Strategies to Improve Transitions and Time Management
Lesson Objective: Making effective use of time during an 80-minute class period
Grades 6-8 / ELA / Procedures


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Thought starters

  1. What is the impact of having students' reflect on the time it takes them to complete tasks?
  2. How do the 1, 2, and 3 finger signs help limit class interruptions?
  3. Why does the use of a timer help both the teacher and students more so than just saying?

Non-verbal communication is critical in a classroom setting where you only have a small amount of time with students. I liked the implementation of hand signals and other non-verbal cues to ask and answer questions that take up time in the classroom.


The idea of having the students set the timer for the amount of time it will take them is a great idea. It allows the students to understand the concept of time as well as allows them to visually see how much time they have left and the need to stay on task.


Another thing I observed during this video that I liked is t that while the students are completing a free writing assignment the teacher is writing as well and sharing with the students. This allows for free flowing discussion on the topic and everyone’s understanding.

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For ceratin students with accomodations, I also have encouraged them to implement the use of a timer. This has the short term effect of keeping the student focused on work and more accountable but it has the long term effect of teaching the student the skill of predicting how long a task will realistically take. This helps both students who tend to bite off more than they can chew and students who underestimate the amount of work they can do within a certain amount of time. Some students just need to calibrate their internal clocks and they might need to pace it alongside a real one.

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Non-verbal communication in my classroom is a key factor in creating a productive learning environment. In a Montessori classroom, this procedure helps to both minimize interruptions to other students' concentration, but it helps me to balance being attentive to all students. I have students working in different subject areas and at different levels within those so as a result, students need help and they need work checked in at an inconsistent pace. In my classroom I have a ribbon seperated into the following sections that tell me each student's current status: "I am working quietly"/"I need help"/"I need work checked". Each student has a clothes pin on which their name is written and they can place this pin in the section that pertains to there need or lackthereof.

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I think she is a great teacher who knows how to build a positive relationship with her students based on trust and respect. Her hand gestures are a good helpful way to manage the classroom. She shares her objectives for the whole year by exposing the curriculum expected achievement for a specific amount of time. I believe that she is in control of a safe and beneficial learning environment.
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I love that she gave the agenda/expectations before class was started. I also like the hand signals so that the class would not be interrupted. I will incorporate that into my classroom rules.
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  • Wendy Hopf: [0:05] Make sure you have your writer’s notebook. Writer’s notebook and your toolbox. Good. [0:13]

    Interviewer: [0:12] Veteran sixth

    Wendy Hopf: [0:05] Make sure you have your writer’s notebook. Writer’s notebook and your toolbox. Good. [0:13]

    Interviewer: [0:12] Veteran sixth grade teacher Wendy Hopf is confident in her practice, but wants some strategies on transitions. She’s asked instructional expert Jim Knight to observe a class that navigates a number of different activities during an 80 minute period to try to come up with strategies to make transitions more efficient. [0:30]

    Wendy Hopf: [0:30] Welcome everyone. So today we’re gonna be doing a similar think dot activity as we did the other day. You’re gonna be working with one of your clock partners. So I want to just go through our agenda for the day of what we’re gonna be doing. [0:44]

    Interviewer: [0:45] Probably the best place to start is just tell us about what you saw in the video, what struck you, what were you really pleased with. [0:52]

    Wendy Hopf: [0:53] I was pleased with a repetition of estimating time to complete tasks because this is something I’ve been working on with my class is to get them to think about how long should it take us to do this. Then we try to meet that goal. Some kids are way off on their estimations, but I feel like as time goes by and the more I ask that question, they are getting closer and closer to reality. [1:17]

    [1:18] Okay, thank you. I was going to handle that in a minute. So you’re getting seated face to face with your six o’clock partner with a blue board in front of you. If you have a problem, you’re not sure who your six o’clock partner is or you never got a six o’clock partner, please come up and see me right away. [1:39]

    [1:41] Alright, nice job. So I meant to put the timer on, but how long do you think that took us? [1:46]

    Child Voice: [1:48] Thirty-nine point three. [1:49]

    Wendy Hopf: [1:50] Thirty-nine point three, okay. Yeah, I would say it was definitely less than a minute. [1:54]

