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5 Ways to Have Precise Pacing and Tight Transitions in Your Secondary Science Classroom [Episode 92]


Click below to hear 5 ways to have precise pacing and tight transitions:


My message in last week’s episode was all about how to be proactive rather than reactive using routines and procedures. Continuing with the classroom management series, I believe another way to be proactive in your classroom is through the pace of your class and how you handle transitions. In today’s episode, I’ll be sharing 5 practical tips to keep your class moving with efficiency. 

In my experience, one of the best ways to prevent disciplinary issues is by keeping your class moving. The pace of your classroom sets the tone and shows your students what’s expected of them. Because of this, I intentionally use my time more precisely and reap the benefits from it, which I share with you. Additionally, I discuss my 5 simple and practical tips, which include transitions, to help give you a more efficient classroom.

The best time to implement new procedures, routines, activities, or habits is the beginning of a new school year. Instead of wishing for more classroom time, dealing with behavioral issues, or constantly trying to get your students’ attention, think about what you can do now to establish the pace of your classroom. Start being more precise with your time using these 5 tips! 

Stay tuned for next week’s episode, where I wrap up my classroom management series with more practice tips and simple strategies! 

Topics Discussed:

  • How to set the tone of your class through your pace of the class 
  • My #1 tip for preventing disciplinary issues
  • Benefits to using your time more precisely
  • 5 practical tips for keeping the pace
  • Why practice saves you time

Resources Mentioned:

Related Episodes and Blog Posts:

Connect with Rebecca:

More about Secondary Science Simplified: 

Secondary Science Simplified is a podcast specifically for high school science teachers that will help you to engage your students AND simplify your life as a secondary science educator. Each week Rebecca, from It’s Not Rocket Science, and her guests will share practical and easy-to-implement strategies for decreasing your workload so that you can stop working overtime and start focusing your energy doing what you love – actually teaching!

Teaching doesn’t have to be rocket science, and you’ll learn exactly what you need to do to simplify your secondary science teaching life so that you can enjoy your life outside of school even more. Head to itsnotrocketscienceclassroom.com/challenge to grab your FREE Classroom Reset Challenge.

Rebecca 0:00
You’re listening to episode number 92 of the secondary science simplified podcast. Welcome back to our classroom management series. So far we’ve talked about reaching apathetic students in a post COVID world, we’ve developed a philosophy around classroom management that is personal and thus will be effective. And we’ve talked about the importance of routines and procedures, so that you can be proactive rather than reactive with your students. Hopefully, at this point, you have taken the action step from last week’s episode of determining, at a minimum, at least five procedures for your secondary science classroom, I shared what I think are the five most universal and important that every secondary science teacher needs to establish specifically at the beginning of the year. But you can also do more than that if you would like. Again, remember, the whole purpose of these procedures is to allow you to be able to be proactive, and help prevent some of those whole class behavioral issues. Now, the other thing that I find really helpful and being proactive with whole classroom management is how you pace your class and handle your transitions. So that is what this episode is going to be all about. So without further ado, let’s dive in. This is secondary science simplified a podcast for secondary science teachers who want to engage their students and simplify their lives. I’m Rebecca joiner from it’s not rocket science. As a high school science teacher turned curriculum writer, I am passionate about helping other science teachers love their job, serve their students, and do it all in only 40 hours a week. Are you ready to rock the time you spend in your classroom and actually have a life outside of it? You are in the right place teacher friend. Let’s get to today’s episode.

