We are so rushed. We have units to finish, data charts to prepare, students to tutor, meetings to attend, more meetings to attend, grades to finish, comments to add to grades we must submit, parent calls to make, emails to send, Google docs to share, and so on and on and on.
This post will be a suggestion to slow down in critical places — in particular the start of the class period and that time before beginning new activities. In elementary school, I would say to slow down at transition points. Some students need repetition. They need every “t” crossed and every “I” dotted. Two extra minutes explaining your activity may save you ten minutes or more of re-explaining expectations and procedures. Those saved minutes don’t include the easier disciplinary day you will likely gain from extra explanation. Students who go off the rail in the middle of an activity? Sometimes this happens because they were not sure what to do next, so throwing erasers at Fred just seemed like a good idea in the interim.
Take your time when sharing directions and expectations. With younger kids, have them repeat the directions and expectations. With older kids, give your group ample time to ask questions. Maybe pose a few questions yourself: “Now when you finish selecting the length of your Martian months, what will you do next?”
Your goal is to keep students occupied in learning, in bell-to-bell instruction. Explicit directions help enormously. Repeating an important idea twice often helps. I once knew a calculus teacher who repeated everything she said twice. Her students stayed with her as she did this, and I am sure they had an easier time learning new content because of her slower but thorough approach.
Clearer expectations help prevent disciplinary meltdowns. Kids stay calmer when they know what to do. When students get done with Part B, you want everyone to know how to begin Part C with no detours into eraser tossing, head-butting or body-part drawing. Because, let’s face it, some kids do the darnedest things when left to their own devices.
Eduhonesty: A few extra minutes spent up front often saves chunks of time later.