    [1:56] These kids are coming from a fifth grade self-contained class to a brand new middle school with lockers and all these other things. So an 80 minute block of time feels long I think to them without any breaks. I try to design my lessons so at least we are doing two or three different activities within that time. [2:14]

    [2:15] I started the school year with a bathroom and drink break right in the middle. They had such a hard time pulling back from that, and then getting back into the lesson that I’ve decided okay, now the first morning period is over, we’re ready to move to you just take care of your own biological needs. Raise one finger, or two fingers rather, if you need help. [2:42]

    Interviewer: [2:41] Right. Yeah, I saw the two fingers. [2:43]

    Wendy Hopf: [2:43] Yeah. [2:43]

    Interviewer: [2:44] So what are the signals they use? The one through three? [2:46]

    Wendy Hopf: [2:46] Well, we’ve worked on this since the beginning of the year where they just raise one finger for I need help, two fingers for I need bathroom or a drink or water, and three is can I sharpen my pencil. [2:56]

    [2:57] So they look at me, I give them a little eye contact and a nod, rather than having a whole conversation and interrupting the flow of the class. So the simple nod gives permission at that moment or not. [3:09]

    [3:11] Go ahead. If you need to sharpen your pencil, go ahead. Not right this minute. I’m giving directions right now, so it’s not a good time to go to the bathroom. [3:19]

    [3:19] I love it because I have the option to say no. I know what’s about to come. I know if I’m gonna give important directions. So I want to exercise that option. [3:28]

    Interviewer: [3:29] It’s part of something bigger. It’s part of this is the way we do things. This is how it works. These are the rules of the game. It’s respectful too because usually they are gonna get to do what they need to do, but they know how to play. [3:40]

    Wendy Hopf: [3:40] Exactly. [3:41]

    Interviewer: [3:41] So once they know the rules, it’s easier for them to be sort of at ease with the way things are. [3:46]

    Wendy Hopf: [3:47] Right. [3:47]

    [3:47] In just a minute, I’m gonna hand you some dice. When you roll the die, whatever you roll, you take a turn on that dot, okay? Your job is to fill in the answer sheet of that dot. Your partner is helping you. Your partner is helping you learn the information. Your partner also needs to write the information down. You have a lot of writing to do on this activity, so I think you’re gonna need 20 minutes. [4:14]

    Child Voice: [4:22] Thanks. We don’t have to put sincerely since we don’t have it anymore. Okay. [4:28]

    Wendy Hopf: [4:29] So I noticed she had some errors in here. So what I’m asking you here is which error happens over and over again in her writing? Which one is the most common error? [4:41]

    Child Voice: [4:46] Is it between I love and I notice there’s no comma? [4:49]

    Wendy Hopf: [4:50] Do you think she needs a comma there? [4:51]

    Child Voice: [4:53] Oh, she needs a comma right there. [4:54]

    Wendy Hopf: [4:55] She needs a comma there? Would a comma solve the problem just by itself? [4:58]

    Child Voice: [4:59] No. [4:59]

    Wendy Hopf: [5:00] What else might she need there? [5:01]

    Child Voice: [5:02] A period there. [5:03]

    Wendy Hopf: [5:03] You could put a period, yeah. So what’s that called? What’s that error she’s making? [5:08]

    Child Voice: [5:10] Mistakes. [5:10]

    Wendy Hopf: [5:11] Yeah, it’s a mistake. [5:12]

    Child Voice: [5:14] Punctuation error. [5:14]

    Wendy Hopf: [5:15] Yes, it’s partially punctuation, but it’s a kind of sentence that kind of goes on and on. [5:21]

    Child Voice: [5:22] Run on sentence. [5:22]

    Wendy Hopf: [5:23] It’s a run on, okay? [5:24]

    [5:24] Another one of my goals I think is to, of course, increase the level of what they can handle independently as the year goes on. I intentionally didn’t want to read the directions to them and read out loud every single task on that think dot sheet because I’m okay with them struggling and grabbling. Like I noticed when I was wandering around that several groups weren’t really clear about what common error meant. What was that student’s common error? [5:53]