Unknown Speaker 1:59

Rebecca 2:00
so I mentioned with you guys last week that I think individual behavioral issues and individual classroom management on a one on one level is best handled relationally. And then whole classroom management, looking at your entire class as a whole, or even just like a large chunk of your class is best handled procedurally. And so last week, we talked about establishing procedures, and really clearly communicating them to your students, so that they know your expectations, because that procedure is only as effective as it is clearly communicated and continually reinforced. And these procedures, I find just so much easier to establish and ingrain in your students, if you do it at the beginning of the year, which is why we’re talking about all of this. Now. The other thing that I think is really critical to establish at the beginning of the year, is the pace of your class, you are setting the tone for your class and how students will walk into your door. By the pace you set. There are a lot of other things that of course, contribute to your classroom culture. But I do think that the pace is a big part of it. And here is a opinion that I have that I hold pretty strongly from my own personal experience is that if you can keep your class moving, that is one of the Top Ways You Can Prevent disciplinary issues. Okay, when I look back over my teaching experience, I think I’ve told you guys before, I’ve taught in a school that had AB 90 minute classes alternating every day all year, I’ve taught in a school with 90 minutes semester block classes, we only teach four classes at a time. And then you switch you have everyday 90 minutes you switch in January, I’ve taught in a school with a traditional schedule where I see them every day for 15 minutes all year. And what I found, and I think the benefit of my experience is that I started in a 90 minute class period. And when you have a 90 minute class period, it is very easy to get lacks with your time. And I had a very hard time managing my class and those early years, because I wasn’t really using my time really tightly. And really precisely. And I changed that in later semesters at that semester of law school. And then again, I was forced to do it when I taught on a 15 minute schedule. When you’re on a 50 minute schedule, you have got to really protect your time and use every second of it because 50 minutes flies by I know some of you teach 40 minute classes, which is crazy. But what I found as I started using my time more precisely is the best way for me to say it really is that my disciplinary issues truly decreased. And I think there are a couple of reasons why this happened. One is students learned that every minute of my class was going to be used and not wasted. I think it makes a big difference in how your classroom culture is if students think you’re too sure that gives a lot of busy work, or, you know, they just have to pay attention for a few minutes. And then you’re going to set them off for the rest of class to do their own thing. So they know they can just kind of do whatever then, but they know like, No, Miss Joyner needs means business. And we get stuff done in her class, they walk into your room with a different kind of energy and a different kind of urgency. And I want to use that word urgency lightly. Because we’re not trying to rush students, or stress students out, we’re not trying to be frantic here. We’re just trying to be really purposeful and meaningful. And because here’s the other thing that I found, I found that I kind of like barter with my students, I basically would say, If you respect my time in the classroom, I will respect your time outside of the classroom. And in doing that, my promise to them was if you are with me, if you give me everything, you’ve got these 90 minutes, or these 15 minutes, you will never have homework in this class, I gave up assigning homework. And if you’re like, wait, what, how I need more on this, all of September is going to be about grading practices. So I have an episode coming all about this. So stay tuned for that. But I found that was a huge motivator for my students was, hey, she means it like she is planning this out so that we can get all this done. And I prove it to them. Like I keep them on task for the first couple of days and show them look, you stayed on task all class, look you nothing to do outside of here. I never plan for you to have homework, you just only have it if you’re getting off of task. And I think it really changes the culture of the classroom and again, makes your management a lot easier, because they’re really focused because they don’t want to do anything outside of class. I also found that there was just less drama around that going to the bathroom, being distracted by their phone, seeing Snapchat and then wanting to respond to it. But then they’re emotionally traumatized, because whatever they saw was, you know, disarming all these things, because they just didn’t have time to be distracted in my class, I think I was able to create a healthy fear. I mean, fear seems like way too strong of a word. But they didn’t want to miss something like they knew that things were going on in Miss joiners class. And if I go to the bathroom for five minutes, or if I sit here on my phone, I’m going to miss something, and I don’t want to miss anything. The last thing I’ll kind of say for why I think this matters, before we get into the how is I really think that board students become disruptive