Think About It Thursday-Tricks and Tips for Increasing Time On Task

Welcome to Comprehension Connection!  This is week four of a weekly linky party focused on topics in education that teachers and parents find challenging.  The focus of this week's linky is on how we can make the most of our instructional time.  To link up, please write up your blog post sharing your ideas related to the topic.  You may include products related to the topic, but the purpose of the linky is about sharing and exchanging of tips and tricks that may help others.  As part of this linky, comments are encouraged.  Please make an effort to read the other posts that are shared and comment.  Dialogue about the topic helps everyone.  Please comment on the two before you in the list.  If you are the first to link up, please return to comment on those toward the end. Now...on with my post!

                                A Well Planned Schedule
Cartoon Number OneIn my opinion, a well planned schedule should be a priority for ensuring time is allotted to instruction appropriately. In many schools, the principal creates the schedules, and in others, perhaps a leadership committee is formed.  Regardless of who makes the schedule, priority needs to be given to ensure that the core content is taught when students are most receptive for learning.  Additionally, it's important to work the schedule to provide the least amount of transitions as each transition costs valuable time.  As a reading specialist, the biggest challenge with scheduling for me is trying to serve my students at a time that doesn't disrupt the flow of what's happening in the regular classroom. Personally, I have loved team teaching with the grades who preferred I push in during reading, but there are times when pulling students out for intervention is preferred (for those who are easily distracted, need intensive services, or when space is limited).  No matter how your schedule is set up, it's important to carve out blocks that will enable you to complete the tasks you intend for the time period.

                   Room Configuration
Cartoon Number TwoIt may seem somewhat trivial, but I think room layout can make a difference.  When we have clearly defined areas of the room, it improves crowd control, material organization and distribution, and creates spaces for stretching and relaxation.  Students who are allowed flexibility to move without disrupting others are better able to focus and cause fewer negative disruptions.  If we carefully consider where and how we will utilizes our spaces, then we can build in time for movement that will happen efficiently.  I love my 3-drawer rolling cart which holds my guided reading materials, and I keep all the essentials right next to my reading table.  The beauty of it is that the top works as my dry erase chart holder/anchor chart display when needed too.  

                                          Materials Organization
Cartoon Number ThreeJust like room configuration, having materials prepared and organized makes the flow from lesson to lesson or group to group happen efficiently.  In past years when I worked with six grade levels, I used color coding as a method to keep things organized.  I used tubs labeled by grade level and assigned each grade level a different color of two pocket folders.  I put all consumable materials I needed for my lessons in the tubs, and students kept work in progress in their folders.  We use composition books a lot, so when materials are collected, I just tuck the composition books into the folders along with the child's tradebook (if we're still working with it).  This year, I just have two grade levels for two hours each, so there are fewer transitions.  Still, the color coding system works very well.  

                  Behavior Management
Cartoon Number FourOne of the biggest challenges for teachers is classroom management, and with students who struggle with learning, behavior challenges often come from frustration. Even as a seasoned veteran teacher, there are times when I find I really need to think quickly how to minimize the time lost by handling behavioral challenges.  One thing that I've kept in my mind is the saying to "Pick your Battles!"  I tell my students often that we have a job to do and need to get it done.  I try to motivate and encourage them, and I try to minimize consequences.  When kids are motivated by the activities happening in the classroom, feel successful with their work, and see the growth they are making, they understand the purpose and are more willing to remain positive.  When issues do crop up, I try very hard to keep the others engaged and privately deal with the issue.  Sometimes, I will table an issue until a time when I can address it if I know it will take more time to process.  Ultimately though, we all have times when we must act, and when it's needed, we definitely need to respond with confidence and with minimal explanations.

Now, it's your turn...
What works for you?  Please take a moment to share your thoughts in the comments or link up.  Let's face it.  Even the best teachers enjoy improving their skills and learn from others.

Next week, our topic will be "Motivational Strategies that Light Up our Learners"

Thanks for visiting, and next week, I'll try to have pictures.  We give our state reading test in the morning, so I've been focused on final preparations.  I hope you understand.


  1. These are all great ideas Carla! Gosh, being organized with materials is so crucial. I have learned that with working with Kindergarten students this year. I am sure to have everything ready and available before I pick them up or the lesson just has to many interruptions and inappropriate behaviors. Everything just clicks along smoothly when we are prepared.
    Burke's Special Kids

    1. My buddy, Nancy, gave me the color coding idea when I first started in Title 1, and it's been the best way to make things go smoothly. I just make sure everything is in the correct tub, pull them off the shelf and teach.

  2. It is so true that interesting activities and setting students up for success will help prevent discipline problems. When teachers aren't allowed the freedom to use creative, engaging strategies, or to differentiate lessons, negative behaviors rise.


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