Whether your instructional class time is 45 minutes, 60 minutes, or 100 minutes, you will benefit from these tips on not wasting a minute of instructional class time. If you frequently find yourself running out of time or feeling frazzled during class, then let’s chat!

Make sure to come back this summer as we waste no time during:

- planning periods
- teacher in-service
- the first 5 minutes of class
- instructional class time (you are reading this now)

## Prepare Everything

If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Yes, most teachers are familiar with lesson planning, but **do you plan for the nitty gritty stuff? **Do you have a system for transitioning from various technology displays (document camera to computer display)? Do you have a system for turning in assignments or returning graded work? (I have more thoughts on what to do about these systems below.) Don’t forget to iron out every student routine and procedure and teach the routines and procedures to fidelity.

In preparing for any lesson,** you must complete an answer key or student exemplar of all instructional materials prior to your lesson that day.** This is how you anticipate how long each problem will take and what a reasonable amount of work can actually get done during your class period. Remember it will take a student about 3 times as long to complete a problem compared to a teacher, so plan accordingly. An answer key will also help you check students’ work (notice I did not say answer) as you circulate. **If a student has an incorrect answer, it is much quicker to look at your work and compare it to their work than it is for you to try to find their mistake. **

## Always Have Something for Students to be Doing

**Class time should have absolutely 0 idle time for students.** Finished early? Here is your extension. If you (the teacher) are working, students should also be working. Here is why I think that it is so important: **there is a momentum to staying on task**. It takes time to get your students back and focused when they have even had a few moments of idle time. Here are some examples of times students can be working:

- When you are passing out assignments
- When you are passing out graded work
- When you are pulling a small group
- When you are transitioning technology
- Anytime you need to set up something (station, manipulatives)
- When you are waiting for a problem to be solved by the whole class to go over it

## Here are 2 scenarios for what this looks like –

Scenario 1: “Go ahead and try problem 6 on your own. You have 2 minutes. If you finish before the timer goes off, try problem 7.”

After the 2 minute timer, you go over problem 6 in whatever fashion you see fit. Then you just give the answer for the students who were able to get to problem 7.

Scenario 2: “We are going to use Chromebooks for the next part of the lesson. While you are completing problems 1-3, I am going to call tables one at a time to grab their Chromebooks.”

This leads me to my next tip…

## Consider Your Objective for the Day

**Your objective for your lesson should drive the types of problems your students are solving.** And while I agree that spiraling math skills is a best practice, sometimes you have to use your time in a more strategic way.

Let’s take a readiness standards for 6th grade TEKS:

6.8(D) determine solutions for problems involving the area of rectangles, parallelograms, trapezoids, and triangles and volume of right rectangular prisms where dimensions are positive rational numbers.

This standard is full of formulas that they will have access to via formula chart on any future STAAR test. Let’s say that we are focusing on solving for trapezoids. (Volume of Trapezoid = ½(b1+b2)h)

That is a lot of computation! In order to maximize your class time, have students set up the problem by plugging in the measurements into the formula first. **Students check with the teacher before moving onto computation. **This saves students’ time from going down the wrong path. Surface area and many financial literacy skills (taxes, simple and compound interest) are other skills that students would benefit from using a calculator.

## Keep Students and Yourself on Task with a Timer

**Time constraints benefit everyone in the classroom, including if not especially, the teacher!**

Math teachers love talking about math which is why you are going to need to be succinct when giving instruction. **Make sure you are not talking for more than a few minutes at a time without giving students something to do or their brains will wander.** Instructional time should last no more than a total of 15 minutes. Do yourself a favor and set a timer for yourself!

While this has been touched on briefly in some of my example scenarios above, providing time constraints for every single direction you provide students keeps everyone on track. **Chunk assignments and activities using a timer! **A 10 problem assignment with a 20 minute set timer is less accessible to most students than a 2 problem assignment with a 4 minute set timer. You can do this with stations/scavenger hunts by keeping everyone at the same location until you say rotate.

Suggestions for timers:

- If the timer is for the student, it should be visible. I use this timer at home with my children or you can simply pull up this classroom type timer (it includes a couple different styles) from your computer.
- If the timer is for you, have it close by so you won’t have to go chase it when it goes off. I had a timer that I had clipped to my fanny pack.
- Some teachers were happy to use their phone and put it under their document camera. My phone battery wouldn’t last an entire day doing this.

## Provide an Extension

By the end of the first week of school, you will know who your early finishers are. You want them to have work that is meaningful and enriching. This is incredibly hard to do on the fly, so you have to prepare. I also didn’t want to have to explain too much regarding what they need to do. Here are a few suggestions for extensions that require low-prep and low-explanation:

## Make It Self-Checking and Make It Fun

I wrote an entire post on self-checking activities in math. Here is the short version: if a student is waiting to find out if their answer is correct to proceed, then they are wasting class time. Students can still find out if they are correct before proceeding, but we want to eliminate the part where they have to wait on the teacher to do that. Here are a few ways to make any worksheet self-checking:

- Use a projector to display a mixed answer key
- Provide answers for odd problems only
- Hide an answer key in a strategically place folder and allow students to check periodically

Students are going to solve more math problems if they are engaged! Make math fun! Our MTM activities are designed to be hands-on and interactive. If you don’t use MTM, then you can always reference this post on how to make any worksheet into an activity.

What tips do you have for maximizing class time?