students. And so if you can keep your students from being bored, if you can eliminate any of that lag time, any of that drag time, then you really create a class that’s moving at a pace that keeps them focused and keep them on task. Okay, so we got to keep it practical. Because I’m here for you in that, I’ve got five tips for you practically for how I keep the pace of my class and how I keep transitions really tight. So that we’re not wasting time moving from one thing to the next. Okay, first thing, so simple, but like, I cannot believe how many teachers don’t do this, have an agenda on your whiteboard. So they know what to expect. I know a lot of us do like you have a slide that you project when they come in as the agenda for the day. I don’t like that, because then you’re probably going to take that off as you do lecture. If you pull data for a lab or something, and then they can’t see it. I think having somewhere where you have an agenda that they can look to at any point in the class is really important. It sounds so simple, but it makes a difference. I mean, I’ve been in classrooms with barely any whiteboard space, and I’ve gone to Lowe’s, and I’ve gotten the shower panel board that you can write on like whiteboard markers. And I’ve you know, use those little like, they’re kind of like Velcro we don’t talking about you can stick to a wall, they don’t take the paint off, and I’ve hung it up there. And I’ve made a grid on it. So I could put all my classes on it. Okay, and all I do is a bulleted list. It’s nothing fancy. But it’ll literally say something like, bullet one will be like primetime, which is what I call my bell ringer. Bullet two would be like, go over practice from Yes, practice page 15 from yesterday, bullet three concept one notes, page 22. Bullet four. We’re gonna do mini lab activity, bullet five more concept one notes page 23. Like, I literally have it bolted out. And I think it’s so helpful because one, it eliminates all the questions of like, what are we doing today? Because it’s right there, too. It helps you because I really recommend to eliminate absent students being like, what did I miss, always having some sort of class web page, or even it could be like a shared Google Doc, it doesn’t have to be a full website, where you just post at the end of the day, your agenda for the day. So I would sit down right before I left the classroom every day, I had a very simple class website. And I had a little tab for each class. And all I would do was write on the website what we had on the agenda that day. So I would just put the little bulleted lists and it was great because then absent students knew what to reference. Where did he catch up with what they missed? And again, I use that agenda but I find it really helpful too because when students walk in one, they know exactly what we’re gonna be doing that day, too. They can see how much we’re doing. It’s not like it was ever just like one thing like we’re doing notes today or We’re doing a lab today. And that really, really makes a difference. One thing I mentioned in that agenda that we’re just talking about is point number two, which is I think another main thing for your pacing and transitions is you need to prioritize those first five minutes of class. Okay, that sets the tone. I have a whole podcast episode about this, I call it prime time, I’ll link it in the show notes. I talked about this last week, too. I think it’s such an important procedure. But I think if students are just like, coming in, they’re sitting on their desk, they’re chatting, then you’re the bell rings, and you’re having to settle them down and like get them started and get them acquainted like that wastes a lot more time than you think. Where as I have trained my students, they come in, they unpack their backpacks, before they sit down, they typically will go turn their homework, and then they’ll start working on their primetime. When my bell rings for when the school bell rings, I guess I should say, all my students are in their seats, quietly working is a game changer, it sets the tone, okay, it really makes a difference how you handle those first five minutes. My third tip would be is you need to change it up every 15 minutes or so. So you may have picked up on that as I was listing what I put on my agenda, when I said multiple things, and I even had notes up there twice is because I tried to never do the same thing for more than 15 minutes at a time. Now, if it’s a lab, obviously, that’s different because labs are longer than 15 minutes. But I find that a lab is constantly you’re doing a bunch of different things during the lab. So that’s really naturally changing it up for you. But in terms of notes, I try to never lecture longer than that. And that’s why i always break up my notes and all these different smaller pieces. Even if y’all it’s like a chemistry or physics or another quantitative science, where you have a lot of practice problems, you can break up your notes, even with just some built in practice problems that can make a difference to Okay, so if you want more help with kind of like how I do these little mini blocks within a class period, chunk things up. I have a little one pager, it’s a freebie. It’s so simple, but people love it. I honestly cannot believe I’ve gotten the feedback I have on this little one pager because it to me, it’s like, this is nothing but people seem to really like it. So I call it the anatomy of a class period. It’s a little cheat sheet. The