Last week, I mentioned the use of timers in the post Complacency, and promised to write more about them explaining how I implement them in my classroom. I cannot help but wonder if Congress would be able to get more things accomplished if they understood how to implement and use timers effectively. Perhaps there would not have been a 13-hour, non-stop filibuster by Rand Paul this past week in Congress if someone had started a timer with his opening remarks and reminded him that he had “x number” of minutes to make his points.
I currently have one timer for every student in my classroom (12) and I use them in many ways. If that seems like too many timers, just start with a few. The more you use them, the more ways you will come up with to use them. I use them to guide transitions, hold students accountable, get students back on track, time academics, challenge students, time the duration of inappropriate behaviors, and to actually keep track of the time. The timer needs to be able to count up, as well as count down, in both seconds and minutes.
When transitioning from one activity to the next, I tell the students exactly what I need them to do, set the timer, and give them thirty seconds to 2 minutes to make the transition. When the timer goes off, they are rarely not ready to go. Our transitions are almost always smooth and orderly when I use this technique.
A student may be in need of refocusing her energy. Set the timer for a few minutes to see how many problems she can get done in that amount of time. Now, she has a goal to keep trying to reach. Before she knows it, the work will be done. This also works great at home when trying to get children to finish chores.
When giving out homework, I will set the timer for 2-4 minutes and tell them I will help them with it until the timer goes off. It is surprising how well they listen and how much they get done when this technique is used. Again, this technique works great at home with children who might be less than motivated to get started on homework.
When a student is angry, I will give him whatever he may need to work through the anger (a box of paper to rip up, a stress ball, time out in the hallway to name a few) and I set the timer between 3-10 minutes. I ask him if he thinks that will be enough time. When someone is new to the class and this technique, I give him ten minutes. He seldom will need it. As students get used to this technique, they are almost always able to do whatever is required in less time. In fact, often when I ask if a certain amount of time will be enough, students will tell me they think they can do it in less time, giving me the time they want. After he has had a ten minute time-out, if he is still angry, I will give him a stress ball and tell him I’m setting the timer for another five minutes. At the end of that time we will talk out what is bothering him. I always allow the student to be angry, but I have discovered if I don’t try to corral his anger, it often perpetuates itself. Using a timer will almost always work. I have a friend who is using this technique with her two year old. It also works beautifully as a time-out tool.
I also give students one-minute timings to see how many words they can read in one minute. We graph it and try to improve whatever number they achieved this week the next week. I also time them on how many digits they can write in a minute when practicing their math facts. Again, we graph it on a chart. They’re timed when saying the various sounds of letters, diphthongs, digraphs, etc. It is always fun to challenge them by seeing if they can beat their best times. You may want to challenge them to see if they can beat your best time.
When an inappropriate behavior is happening for long periods of time, I start a timer to tell me how long it occurs.
I actually use timers to keep track of time, too. I may want the class to work on a specific task for a certain amount of time. This is a great way to keep me on track as well.
Many of my students earn specialized rewards they can have at the end of the day according to their behavior plans (BIPs). The level they are on in the No Bull 5-Tier Level System will dictate how much time they have to enjoy their reward. I will go in detail about this and how I write it into their BIPs in a later post.
I implement timers in my personal life, too. They help me to stay focused and I am able to accomplish much each day.
Do you use timers? If so, how do you use them? If not, consider giving a timer a try. You may find yourself pleasantly surprised at how effective they can be in your classroom or in your home.
Be kinder than necessary, be grateful, and have a peace-filled week,
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