It seems like there are never enough hours in the day to fit in all that we need to teach. Here are some practical tips to help you move things along more quickly in your classroom so that you can maximize your teaching time.
TEACH ROUTINES THE FIRST TWO WEEKS
Establish a certain way of doing routine tasks in your classroom. The students should know what to do as soon as they enter your classroom in the morning. For the first few weeks, write very specific instructions on the board, and insist that they be followed exactly. After the students have followed this routine for several weeks, they will automatically (or at least with a minimum of reminding) walk in and begin to get ready for their day.
This sounds simple, but it is sometimes easier said than done. After you have gotten to know your class and you can assess how quickly you will be able to move through the subject matter, you can begin to make plans further in advance. Start by planning the semester-what units will be covered in the fall and in the spring? Then break that plan down into six or nine week grading periods. You can then get even more specific and make plans for each week of the grading period. Of course, there will be interruptions and changes of schedule, but having the big picture in mind will help you and your students stay focused on the short term and long term goals.
MAKE A SPECIFIC PLACE FOR EVERYTHING
Mentally divide your room into areas: reading center, free time, creative area, work area. Come up with whatever areas work for you in your classroom and grade level. Once you have determined what purpose each area will serve, place the needed items in each area-pencils, erasers, pens and paper in the work area; art supplies in the creative area; books and comfortable seating in the reading area; puzzles, games and activities in the free time area. Teach the students to keep items in the area to which they belong. Then you do not waste time looking for a misplaced pencil or the game you want to use today. Carry this idea over into the students’ desks. Books go on one side of the desk, and other materials go on the other side. Also help the students organize their notebooks and binders in the same way. Students should be able to immediately find a study guide or notes if they are organized according to subject.
When your classroom is organized and the students have learned your specific routines, you will be able to shave minutes off each day. Those minutes will add up to hours, and you may even find yourself with a little extra time to implement some of those spontaneous ideas that are floating around in your head!