first page is 50 minutes. And the back page is for a 90 minute class. Obviously, if you have like 47 minutes or 80 minutes, just pick whichever seems closer. But it just kind of gives you examples of those little chunks and how I chunk up my class period. So that can help you in your lesson planning. If you follow along all July, and you walk through the curriculum design process with me, I know that I kind of maybe left you guys hanging about, okay, we’ve kind of mapped this all out. But what is the actual day to day look like. And to be honest, I just got so excited about this classroom management series that like I just moved on to it. So I didn’t mean to leave you hanging on that. But that’s where this freebie comes in hand, it will be handy for you, I guess I should say. I’ll link it in the show notes. You can all grab it and use it and that will help you with the practical taking this and now plugging into a day to day lesson plan. I also have gotten asked like five times in the last week, if I have a preferred type of planner. And I think planners are very personal. Whether you like digital or paper, whatever. Personally, I like paper everything. The only reason that paperless digital isn’t rocket science resources exist is because y’all asked and I got them for you. I made them for you. But I’m personally a paper girl. And my favorite teacher planner is by plum paper, if you just go to Plum paper.com, look up teacher planner, they have a bunch of sizes. I like the 8.5 by 11 size. It’s just like a notebook paper. It’s so big. That’s just my favorite planner. So there you go, if anyone wants that, I wish I had an affiliate link, but I don’t. Okay, so my three tips so far have an agenda on your whiteboard, prioritize the first time it’s a class, chunk up your class and change it up every 15 minutes or so that anatomy the class period will give you some ideas for how to do that. Number four, set timers for everything. You guys, this works for my three and five and one year old, and it works for teenagers. Okay, I’m telling you set timers. The point again, is not to give them anxiety and to rush them. But we do want to give them a sense of urgency. I never send my students out independently to do anything without setting a timer that they can see. Okay, it can be something as simple as like what I have right now in my five year old room, where it’s a visual timer, you can get like one hour timers, two hours, I mean, you would not need that for a class period, but you can get like a 30 minute one and it’s a visual, and you can just twist it and then the color kind of starts disappearing as time’s running out and then it just dings at the end. So simple. I’ll link one in the show notes for you guys. You can also use there’s free ones all over the internet, literally just Google Classroom timers. And there are a ton up there that you can use. You can just you know project on your whiteboard or whatever. But I really like these because students know that they don’t just get how like all of class to finish these 10 practice for all I was like, I’m gonna give you 15 minutes, I’m going to be circling and helping if I see that everyone’s on task and really trying, I’ll give you more time always. But I’m not going to give you more time if you’re all goofing around. And I feel like, again, that’s another way that I think I said the word barter at the beginning of this episode, I really just mean like, reason. And compromise with students is like, again, you respect my time, I’ll respect your time. If you guys are working hard, I will always give you more time. Okay? Again, this isn’t to rush you is to keep you on task. Because we have other things we’re going to do today, as you can see per agenda on the board. Okay, so set timers. And then my fifth piece of advice for this would be to practice transitions, especially now that being the year, this is such a good time to build an extra class time for things that take longer and for you to teach them. Okay, so, like I said, be hardcore, especially now about teaching and communicating and reinforcing those procedures, and even procedures for your transitions at the beginning of the school year, and then you don’t have to the rest of the school year because it’s just ingrained in them how we do things. And so I would ask yourself, what tends to take up the most time like transitionally in your class, and then create a procedure to combat that, and recant claim those minutes here, there, y’all if you are teaching a 45 or 50 minute class period, reclaiming a minute here or there as up to five minutes, okay, and five minutes is 10% of your class period. Okay, that’s a lot of time. So reclaiming one minute here, there does make a difference. All right examples of this things for me, that took up a lot of class time, passing out papers. This is one of the reasons why I love my package strategy. I make copies once a unit, I give them all their copies at the top of the unit. And they have them and I’m not having to distribute a piece of paper for every single lab activity, whatever we’re doing, because they already have them all. It’s so much faster. I have a entire love letter to packets on my blog. And I have a podcast episode about it that I’ll link in the show notes. But that has really been helpful for me. Another thing that used to take up a lot of time was kids getting out of their seats to turn in work, especially at the top of class. So instead, I have turned in bins on my wall, I’ve always