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July 12, 2018
Vol. 13
No. 21

Five Tips to Reclaim Instructional Time

Instructional Strategies
Classroom Management
Being a teacher can be quite the challenge when it comes to time management. Not only do teachers have limited time to teach multiple standards, but they have a variety of student needs that dictate the pace of lessons. The best teachers learn to master their time, knowing that it is the key to unlocking students' potential.
These five tips will help teachers work smarter with their classroom time to maximize their impact on student achievement:

Clear, Detailed Procedures

The biggest time waster in classrooms today is a lack of detailed planning. A typical 45-minute lesson can easily be reduced to a mere 20 minutes of instruction due to misplaced lesson materials or unclear student directives. When a teacher knows what they need students to do, plans it to the detail, teaches and practices procedures with students, and upholds procedure expectations consistently, it's as if extra time is added to the instructional clock.

Crisp Transitions

Once clear, detailed procedures are put in place, teachers must execute them in a reasonable, yet efficient, time frame. The focus here is not on rushing around the classroom, but on building a sense of urgency to conserve time.
Shaving seconds off a transition can save days of instructional time in the long run. In fact, in Teach Like a Champion, educator and author Doug Lemov shared a jaw-dropping statistic: if 10 classroom transitions throughout the school day are completed in one minute or less, a week of instructional time, or 32 hours, is returned to the school year.
A timer can help teachers manage crisp transitions for classroom procedures. Teachers can use this tool for transitions such as collecting assignments, gathering materials, and moving to and from learning centers. The key is to plan the most efficient route or manner for students to transition, then use a timer to set an initial baseline time for transition. This can be the standard from which to improve and create accountability so that crisp transitions become a habit.

Flipped Learning

To cut down on teaching time and increase student practice time with a skill, teachers can use the flipped learning model. This might look like students accessing teacher-curated content (readings, learning media, digital assessments) before class, so that they spend class time practicing the new skills or participating in a discussion that applies the new knowledge. A class website or digital tools like Nearpod and Edpuzzle can help teachers establish flipped learning in their classrooms.

Student Ownership in Classroom Tasks

Teachers can get students on board with a more efficiently run classroom by passing the ownership for consistently following procedures and tight time frames to them. This cuts down on the teacher's responsibility for clerical tasks and builds in additional time to meet the needs of students. For example, students could take charge of timing transitions, collecting assignments, or checking themselves in for daily attendance. Teachers need to re-evaluate the tasks they complete while students are in the classroom, give students ownership of appropriate tasks, and increase the value of their time by solely working with students to enhance their skillsets.

Peer Mentors

Another way to meet the needs of students when a teacher is not able to work with each student every day is to assign peer mentors. Pairing a struggling student with a peer who is doing well reinforces learning for both students: it gives the exceling student a chance to build on their strengths and synthesize a difficult topic into student friendly-language, while also cutting down on the struggling student's wait time for one-on-one guidance. This approach not only positively affects student achievement but also builds relationships, increases learning capacity, and empowers students. It is important to note that these peer pairs will change constantly based on students' content competency. In addition, teachers should not overuse this strategy. It is not the responsibility of a student to consistently educate another.
It is a myth that teachers must work longer hours to be more successful and less overwhelmed in the classroom. Overworking ourselves is often not possible, practical, or sustainable. These five strategies provide a launchpad to not only reclaiming your time, but also transforming classroom culture, empowering students, and creating numerous opportunities for all learners to achieve their potential.

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