Effective Classroom Instruction:

Timing is Everything so Use a Timer

Research for this Tool

When the pace of instruction in the classroom is too slow, students lose interest and find other things to do. If the pace is too fast, students may not be able to keep up with what the teacher is trying to communicate. When this happens, students often become frustrated to quit trying. Neither of these scenarios will help students learn. To maintain an appropriate, effective pace in the classroom, use some simple but effective strategies, including using a timer of some kind, varying the type of instructional activity, and “chunking the lesson.” In this tool, we will address the first idea: Using a timer to help with pacing. Here is a reference that addresses pacing and managing instructional time in the classroom:

McLeod, J., Fisher, J., & Hoover, G. (2003). Key Elements for Classroom Management. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

How to Use This Tool

Students’ attentions spans vary widely and can be impacted by their age, knowledge of the content, reading ability, language status, and numerous other factors. Timers help students stay focused and measure their progress against the time allocated for each activity. Timers help teachers manage instructional time. Here are some quick and easy ways to keep your instructional pace appropriate for your students by using a timer.

1. Before beginning instruction, plan how much time to spend on each component of the lesson. While it may not be possible to address all of those factors at once, it is possible to determine how much time to spend on specific components of a lesson. Before teaching a lesson, teachers should plan how much time to spend on:

• Distributing the materials needed for the lesson

• Introducing the lesson and stating objectives

• Delivering the instruction, including modeling, lecturing, discussion, or demonstration

• Explaining the practice work, especially independent assignments

• Summarizing the content and closing the lesson.

2. Select and use the timers that match students’ needs. Here are some options for timers that work well in busy classrooms. While we do not endorse any specific products, consider these when planning your instruction.

Online timers

Online timers are great for independent practice time that might include work on the computer, reading, or written work. Project the timer onto the white board or wall. While you are working with small groups or individual students, the students who are working independently can check their progress by looking up at the online timer. For example, if students have 15 minutes to complete an assignment, then at about 7 or 8 minutes, they should be about half way finished. Students can check themselves without interrupting what the teacher is doing.

Here’s a link to a free online timer that can count up or down: http://www.online-stopwatch.com/

Time TimerVisual Timers

Visual timers have been around for a long time and have often been used with students who have autism or ADHD. Visual timers are exactly what their name implies: Timers that show time allotted and then time counted down visually. For students who do not understand digital time and who do not respond to auditory timer signals like beeps, these timers are great. They vary in size and can be used with individual students or the whole class.

Pictured to the right is a visual timer called a Time Timer® and here’s a link to a source for purchasing it: http://www.timetimer.com

Sand TimersSand Timers

Sand timers, or egg timers, are those old fashioned, hourglass shaped timers filled with sand. These timers are silent and don’t bother other students. They can be purchased for various time intervals like three minutes or five minutes. This type of timer is very useful in a small size for an individual student at his or her desk. Just be careful when using sand timers not to use them with students who focus only on the sand and not their work!

3. Use the timers consistently. After you have planned your instructional intervals and know how much time you have allotted for the components of your lessons, use the timer consistently. Explain to students how much time they have, set the timer, remind them to check it periodically, then move forward with instructional activities. Most students will get used to the timer quickly and the timer will also remind you to maintain an instructional pace that is engaging and motivating!