had them in my classroom, they were clear, they had the note number like kind of written on the outside for the class period, like 123456, whatever. And then during their prime time I trained students that when you finish your primetime, that’s when you go and you turn things in that are due, typically they’ll see on the agenda. Oh, she’s collecting this, it would typically say primetime slash collecting lab page 16 through 20. And they would know like, okay, during the prime time I have, she’s also going to want this. So as they finish, they get up and stable. They put it in and they wait for their friends to finish. It’s so much smoother. I basically never clicked classwork during the middle of class, it’s always at the beginning of class or like on your way out, turn this in, save so much time. Another thing I practice is prime time. So one of the things I do collect every single class period is my prime time handout, which is like each student on a Monday will get a piece of notebook paper and they write their daily bellringer answers, which are my prime times. Every day on that piece of paper they do one day, I collect the prime times every day, we go over it as a class, I grade them and then the next day, when they get back, it’s on their desk waiting, they add on day two, at the end of the week, I tally the score for the week. So if we had five days, it’s five points a day, they get a score on a 25. Okay, I find this really, really effective. It really motivates them to do the primetime, again, whole podcast about this not gonna go on a tangent. But this is the one thing that I collect in the middle of class every single day, I collect it within the first five minutes. And so we practice how to do this, I teach them how to pass their papers, depending on which classroom I’ve been in either to the side or to the back. And they pass them over in order basically, of what they sit and then I collect them in rows or columns, again, depending on the classroom setup I’m in, and then I grade them and then when I pass them back out, it’s so easy because they’re an order of which their seating assignments which I absolutely love. So practice that they get used to it, they get so so good at it, and then it makes your life way easier. And then the other thing I’ll say too, that used to be a time set for me was like just transitions of like, okay, I drew sticks and y’all are going to work on this, you know, any career activity together, go get with your group or okay, go collect your lab materials, like those kinds of things would take time. That’s when I said a 32nd timer and I’m like you have 30 seconds go. And if you want to be more fun, you could put on a song for 30 seconds, have a playlist that you put together that’s appropriate and admin approved of just like fun, upbeat songs you can put on and just get them moving and like when it goes off, they should be in their seat ready to go. I think it sounds like overly simplistic, but you’ll be amazed how much a simple timer really helps. Okay, so that is one thing we are going to do to help manage our classes. We’re going to tighten up our transitions, and we’re going to get a lot more precise with our pacing of our class. us, we’re gonna have an agenda on the board, you’re gonna prioritize the first five minutes of class, you’re going to change up what you’re doing every 10 or 15 minutes, you’re gonna set timers for everything, and you’re gonna start practicing transitions. So you can reclaim a couple minutes here, there, you will be amazed the difference that it makes, I promise. Okay, so here’s your action step, head to the shownotes. Grab that free anatomy of a class period, little cheat sheet, and then go back and audit your lesson plans and how you are pacing your class. See if there’s anything you need to kind of switch up a little bit more. Maybe if you’re like, I’ve already done that my lesson plans are airtight, then maybe you need to go to your classroom this week. And you need to set up an agenda on a whiteboard or get a second whiteboard, you can sit somewhere, even prop up somewhere so that you can have an agenda every day. And if you’ve already done that, maybe you just your action step is I need to think through where time gets most wasted and write a couple of procedures out for those things to increase the pace of my class. All right, and next week is our final week on classroom management. I’m going to share my last few just really kind of like a hodgepodge of random practical tips and just super simple strategies for classroom management. So stay tuned for that. And as always, you can find all these links I mentioned in today’s show notes at it’s not rocket science classroom.com/episode 92 And if you are a teacher and you’re excited to our timers the school year, I want to challenge you to leave a rating interview for the podcast today. I would love to hear from you all you teachers out there who are going to try out timers this year. Today is your day. It’s your turn to leave a rating or review for the pod.

Rebecca 21:32
Alright teacher friends that wraps up today’s episode. If you’re looking for an easy way to start simplifying your life as a secondary science teacher, head to It’s not rocket science classroom.com/challenge to grab your classroom reset challenge. And guess what? It’s totally free. Thanks so much for tuning in and I’ll see you here next week. Until then, I’ll be rooting for you teacher friend.

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