Our lives revolve around time. We rely on time continuously throughout the school day but are we using it as effectively as possible within lessons? Usually we have an idea of how long each task will take within a lesson but do you explicity tell your students the maximum time they have to complete the task? I think you should and here is why:
Benefits to the teacher
Sometimes even teachers need to be prompted to stay on track. One of my greatest uses for using timed tasks is to give me a target to aim for. If I set a 10 minute task for the students I will aim to individually speak to 5 different students during this time. Having a visual countdown clock on the board helps to keep me on track to ensure I see as many students as possible during my lessons. It also helps to keep my lessons on track with what I have planned.
Benefits to the students
Before using countdown timers in my lessons I would find myself losing track of time. This would mean a task that I planned to take 10 minutes was still going on after 15. The students started to get used to the fact that if I told them they had 10 minutes to get on with a task they likely had a bit longer than that. This was counter-productive for students and myself. By having the time limit kept independent of me, the students know exactly what the expectation is with no exception. This helps to keep the students motivated and on task for the duration of the countdown.
Time managment is also a cruicial life skill for students to learn. Not only for their working lives but for their school exams. I regularly find that students who have not practised working in a set time limit struggle when final exams come around. I use the mark a minute rule to ensure my students are ready and comfortable for when they have their GCSE exams.
How to use timed tasks most effectively
It is important that the students feel they have enough time to complete the task. Students who believe the time given to them is too short will under-perform regardless if there was enough time or not. Our students should be motivated to achieve but not pushed to the point where they think the task is impossible.
Teachers should also ensure that whatever time frame is given to students, is kept to. This is easier if the countdown is visible to the students and the teacher. There are many online countdown timers with a wide variety of themes to suit any classroom. Students should be aware that if they are not on task then they will likely not finish on time. Any work not finished on time in my lessons is added to out of class work. This usually ensures all the work is completed on time!
How do you effectively use countdown timers in your lessons? Let me know in the comments