Blog Post

Good Classroom Time Management

by Susan Van Zant and Nancy Volpe, Educational Services Specialists, CORE

Susan Van ZantNancy VolpeWhat can be done to maximize the time that students are in school?

There is no mystery about time. Students attend school a set number of hours each week and days each year. At each grade level they have a lot of skills and knowledge to learn. Establishing specific times that reading and math are taught is a good beginning. However, if time is not used efficiently during the allocated periods, student learning time is lost. Often precious minutes slip away because good time management practices are not in place.

Ten minutes might not seem like much, but it can add up. For example, students take three minutes to enter the class and quiet down, the teacher waits two minutes while three students look for their materials, a student sharpens a pencil for a minute, one group needs three minutes to transition to another, and a class disruption lasts for a minute. It all adds up. Just 10 minutes a day adds up to 50 minutes a week. In a typical school year, it would add up to about 1,800 minutes. Divide that 1,800 minutes a year by 180 days of school, and that is the equivalent of 10 school days lost.

What are some good time management practices?

Practice classroom routines and procedures so that the class runs smoothly. Not only do they save time, but efficient classroom routines and procedures make it easier for students to learn and achieve more. Struggling students are often disorganized. Procedures help them to keep focused and less distracted. Students feel secure with procedures because they know what is expected of them. Routines and procedures eliminate disruptions and establish an orderly, efficient learning environment. They also require that students learn to take responsibility.

Classroom routines and procedures need to be taught and practiced with the whole class. See the list below for some ideas about what routines and procedures you should put into place. The time spent on learning the practiced procedures is a good investment. A few hours at the beginning of the school year yields tremendous benefits by the end of the school year when every minute counts. Here is a simple framework for teaching these routines and procedures:

  1. Discuss what your expectations are with students. You must be clear in your mind what you want students to do and how you want to them to do it.
  2. Model the routine or procedure.
  3. Ask students to describe what the routine or procedure looks like and sounds like. You can facilitate this discussion by creating a T chart with Looks Like on the left side and Sounds Like on the right side. Posting the T charts for a few weeks will serve as helpful reminders.
  4. Practice each routine or procedure several times over the course of the first two or three weeks of school and then as needed throughout the school year. 

Are there other tips for saving time?

When giving directions, use these tips:

  • Eliminate distractions and maintain eye contact to help keep attention.
  • Use short, simple sentences and give one directive at a time. Avoid sentences phrased in the negative. Instead of saying “Don’t go outside,” say “Stay inside.”
  • Monitor the tone and level of your voice while talking.
  • Gestures, pantomime, and pictures can help you get the point across.
  • Use nonverbal cues like exaggerating a smile or a nod.
  • Speak slowly and clearly, but in an adult manner. 


Another way to save time is by giving group corrections rather than just working with one student. Corrective feedback in reading and math should be given to the entire group rather than to individuals. Often during group response time when a student responds with an incorrect answer, the teacher will work with the child until the child understands or gives the correct response. The rest of the group simply sits and/or becomes distracted. This wastes a great deal of instructional time. It is better to stop, say “My turn,” and then give the correct response, or explain the concept to the entire group. Next ask for a group response to the original word or problem. Then ask for individual responses, including the student who made the original incorrect response. (I do it. We do it. You do it). Go back three questions/responses to ensure that students have internalized the correction.

Is there a checklist that could be used to help ensure that time is used wisely?

Routines and Procedures Checklist

Beginning of Class                            Classroom Procedures
  • Entering the class*
  • Going to the restroom
  • Taking attendance
  • Getting drinks
  • Taking lunch count
  • Sharpening pencils*
  • Dealing with tardy students
  • Exchanging student papers
  • Distributing materials*
  • Turning in assignments
  • Beginning to work
  • Returning graded work to students


Instructional Expectations

  • Signals for student attention
  • Signals for teacher attention
  • Bringing materials to group
  • Expected behavior in group
  • Reading/math program routines
  • Corrective Feedback*
  • Transitions from/to small groups*
  • Expected behavior—independent time
  • Use of learning centers
  • Student talk during independent time


* These areas seem to lose the most time.

In Part 2 of this blog we will discuss other classroom management ideas related to organizational strategies, behavior, and classroom interruptions.


Mastropieri, M., and T. Scruggs. 2000. The inclusive classroom: Strategies for effective instruction. Columbus, OH: Merrill.

Polloway, E. A., and J. R. Patton. 1997. Strategies for teaching learners with special needs (6th ed.). Columbus, OH: Merrill.


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