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5 Ways to Reclaim Time in Your Classroom

Reclaim class time: 5 ways to reclaim class time and get more done with your students

As teachers, we NEVER have enough time to do all that we want to do with our students. Between labs, demos, lectures, and assessments, it’s hard to squeeze it ALL in – whether you have your students for 45-minutes or 90! The solution is not to complain, cry, or give up (although I’ve been tempted to do all of the above at times!) The solution is to RECLAIM TIME in your classroom.

If a teacher tells me they don’t have time, I can guarantee that if I observe their class for even one period, I can find places where time is getting wasted. It’s not to fault the teacher, it’s just the second law of thermodynamics.

The best way to reclaim time in our classrooms is to look at where it gets wasted and often times I find this happening in 3 key places in our class periods:

  1. In the transitions
  2. In getting students’ attention
  3. In collecting and returning assignments

I find this to be the case ESPECIALLY if you are managing large classes of 30+ students. And again, don’t beat yourself up over this!! It’s just entropy. But that doesn’t mean we are hopeless! Here are my 5 best tips to reclaim time in your classroom – even if it is just minutes here and there. Those minutes add up quickly (especially if you’ve only got 45-50 minutes of them!!)

Reclaim Time by CLEARLY teaching procedures.

Reclaim class time by clearly teaching procedures.

Most of the time that gets wasted in a classroom is in the transitions. And I LOVE to switch it up constantly in my class periods to keep students engaged (you can grab my free “anatomy of a class period” PDF to see how I break down my 50-minute class periods vs. my 90-minute blocks here!)

We can eliminate this by establishing procedures that we clearly communicate and consistently reinforce with our students. Teach your students a procedure for coming into class and getting started (hello Prime Times, my old friend). Teach your students how to set up and clean up labs. Teach your students how to turn in work (more on this later). You will be amazed at the time you can reclaim by simply teaching your students how to do basic daily tasks in your classroom.

Not sure where to begin? Here are the 5 most important procedures I think every teacher needs to teach.

Reclaim time by maintaining a daily whiteboard agenda.

Reclaim class time by maintaining a daily agenda on your whiteboard

Another sneaky spot where we lose class time that we can easily reclaim is in getting off track. Keep an agenda daily on your whiteboard with the plan for the day!!

Don’t waste time (and precious whiteboard space) with the essential question and the standard (unless you are required to). What students WANT and NEED to see are:

  1. A bulleted list of what we are doing today
  2. Any important due dates (or homework if you do that…but I don’t)

Below is a picture of my whiteboard one year and how I divided it up. On the agenda side, I would just write a bulleted list each day with what we would do and cover. It held me accountable to keep moving through what we needed to, and prevented students from constantly asking me what we were doing that day!

Speaking of keeping moving, you need a timer!

Photo shows my daily agenda on my whiteboard used to reclaim time

Reclaim time by using TIMERS!

Reclaim class time by using timers for everything

Teacher friend, you are in charge of your classroom. This means YOU are the keeper of the clock, not your students. Set timers for literally EVERYTHING.

Doing a think-pair-share? Put 60 seconds on the clock.

Sending them out to research a topic and report back to the class? Give them 3 minutes on your timer.

Students working independently on a reinforcing exercise? Set the timer to 8 minutes.

You will be AMAZED at how much more on task students stay when they realize the time they have to work is limited. This is NOT meant to rush them. It is just meant to get students working on the assignment they have before them instead of talking about who is on homecoming court.

And like I said at the start of this tip – you are the keeper of the time! If students are working on something diligently and the timer goes off, feel free to give them more time! You are in charge. The only rules are the ones you decide upon!

Reclaim time by utilizing a bell to get students’ attention.

Reclaim class time by utilizing a bell to get students' attention.

Like I said at the start, a huge place we lose precious seconds in our class periods is the wasted time (and energy) spent trying to get students’ attention. I find this to be the case ESPECIALLY on lab days.

Get yourself a little bell and enjoy never raising your voice again! Train your students that when they hear the bell ding, they stop what they are doing and look to you. In the training process, be sure to penalize them in some way if they don’t stop and look (I love to use board points for whole classroom management and I will dock a board point if I have to continually ding my bell).

If you do this enough it will become second nature to them. I swear my students had a Pavlovian reaction to the dinging of a bell because I trained them in this so intently! It doesn’t have to be fancy. Here is the bell that I’ve used for years and you can see pictured below.


Reclaim time by practicing a turn-in system with your students.

Reclaim class time by practicing a turn-in system with students.

I can’t tell you how to reclaim time in your classroom without mentioning this. I know I already told you to clearly teach procedures (and this final tip falls under that tip) but this needed to be an entirely separate point because it is that important. If you feel like time is wasted in your classroom and you want to reclaim it, you NEED to establish and practice a turn-in system with your students.

I cannot tell you how much time is wasted when students are shuffling back and forth turning papers in. Especially if you do a daily bell ringer (which I 100% think you should do), you have something you are collecting within the first five minutes of class every day, and you don’t want to go off the rails wasting time before class has really even started!!!

Establish a system for how you want students to turn in work and teach it to your students! I teach my students to pass their Prime Time bell ringer sheets to the right and I collect them. This decreases time by keeping them in their seats and allows me to return them more easily at the start of the next class period because I’ve collected them in semi-order.

As for other things I collect (which is rare because I like to decrease the amount I grade as much as possible) I have a turn-in bin on my wall and I will set a timer and say – you have 30 seconds to get X into the turn-in bin. GO! This keeps them hustling and lets us MOVE ON to the next thing.

I know I may sound like a drill sergeant but you would truly be amazed at how much time you can reclaim in your classroom with these five simple changes!

PLEASE try and let me know how it goes! Shoot me a DM on Instagram and tell me. I love hearing from y’all!

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