I cannot recall how I came up with the idea to use an egg timer to keep things moving in my classroom, but I’m sure it was in a practicum class during my teacher certification program. One thing I do know, this is by no means an original idea. I have a total of 60 minutes for each class period. One might think, seems like myriad of time, so what’s the rush? Indeed it’s a lot of time, but I like to use all 60 minutes in an effective fashion. That being the case, if I don’t monitor my time correctly, I would fail at that task. I could just look at a clock on the wall, but I don’t have one. The no clock thing wasn’t intentional. However, during my first year, I realized I had a few “clock watchers.” I used to be one myself during my younger days from time to time, so I wasn’t offended. It’s important to note, this isn’t a fool proof method of time management. There have been times that I have run out of time in the classroom due to student discussions, direct instruction comprehension issues, or extended question & answer segments in class.
I’m digressing – let’s get to the method itself. There are a couple of reasons that I use an egg timer, but it’s mostly about time management in the classroom, but it also has a level of behavior management which usually go hand in hand. In order to give you better insight as to how a typical Language Arts/Literature class goes, I will layout the schedule as follows: bell work to start class in which in which I take attendance & settle kids (5 – 7 minutes total), daily reading comprehension worksheets in which instruction is given w/ a 5 minute per sheet (2) time frame as well as a call and response for comprehension check (12-15 minutes total), popcorn reading of current reading selection while using active note taking skills (30-35 minutes total), and a reading journal w/ comprehension check as ticket out of class (10-12 minutes total). As you can see, these are typical time frames in which I keep the class moving forward to meet the varying objective(s) for the day. As mentioned earlier, this isn’t a fool proof system, but having an egg timer to keep yourself on the tight schedule helps. That being said, I have to be flexible because if I’m not, it doesn’t leave extra time for student interaction and/or extra questions. To simplify, every time we move forward in class, it’s done so on a time table that is monitored by the old trusty egg timer.
The second reason I use the egg timer in class is for the fact that it helps with classroom behavior management. Students enter my classroom in an orderly fashion (as orderly as 7th Graders can be) after I greet them at the door. I set the tone in the beginning of the year. I let my students know that I am strict, and that I try to be fair. That being said, I also let them know that sometimes it is what it is and that we have to move forward as unfair as it may or may not seem. I once had a substitute tell me that I had a lot of activities in my lesson plan. At first I didn’t know how to take that, but as I look back on it – I have a big grin ;] It simply reinforces the idea that I don’t like to waste students time and/or have them sitting in class doing unstructured activities. That isn’t to say that I’ve never given students the last couple of minutes or so on a Friday the chance to quietly chat in their groups. However, even that time is somewhat structured. If we have time on Fridays, we will either play alphabetical improvisation, or they can get a jump start on homework for the weekend. I digress, the reason the egg timer is an important tool for behavior management is that it conveys the message to the students that we have things to accomplish in a certain amount of time.
Structure is very big at this age level. If you let the students know what is expected of them and for how long the increments will be, it cuts back on attention span problems. A lot of students appreciate the structure that I provide in the classroom even if they won’t admit it aloud;] Using an egg timer in the classroom isn’t an earth shattering concept to understand. However, little things count while inside a classroom. The little things that you do and do not do matter in regards of how the class moves forward towards the objective for the day. For me, consistency and structure are two key things that I will continue to work on. Who knew an egg timer would help me do that…