Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Creating Daily Routines to Eliminate Downtime and Increase Productivity

Imagine telling your students to sit down at the table for math. You finally get 4 students seated, but then you turn your back for two seconds to grab the materials for your lesson, and in the mean time, two kids pop up and run back to their preferred activities. Scenarios like these make me want to pull my hair out...I hate down time...my students struggle with it, which makes my life as a teacher so much harder. So one way I have found to eliminate as much downtime as possible (beside packing my day full of activities) is to create routines in every part of my day. This way, students know what is expected and can independently get going with an activity even when I have to run and grab some materials, deal with a challenging behavior, etc. It makes my students (and me) more productive! In today's post, I want to share some helpful tips and activities I have found to reduce downtime in the classroom.

Visual Schedules. One helpful way to do this is to post a visual schedule of your routine. In the beginning, you will need to teach this to your students on a very consistent basis. Over time, they will get into the swing of things and they'll be ready to get started without you! For my morning group, by the end of the year, I put each kid in charge of a different activity (their names were written on a clothespin and clipped onto the activity) which gave me time to do attendance, get the lunch count, check backpacks, etc. while still monitoring the group as needed.
Binders. Binders can be another helpful way to create routines. Students can grab their binders and begin working on activities in order. If you need students to stop and pause between activities for more instruction, use dividers to split the binder into sections along with a "stop and wait" visual. (Check out this post for more info on my morning work binders or this post for 8 ways to use binders in your classroom).

I often find it is the beginning of the lesson that is the hardest...like I said before, teachers need time to get set up, materials gathered, smart board turned on, etc. In general ed, teachers often have a "do now" or "warm up" activity where their students do a review activity, practice problem, or introduction activity for the lesson that will follow. I find this extremely helpful in my classroom as well. Here are a couple activities I have used to fill the down time in the beginning of a lesson.

Correcting Sentences. To start my advanced morning group, I had my students start with a daily correcting sentence worksheet. We would review as a group, then move onto other literacy activities (click here to see a blog post detailing what we did in this group).

Fluency Timings. I have utilized a few different versions of fluency timings in my classroom and they can be extremely helpful as a beginning "warm up" activity. [My little soap box on fluency....fluency is speed + accuracy. Our students can sometimes learn skills, but they are too slow with that skill to make it actually functional. Fluency activities help students practice a skill and increase their speed.] With my beginner students, we use these fluency timings where students label as many pictures/numbers/letters/etc. out loud in one minute (blog post about this activity, TPT product link)

With my advanced students, we did written fluency timings (blog post about this activity, TPT product link). We had kids assigned to be in charge of these as well (yellow cards were student initials who were in charge). These helped my kiddos increase their ability to generate ideas when given a topic, speed of writing, and made writing into a fun activity. And of course, including some visual directions for the activity increased student independence!

Check in/out. I helped a teacher create this check in for students who came into her room when they needed a break from their general ed classroom. To help them not disrupt her other groups and get to their break as quickly/independently as possible, she came up with the idea to have them check in, select their break activity, set a timer, and check out when they were finished. I have also seen some great social skills groups start and end with a check in/out worksheet. Here is a sample from do2learn which provides these FREE.

Predictable Worksheets.  I like these worksheets for practicing letters/numbers as they involve minimal writing, but more coloring, tracing, and circling.  Most of my kiddos could complete these with minimal assistance, and with so many worksheets, we could use them throughout the year to begin a group (blog post on this activity, TPT product link).

File folders, puzzles, or adapted books.  Have a bin of these at the ready to either set at each students spot or have them make a choice from the bin as the beginning activity before starting your lesson. I love using my "All About Me" books which each student has to practice targeting personal information (blog post, TPT link)

Have you tried any of these ideas? What other tips do you have for reducing downtime in your classroom?

No comments:

Post a Comment