How to use Timers to Teach Time Management

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Whether we like it or not, we’re all bound by the confines of time.  Thus, teaching time management by modeling effective time management is key!  We have 24 hours in a day, and as classroom teachers, we have kids, theoretically, for 7 hours per day, five days per week, 180 days per year.

In reality, when you take out 30 min. for lunch, 30 min. for recess, 30+ min. for “special class,” 30 min. for transitions, and another 30 min. for bathroom breaks, you have 4 ½ hours of instructional time with your students daily

As independent homeschoolers, my boys are required to “do school” for 4 hours per day, 5 days per week.  So, basically, we have the same number of instructional hours as the students in public school.

Let’s use this information to do some math.

  • 4 hrs. per day x 5 days per week = 20 hrs. of instructional time per week.
  • 20 hrs. x 35 weeks per school year = 700 hrs. instructional time per year.

That actually sounds like a decent amount of time.  However, we were simply looking at totals and not how that time would be divided.  Assuming we teach the 5 basic subjects daily including math, reading, language, science, and social studies, we have to do some additional calculations.

  • 700 hrs. ÷ 5 subjects = 140 hrs. per subject, per school year.
  • 140 hrs. ÷ 35 weeks of school= 4 hrs. per subject, per week.
  • 4 hrs. ÷ 5 days per week = 48 minutes per subject, per day

Friend, the numbers just got real.

That’s not much time.  

But, what can we do about it?  Well, we can start by…

  • Making sure we’re using the limited amount of time we have wisely.
  • Helping our students understand how to be good time managers.

Teaching Time Management

Using Our Time Wisely

The best way to teach time management to students is by taking control of your own time and modeling this skill.  But remember, using our time wisely isn’t the same as being busy.  We can be very busy doing things that are unimportant, or we can be less “busy” and more productive.

Let me give you an example.

I could pick up a stack of books and move them from one side of the room to the other.  When I have moved them all, I could choose to pick up those same books and move them back to their original spot.

Would you say that I was busy?  Yes. 

Would you say that I was being a productive teacher effectively teaching time management skills to students?  No. 

Moving those books back and forth would not accomplish my overall goal of helping my students learn, and it certainly would not teach them to be good time managers.

We can give our students work to do that will keep them busy, but “busy work” isn’t going to help them understand new concepts.  In other words, work that simply keeps our kiddos “busy,” is not effective from a time management standpoint.

If we only have 48 minutes a day to teach each subject, then we need to be providing quality resources that are going to target deficits in our kiddos’ understanding.  We need to express the importance and relevance of the tasks they are completing. 

This will help them understand that we aren’t just giving them assignments to “keep them busy.”  We value the time we share with them.

Guard your time fiercely.  Be generous with it, but be intentional about it.”

David Duchemin

Time Limits

Once we have taken control of our time and are modeling this effectively, we can begin specifically teaching time management tips and strategies.

Think about this.  As adults, when we set our clocks in the morning, we are giving ourselves a certain amount of time to complete our morning routine before heading out the door.   This is a time limit.  When we decide to exercise for 30 minutes, we are giving ourselves time limits.

Time is a fairly abstract concept for kids, but we can help them understand it better by giving them limits to accomplish specific tasks.  We know that at some point in their educational careers our kiddos will be required to take at least one test. 

This may be an end of unit test, a spelling test, or the ACT.  In every testing situation, our kiddos have certain time limits.  If they want to be successful, they have to abide by these parameters.

Timers

One of the best ways we can teach students to improve time management skills is by allowing them to use timers.  When I was in the classroom, I frequently used a timer on my SMARTBoard.  I would tell my students they had 10 minutes to complete an assignment, and then I would push the start button.

Since the timer was large enough to be seen from anywhere, they could glance up during the task, and see how much time they had left. 

This gave them a visual cue as to how efficiently they needed to work.  It made a HUGE difference in their productivity.  They knew when the timer went off I was expecting the completion of their assignment.

When teaching time management, another option is using individual stopwatches for students who are really struggling.  Remember to put specific procedures in place for the appropriate use of the stopwatches.  

This gives those kiddos who need constant visual cues an opportunity to “own” their time.    It also afford them accountability.  They either finish the task in the amount of time given, or they don’t.

I use this technique with my youngest son in our homeschool routine because he tends to daydream and become preoccupied when he’s supposed to be completing a task. 

By giving him a stopwatch, he sees how much time is wasted when he is playing with his pencil or doing ANYTHING to avoid completing his assignment.  This has become an extremely valuable tool in his understanding of time, and how to use it wisely.

All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.

J. R. R. Tolkien

We all know that we shouldn’t waste time because it is our most precious commodity.  However, we need to be explicitly teaching time management to our kids, and giving them opportunities to practice this new skill.  

Effectively modeling how to improve time management skills will serve them well in test-taking scenarios, and it will be critical to their success in life.