Bell to Bell: Best Practices for Managing Time in the Classroom

Whether you take over a classroom for a day or for the long haul, your best bet at a rewarding experience is making sure that your time management is on point; keeping these tips in mind will help you make it from morning bell until afternoon dismissal without a hitch!

1. Show up early. You want to arrive at your post at least an hour before the students. This may sound excessive but copy machines break, staff have morning meetings, or you might arrive at a classroom only to find that the teacher did not leave any sort of plan for you and now you have to figure out what to do with your students all day! By arriving early instead of showing up right before the bell, you build in time for yourself to have some coffee, prep any handouts for the kids, and get yourself situated so that you are ready to welcome your class and have a great day- you’ve got this! 

2. Always, always, always over-plan! As a general rule of thumb, you should always have more for your students to do than you think you will need. If you’re substituting, chances are that the classroom teacher will have left you some sort of sub plan- but keep in mind that these plans are not going to be super in-depth and you may find yourself with more time than prepared activity. Get through the work as requested, but come armed with back up! Even if you don’t end up needing it, the extra time you put in up front will help you avoid a room full of students staring at you with nothing to do and 20 minutes left in the period! If you’re looking for ideas of fun and enriching activities, check this page from TeacherVision out to get you started!

3. Break your time up into short increments. Students get distracted- you’ll get their best attention by breaking up the class period into chunks of no more than 20 minutes a piece. This way, you can tier activities that that incorporate group work, individual assignments, and full class discussions and you can better guarantee that they will remain focused instead of asking that they put an entire hour into one activity that may not even strike a chord with all the varied types of learners in your room! As explained by Vanderbilt University’s Center for Teaching Remember, it is important to remember that when planning your classroom assessments, you want to touch on multiple levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy in order to successfully engage your classroom.

4. Organize your space to help you organize your time. Have a place for everything to help ensure that by the end of the day you aren’t facing a room that it is total ruins. Establish a spot to collect student work, have place for the kids to return borrowed supplies; hold the class accountable by allowing them two minutes to clean up before dismissal. By working as a team with your students and by establishing a system of organization, you do the classroom teacher a favor by leaving everything where they can clearly find it upon their return and you do yourself a favor because if you stay on top of things during the day, you get to go home with no added work or clean up at the end of the school day instead of having to stay even five minutes late! 

5. Establish rules with your students. Don’t waste time disciplining- make your expectations well known and clear from the start. Write them on the board, project them on the screen- and read through them with the kids. You’re the stranger in the room but it’s still up to you -not the students- to set the tone for the day. Give them boundaries that they can respect and you won’t have to lose out on teaching minutes to redirect throughout your time with the kids.

It’s hard to be a classroom teacher and even harder to step in as a substitute- but if you keep these tips in mind and properly manage your time, you’ll have an experience that’s truly rewarding and you’ll be sure to be asked back for repeat visits! 

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