Following on from Chris's fantastic CPD and recent blog post, I'd like to share something new I've been trying in some of my lessons this year to support the pace of my lessons, or rather, to increase the pace with which students work.
The way I see it, pace comes down to two things. How much work we set in a given amount of time, and how much work the students do. The pace in our planning, and the pace of the students' work. If we set a low bar, we have problems. During intependent activities, if students are given too much time for too little work, expect there to be disruption - It's hard to stay switched on and task focused when you don't feel like it has to be done right now. I don't know if you've ever walked over to a student, picked up their book and said to them, "You've barely done anything yet" and they've looked up to you with a face like thunder and said "What are you on about, I've done the first question!" We don't want to rush the them, but there should still be a sense of urgency. "There is enough time to get this done, but not more than enough time." What we're really talking about here is expectations. Rigourous, crystal clear expectations, and holding students accountable to them.
What I'm referring to as Dynamic Timers are tools used to make those expectations clear, to give students' targets to meet, and create opportunities for us as teachers, and the students themselves, to identify when they are behind. You can set students 10 questions to do in 20 minutes, and a generic timer is fine, but if you're epxecting those students to be finished or on an extension task before the time runs out, how well can you expect them to know if they're on track or not?
All of my lessons are planned on Smart Notebook and I use timers almost every time I set the students off on a task. I do my modelling, I put my questions up on the board or give the students their worksheets, make my expectations of how the work should be done as clear as possible, and then I guide their attention to my timer. I also use the same sort of timer during starters, as this is a crucial pace-setting moment in the lesson.
In this example, there are 10 questions. As the timer counts down, the green bar gets smaller and works its way around the circle. I've spaced out some of the numbers where some questions are more complex than others, and students can see how far through the starter they should be given how much time has passed. The idea of "beat the clock" is draw out some competetiveness from the students. You can also dangle a rewards in front of them to encourage them to finish the task on time or get onto the extension. Most importantly however, as you move around the classroom and vist each student, it's really easy to have conversations about how much work they've completed. It's an idea that can easily be adapted - the first marker could be for making sure the students have the date and title down, or you can have markers for other simple tasks that need to be done quickly like sticking in worksheets. If you're doing an independent writing task, why not grab the clock off the wall, stick it on your whiteboard with a big piece of blu tack, and annotate the times on the clock with when certain parts of the work should be completed?
I would love to know people's thoughts on this, so if you try something similar out, please let me know how you've used it and what impact it has had. Please get in touch if you want some ideas of how to use this sort of thing on other software like powerpoint as well.