Most teachers believe that there is not enough time to teach all their grade level standards in a single year. I’m guessing that this doesn’t come as a surprise to you. So, the question then is what do we do about it?
I think that the most common reaction is to want to skip certain topics and standards. For example, a teacher might skip sections from geometry and/or statistics. To be honest, I’ve definitely done that. It isn’t a good feeling, but it seems like you often run out of time to teach it all. So, you might proactively skip certain parts.
However, what if I told you that there might be another way to do it where you wouldn’t have to skip topics because you’d have the equivalent of a whole extra month of time to teach students?
I remember how I used to spend the first five to ten minutes of class going over the previous night’s homework. Now, let’s put aside the reality that many kids didn’t even do their homework and got nothing out of the experience. Let’s also put aside the possibilities that students who did do the homework may not have gotten anything out of the experience.
Now, let’s think about the total time spent on homework. 5 minutes per day x 140 days per year (assuming that there isn’t homework every day) is 700 minutes a year on reviewing homework. At 10 minutes per day, we’re at 1400 minutes per year. Assuming a 50-minute period to teach math, we’re talking 14 to 28 days per school year were being spent reviewing homework! Imagine reclaiming that time for other things! It wouldn’t be in those large chunks, but you could re-purpose it for something like problem solving or number talks.
It doesn’t have to end there. Matt Vaudrey has shares some wonderful ways he uses music to make his classroom more efficient. If you’re wondering about when you could use music, he explains simply:
Think about the stuff in your class that takes longer than you think it should. A music cue could smooth out that transition. My students also appreciated a “talk to your neighbor” song for several reasons:
- It mandates “wait time” for the teacher; I can’t call on anybody until it’s over.
- It allows students with language needs or disabilities time to process the prompt and think out a response.
- It provides squirrelly students a chance to get out of their seat and chit-chat. Even if they burn through my prompt and talk about something else, they’re more likely to focus after the song ends.
He goes on to share a list of all the transitions for which he used music, which includes tasks like “clean off your desk” and “take out notebook and turn to page ___.” How much time (and stress!) would you save each day if students completed these tasks quicker? Could you save 1 minute each day? That’s over three extra days of time per year.
Matt’s point (and mine) is that small increases in efficiency have huge impacts when scaled out over an entire year. So, perhaps it’s time to take another look at what you’re doing in class and think about areas that can be tightened up.
If you’ve tried any of these strategies or have some of your own to share, I want to read about it. Please let me know in the comments.