I’ve been thinking about how overwhelming things were my first few years of teaching. Well, let’s be honest – things can still get overwhelming – but for different reasons now. 😀 Anyway, I began to recall the best teacher advice I ever received and I wanted to share it with you.
When I first started teaching, I was fortunate to have some fabulous veteran master-teachers around who dispensed a lot of great advice. When I reflect on many of the things I do in my classroom, I can still remember which one told me about each little tool I use. And I thank the teacher gods for sending those teachers my way. 😀
There are so many things I have picked up from others over the years, but one of my favorites and constant “go-to’s” is time notification.
In my first year, I was struggling a lot with reluctant workers. So many of my kids would just not kick it into gear. A veteran teacher was visiting my classroom one day and witnessed my frustration. I told her I had no idea how to get everything done when the kiddos can’t get even the simplest things completed in a timely manner and everything takes.so.long.
She said you need to give them “time notification” – frequently. Timers are not nearly as effective.
When I explained that first graders didn’t really have much of an understanding of time, she told me it wouldn’t matter.
I didn’t believe her. She taught 3rd graders. I didn’t think she could possibly understand first grade kiddos. But I tried it.
A Reluctant Try
“Boys and girls, you only have 5 minutes left. Get a move on!” I announced. Within a couple minutes they were done and ready for the next thing. I had been taught to use a timer to indicate transition and the end of certain areas of practice or activities. I was pulling my hair out because there were always so many kids who weren’t finished when that timer went off. Then, after the timer went off, there was the additional time needed for them to get ready for the next thing, finish their last thought, color that last piece, etc. And here… all I did was announce a period of minutes that sounded very tiny to those kiddos and they were able to finish what previously took eons.
She left my room telling me to try it throughout the day – with everything – so they get used to it. I was concerned because I still wasn’t sure how long certain things should take all kids. Won’t that stress the slower ones out? “Just make up a time. They will get moving. They’ll be fine.”
Would it Really Work
I have to admit, I was hesitant to do this. But once I saw how well it worked, I used it quite a bit. “There’s only another couple minutes for this.” “Everyone has 10 minutes to complete this task, stay focused.” During lessons where we’ve moved on to independent practice I’d say… “Ok. Now it’s your turn. Spend the next 90 seconds working on the next 2 problems.”
She was so right. It works. Every.single.time. It truly is the best teacher advice! Even after all these years. Nearly every time I call out a random time in which I want the kiddos to finish – they work to meet the deadline. There are still those stragglers that no amount of time calling will motivate. But they are few and far between.
Moreover, the kiddos are not spending time looking at the timer or waiting for the last ten-second countdown. Those that can already tell time generally have no issue working within the time-constraints I give.
When it turns out that the time I allotted was not enough, I extend the time without saying anything – just a reminder that we have a few more moments (again I’m not truly tracking time to the second here). When we simply need to move on, we do.
I have also learned to give myself permission to move on and not let those stragglers run my class. If 2 or 4 out of my 30 kiddos have not completed something, they put it in their unfinished work folder and we move on. They can finish those assignments during some other part of the day when there is time, during recess, or at home.
I still use all of my other behavior management tools. But for completing work on time, time notification has proved more effective than my timer for most things. So simple, easy, universal and effective. My favorite kind of tool for my teacher tool belt.
I would love to hear about the best teacher advice you’ve ever received. Leave a comment below and give us some advice! 🙂