How to Maximize Instructional Time in the Classroom

Time: Title Picture

Hi! I’m Kelsey. Over my years of experience, I have learned that my time is valuable and I have to maximize the time I spend working in order to spend more time with my family and doing things I enjoy. I am a firm believer in having “me time”… because if I don’t make that time, it won’t happen since there’s always so much to do! 

Unfortunately, we don’t always get paid what we’re worth. This is especially true for teachers. In addition to preparing & differentiating lessons, teaching students, and providing feedback, teachers also have bus, lunch, or recess duty, serve on school committees, advise school clubs, coach teams,  and so much more, and that is just at school. As such, we have to find ways to maximize instructional time in the classroom while balancing all our other responsibilities so that the time we are with students is spent on the most important things.

Maximizing instructional time is going to look different for every teacher, student, and classroom. Here are a few ideas on classroom management that might work for you. 

Schedule Your Day to Reduce Transition Time

Classroom transitions are any time that students move from one activity to another. Entering the classroom, going to specials, moving from math to science, and exiting the classroom, all of these are transition times.

Time: Planning Day

When it comes to planning your day, do your best to plan activities with transitions in mind. Think about which activities move easily from one to the other, with the least amount of disruptions.

Create routines for everything!

Ok, so maybe not EVERYTHING, but at least everything important to you. How should students sharpen their pencils? What about throwing away trash? Water or bathroom breaks? What should a student do if they finish early? What do they do when they come into the classroom at the start of the day? How do students pack up at the end of the day?

Think through ALL the processes and then make a plan that works for you and your classroom. 

Quick Transitions!

One key to maximizing teacher time is to transition quickly from one task to the next. So much time can be wasted in transitions when they are not done efficiently because they give students an opportunity to get distracted. 

Quick Transition Time

At the beginning of the school year, budget time to practice transitions again and again. Budget time for correcting errors in procedures and repeating them. Taking that time early in the school year will save you time for the rest of the year. 

It can also be helpful to take some time throughout the school year just to review classroom procedures and keep them fresh in students’ minds and remind them of your expectations.

When it’s time to transition, give clear instructions. Tell them exactly what you want to happen and how long they have to do it. 

“It is time for reading. Put your math book away. Go to your reading group. Bring a piece of paper, a pencil, and your book. You have __ minutes to do this.” 

After giving your instructions, have students repeat the process back to you. You can do this as a whole class, or you can call on a couple of individual students and ask questions like, “What do you do first?” “How much time do you have to do that?” “What should you bring with you?” 

Be consistent, once you have found a good routine, stick to it. Develop transitions between activities that will encourage your students to move quickly. Expect a quick turnaround and practice that with your students. Precious minutes can be wasted on sloppy transitions. Be consistent with your expectations and your students will fall into the pattern easily. 

Eliminate Unnecessary Tasks for Both Teachers & Students

Checklist for Time Management

At least one study shows that the more time that students spend on quality academic learning time (ALT), the more they learn. This seems like a no-brainer. That leads to the question though, how much time is spent on engaged learning? 

Look at your classroom routines and find something that is just not necessary to eliminate from your day to maximize instructional time. In a school day, even a few minutes can add up to make a big difference. 

I knew a middle school teacher who at the beginning of class would have every student who brought their planner to class stand up and then she would go through her roll and check off that they brought their planner. Then they would sit down and she would repeat the process by checking for pencils. This wasted at least 5 minutes, of her 45-minute class periods, every day at the beginning of class. Because of this, she was always behind her team on their curriculum map. 

Set a Timer!

Whether you set a timer for an individual task, a group task, or even center time during guided reading, you will save time. You would be surprised at how much time is lost waiting for the last straggler to finish an assignment. Plus, it gives the rest of the class a lot of time to distract each other.

Apple Timer

Set a timer, review the work (focus on the key learning objectives to help those stragglers), and move on. 

Setting timers for group work and center time also encourages students to get to work and not spend too much time in transition or simple socialization. It helps you move through transitions quickly, as well. 

Be Innovative with Your Time and Resources

Time: Innovative Activities

Learn how to integrate your instruction with other topics and academic practices. For instance, incorporate art into social studies lessons to diversify the lessons, make them more interesting, and kill two birds with one stone. Hands-on lessons are often more memorable for students, and artworks with a different part of your brain. 

To maximize instructional time in the classroom, you can also easily integrate reading and writing into science lessons as well as your social studies lessons. Your students will learn and remember what they’ve been taught better! 

Take advantage of resources available to you through your curriculum, neighboring teachers, and resources available for purchase through sites like Teachers pay Teachers. Don’t worry about creating all of your own worksheets and classroom resources. There are probably many free options in the curriculum you are working with for resources to use to maximize teaching time. Chat with your neighboring teachers, too. They are a wealth of knowledge when it comes to lesson planning and what has worked for their classroom in the past. Listen, tweak, and try it out with your students! I promise you will find something that will help you maximize teaching time if you just take a look. 

I’ve got free sub planning forms for your sub binder on TPT to help you save time on sub planning. 

Free Sub Binder Forms

Summary

Teachers may not be paid what we’re worth. We may not be paid for the time and effort it takes to set up our classroom, all those extra hours grading homework, or helping students after school. If you wear other hats, as well, you sure aren’t being paid for those, either. 

Since money is not something we have in abundance, we have to be able to maximize instructional time in the classroom. Use classroom management techniques, integrated lessons with multiple disciplines incorporated within the lessons, and the resources in your curriculum, teacher friends, and online to help you succeed! 

Bio

Do you want to learn more about maximizing your teacher time? I’d love to connect on social media on Instagram @wifeteachermommy or on my Facebook page Wife Teacher Mommy. Or you can listen to my podcast, visit my blog or check out Wife Teacher Mommy Club.

Kelsey is a former teacher, current homeschool mom, and owner of Wife Teacher Mommy from Riverton, UT. Her main passions in life are family, faith, and running Wife Teacher Mommy. She absolutely loves connecting with other educators.

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