The curriculum is crowded and it is probably impossible to cover everything required each year. Instead, we often have to choose the sections we feel are most essential to be covered, especially those that are sequentially based. Children are actively engaged in structured learning of some sort for approximately five hours per day. How much is lost due to time wasting or during transition times?
There are some things we cannot control that interrupt our lesson times – safety drills, sick or tired children, whole school events etc. However, there are some things we can control and should endeavour to do so.
Children in your class should all understand the importance and value of learning and gaining an education. This should be conveyed in a variety of ways:
- Clear boundaries and structure in your classroom
- Expectation of work finished to the best of their ability
- Expectation of work being completed
- A tidy classroom that children can take pride in
- Children taught your expectations for work standards and modelled often
- Posters and children’s work displayed and changed often
- Regular conversations with parents about their child’s progress
- Encouragement of toilet visits to occur during recess times
Once you have an established culture in your classroom of the value of learning, there are a number of ways to minimise time wasting.
Start of the day
- What time are your class finally settled to begin work? Children should be seated, with all management chores done by 9am if possible (or whenever your start of day bell goes).
- Does your school have a warning bell or music prior to the main bell? If so, you could trial allowing students in then, unpacking and putting down chairs etc. and seated by 9am. I have taught in senior school for many years and we trialled eliminating line up outside and having children seated by 9am, under the strict proviso that we would return to line up if they couldn’t manage it. We didn’t need to. It also allowed us to see more clearly who was entering the classroom after 9am and they could be sent to the office to get a late pass. When children were lining up outside, the late arrivals just tended to sneak into line and it was harder to monitor who was late.
- Do you have some sort of impromptu assembly each morning when children are lined up outside? Is this really necessary? When I moved to senior school this was the established culture. I eliminated this, as students were never ready to learn until at least 9.15am. That’s 75 minutes of wasted time a week!
- Make it clear the jobs students need to do prior to being seated – chairs down, notices handed in, iPad or drink bottle stored in correct place, home folder in the right box etc.
- Perhaps appoint monitors to do some chores while you mark the roll such as chairs down and going through home folders to find notices.
- Reward your class for being ready to learn by an appointed time – this only works if you have a whole class reward system of some sort.
- Don’t penalise the whole class for those one or two stragglers who find it hard to get themselves organised or who are regularly late.
- Often parents want to tell you something about their child. You have a few ways of handling this. You could pre-empt by being outside for 5 minutes each morning before the bell goes. Alternatively you could request parents make a time to speak with you either before or after school. I have seen some parents continually try and take advantage of new graduate teachers by attempting to gain their attention every morning. Remember to have boundaries about this.
Transitions within the classroom
You have done your whole class teaching and are sending the kids off to work independently. This can take ages! Ideally, children have picked up the resources they need and gotten themselves to a workspace within two minutes.
Encourage this by:
- Using a countdown system – use a countdown timer on an interactive whiteboard or iPad. The bigger, the better! Boys in particular respond well to visual countdown timers. You can verbally countdown in some way but it’s tiring and a waste of your energy. While a digital timer is on you can be assisting children to get organised
- Using a reward system – if the whole class is seated and working quietly by the two minute mark, then add to your whole class reward system
The last transition time is packing up after a session or moving from one activity to the next. This can also be a huge time waster. Some suggestions to speed this up are:
- If I want children to bring their work and sit on the floor quickly I just count back from five to zero, using my hand as a visual at the same time. Any kids left standing or at desks when I get to zero lose something. I use Class Dojo or free time minutes (see Templates on the website). I don’t penalise the whole class, just the individuals. They learn very quickly!
- Countdown timers incorporating music – sometimes there might be a bit of pack up to do at the end of a session. I have downloaded the Mission Impossible countdown timer from Youtube and it’s on my iPad as an MP3. This is both visual and auditory. It’s three minutes and 95% of the time the class can get done in that period. There are plenty of countdown timers in the App store or via Youtube.
Some children have great difficulty in getting organised or in hurrying. When you identify the one or two in your class who struggle, work with them so they learn how to be organised. Not everyone is a naturally organised person!
Place a visual cues chart where appropriate, such as on their desk or above where their bag is stored. It should list the steps required for set up/pack up, and in the order needed. This can be pictorial, written or both. Perhaps they can even tick them off as they go. You will need to specifically teach them how to use it, to remember to use it and model it for them. If they have an integration aide, this could come under their duties. For some children you will always need to allow more time for transition. Use your own judgement here.
Good luck and let me know of any other tricks you have for snappy transition times!