time in any given block in the same way, every day. This may seem monotonous, but the only thing worse than monotony is a classroom full of students wondering how instruction is going to be delivered. Children love routine, children crave routine, children need routine. The more routine you can create for students, the better you can teach them the how, what, and why of learning. Once you eliminate the question of how we will learn, you can focus more on what we will learn, and why it's worth learning.
Imagine you have a forty-five minute writing block. How are you accounting for each of those minutes? I have supported teachers in breaking this time down to see the parts that make up the whole. In many cases, it looks like this:
In her book, Growing Readers (2004), Kathy Collins reminds us that when it comes to classroom management, no matter how you break down your big chunks, make sure to press Repeat each subsequent day.
Superpower Strategy #3: Break your small parts into smaller parts.
In an ideal world, you plan lessons so that your students know that they have thirty minutes to work after you are done instructing. They understand that during those thirty minutes, you will be working with both small groups and individual students. They know how to sustain themselves as independent learners for the duration of that time, and become more proficient with strategies for autonomous work, such as
In the real world, students are done after five minutes and you have yet to meet with one student, let alone a small group. Let's fix that by teaching children the minute-by-minute expectations of your writing time.
One 6th grade teacher I worked with was experiencing this kind of Kryptonite. She was seeking an alternative to correcting students' behavior constantly, while pleading with them to work. We cocreated the chart below. Once she taught the content of the chart to her students, it became a tool she used when they were confused about what to do. In those moments, she would simply point to the chart, and it served as a reminder that for 45 minutes, every day, their jobs were to
This chart serves as a clear visual for how we all work together during writing time.
This teacher decided to use an interval timer, set to the small chunks. When the timer went off, students did whatever was next, whether it was turn and work with a partner, or come back together for a wrap up to the day's work.
Steel Your Time
Although we may have very little control over how time gets organized across an entire building, or whether the school day gets extended or shortened, we do have control over how we can make each moment in our classroom count. If nothing else, we can use one of our greatest superpowers—the one where we take control of our day to meet the learning needs of individual students—to help us with our other superpower—the one where we do the best we can with what we have.
Barb Golub is a global literacy consultant. Find her online at barbgolub.com or @golubbarb.
ASCD Express, Vol. 10, No. 18. Copyright 2015 by ASCD. All rights reserved. Visit www.ascd.org/ascdexpress.
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