One of the most common struggles I hear from teachers is the lack of time. The issue, though, isn’t a lack of time. It’s a lack of time management skills. Surprisingly it’s not just the new teachers struggling with this skill. It seems like time management for teachers is a challenge at all levels of experience.
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When I wask teachers what their biggest struggle with teaching is, these are the responses I get:
- “fitting in the curriculum”
- “finding time to cover everything”
- “sticking to plans”
Do you see a pattern?
Everything all revolves around the need for more time. We can’t get more time.
But we can manage our time better!
This post shares some practical things you can do to manage your time, stay focused, and get your kids to finish their work.
5 Tips to Improve Time Management for Teachers
These strategies aren’t anything new. In fact, most of these are things I learned from my exchange teacher (like a mentor) during my year with Teacher Fellows.
But they are things I didn’t know stepping into my classroom for the very first time. Or, maybe I knew them, I just didn’t know how to practically implement them.
1. Set Timers
The most important part of setting timers is sticking to them.
In fact, a lot of times I would set timers three to five minutes before a subject was supposed to end so I had time to wrap up whatever I needed to.
Here are two timers I recommend:
- Kagan Cooperative Learning MegaTimer– This timer is huge so the kids can see it from any area in the room. Plus it has different ways to keep and manage time. It is worth it.
- The Time Timer– I like this one because it is very visual and does the simple task of keeping track of time remaining
You can also use your phone for “every day” timers. Set them to remind you when one subject ends and another begins. Or as a reminder to go to the library.
“Every day” timers were especially helpful when I was in a monolingual classroom and had reign over my class the entire day. It was much easier (and more tempting) to run overtime.
When I was switching with a partner teacher, I couldn’t go over as easily because I had to change kids with her.
2. Just Move On!
Which brings me to my second point. Just move on!
My first year I struggled a TON with waiting for kids to catch up and I realized that I was doing them a disservice.
It really was better to just move on and create routines for students to make up work they didn’t finish than to allow additional time working on an assignment.
Kids need to be held accountable for doing work quickly and efficiently.
If they know that tomorrow’s Morning Work time is going to be used to finish their math assignment instead of going to morning stations, they are more inclined to work quickly.
Please, be really cautious about making kids work during their recess!!! I will admit that I did do this. If I did make kids work during recess it was because it was an assignment I had already given them ample time to complete.
Usually it was a kid who didn’t finish the activity during the allotted time, or during a week’s worth of morning work time because they were talking, playing, being lazy, etc.
I never took recess away from a kid who struggled to finish because of learning challenges, was dealing with difficult home life, or was consistently late/absent due to their parents.
3. Try Small Group Teaching
I found that small group teaching helped me to stay on time easier because I was able to work on a more individual basis.
This meant I was not wasting time teaching something to my “middle” kids while my higher ones zoned out and didn’t get any enrichment. Or while my lower kiddos were lost and confused and I would have to pull them again.
Teachers inside The Organized Teacher Framework™ have access to a lesson on how to differentiate for your students in small group lessons.
4. Follow a Curriculum Map
Curriculum Maps created at the beginning of the year help you to think more constructively about how to layout your year.
When you can think about your year without the stressors of all that is going on in your classroom, you can be more subjective about how much time you need to spend on units and what activities you want to include.
You can read all about how to create a curriculum map for the entire year. I also videoed the process in case you are more of a visual learner.
5. Allow Time for Catching Up AND Fun!
As I mentioned above, create routines for making up work.
If you have a routine or structure for handling students that didn’t get work completed on time, then you don’t have to worry about taking more time out of your day to give them more time to complete.
And of course, you have to allow time for fun!
These time management tips I’ve listed above are not hard and fast rules. Teachers can read their class pretty well and know when it’s time for fun and when it is time for work.
Give your kids engaging ways to complete activities, take away the worksheets, and get them working with partners and communicating with their classmates. Include team builders and class builders as breaks during work time so they stay awake.
Words of Caution for First-Year Teachers
First-Year Teachers, I want to share a story I remember from my first year. I have no idea why I remember this inconsequential story. But I do.
Our class was taking notes and I had a student in my class who worked very slow. Like, for twenty words most kids wrote, this student wrote one. I kept waiting to move on with the entire class, until this student was done.
Then my mentor teacher walked over and helped him write the notes. She would write a few words to get him up to speed, then give him back the pencil. This, for whatever reason, stuck with me.
I guess it stuck because I realized that it was okay to move on. It was okay to help a kid out every once in a while. It also allowed me to think about work differently.
The kids didn’t have to finish copying whatever they were copying in the time I gave them (like if they had trouble keeping pace, not just because they weren’t paying attention).
It was okay to allow the kid to continue working after note-taking time was complete by giving them my notes to copy at a later time.
Students With IEPs
You will have students come into your classroom with IEPs that dictate additional time. These tips I’ve shared above are not really of those kids. Typically, students coded as special ed get additional time to complete work.
They also get modified work. A lot of times, for my kids, this looked like me walking over to their desk and circling five out of the ten problems they needed to complete.
Pay Attention to the Class
If the whole class is struggling with something and not completing the work, then it is time to pause and backtrack.
Moving on is not always the right answer. Sometimes you will have a breakdown in understanding among the whole group and when that happens, you need to alter your plans and accommodate that.
I always wrote my plans in pencil so I could easily erase and rewrite my plans if midweek things were not going the way I had planned.
The biggest thing I can stress to you is to hold yourself accountable. In my first year my students learned that if they didn’t finish in time, it was okay because Ms. Buchtien would just give them more time.
I had to really alter my thoughts and be more intentional in year two to be more strict with myself about moving on.
I also had to get better at managing my personal time at school and stop wasting so much time talking by the copier or hanging out in the lounge after school.
Remember to follow these tips to help you manage your time at school more efficiently:
- Use timers (for the students and yourself)
- Just move on
- Teach in a small group setting
- Create a Curriculum Map
- Have fun!
Here’s a quick recap of some of the most important links from this post:
- Daily Student Routines to Help with Classroom Organization
- Small-Group Organization Strategies
- Differentiation lesson inside The Organized Teacher Framework™
- How to Write Lesson Plans Quickly and Effectively
- 10 Productivity Tips for Classroom Teachers- free download
Until next time,
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