    [5:55] When I was watching the video, I realized that well maybe I could have frontloaded that vocabulary, but in a way I’m glad I didn’t because I think if they have a partner and they have a teacher available, and they struggle a little, that’s fine. [6:11]

    [6:14] So you have about nine minutes left. Oh, there goes our beeper, okay. Alright, thanks for working so hard and staying so focused everyone. You were doing a great job. Even if you didn’t get to finish, during our review time, you’ll have a chance to fill in any answers that you might not have finished, okay? [6:37]

    [6:38] I’ve also recently started using the timer. They respond better to that. I respond better to that. It’s almost having like another objective person in the room who is just saying okay, this is it, it’s over than reminders, reminders, reminders. [6:56]

    Interviewer: [6:57] I thought it worked great. I thought you said, okay, we’re at 13 minutes. They were checking where they were. They were working their way through, and it kept them going. [7:03]

    Wendy Hopf: [7:03] Yeah, I couldn’t tell exactly. That’s interesting to hear that. [7:06]

    [7:06] So right now we’re gonna go over the answers. So I want you to have your pencils ready. Suzy Veggin is a very healthy girl, but what’s her problem? What does she do? She doesn’t know how to write. What’s the sentence error that she makes? Jason? [7:25]

    Child Voice: [7:26] Run ons. [7:26]

    Wendy Hopf: [7:26] Run ons, thank you. Our very last question was from Hannah, and I want to know. Everybody just tell me yes or no, would you hire her? [7:38]

    Child Voice: [7:38] No. [7:38]

    Wendy Hopf: [7:38] No? You wouldn’t hire her? She seems knowledgeable about music and the rock world. What? You would hire her Tom? [7:45]

    Child Voice: [7:46] I would hire her if she could fix her errors and know what she did. [7:49]

    Wendy Hopf: [7:50] Oh, so what would you do? Call her back and say Hannah, could you come in and fix your errors please on here? Okay, Brenna, did you have something else you want to share with us? [7:59]

    Child Voice: [7:59] I would recommend a language teacher for her, and then I’d call her back in a month. [8:03]

    Wendy Hopf: [8:04] Oh, okay. I like that solution. Good. [8:06]

    [8:07] Within the lesson that I did, would you have a suggestion of how to extend the thinking in that moment as far as they were trying to think would you hire this person or not based on the writing. Then two kids did really offer great ideas. They didn’t want to reject the person outright. They said I’d give them another chance. Do you think that was worth pursuing or would that be a— [8:34]

    Interviewer: [8:35] I think what they were doing, the thinking they were doing was really good. [8:39]

    Wendy Hopf: [8:38] Yeah. [8:38]

    Interviewer: [8:38] I’m not sure that the lesson was intended to do that. It could have happened unintentionally. It really had one answer, which is you wouldn’t hire her. For it to be a thinking device, it should be that there could be a variety of perspectives on it. [8:50]

    Wendy Hopf: [8:50] Right. [8:50]

    Interviewer: [8:51] So you give a piece of writing. [8:52]

    Wendy Hopf: [8:52] Okay. [8:52]

    Interviewer: [8:53] Maybe you give two different pieces of writing, and then you say let’s compare and contrast, but there needs to be more than one right answer. [8:59]

    Wendy Hopf: [8:59] Alright, so last week in our writer’s notebook, we were able to go outside and start thinking about fall weather. Remember? It was that really cold day. It was breezy and everything. So I was thinking about fall colors. [9:12]

    [9:12] So what we’re gonna do today is a color activity. Sometimes when I’m writing, I need really specific names for things. If I want to describe color whether it’s a sunset or the leaves or anything like that, I want it to have a really good, specific name. So when we’re describing things we can use names of colors that are really specific. [9:34]

    Child Voice: [9:35] [Crosstalk] [9:41]

    Wendy Hopf: [9:41] It’s beautiful. Look at that place, okay? Some of your pages are like works of art just by themselves. [9:46]

    Interviewer: [9:47] How did you come to be the teacher you are right now? This is a big question, but what do you think happened to get you to where you’re just comfortable in the classroom, comfortable with the kids? You have this kind of presence of I’m in control without being a control freak. [10:01]

    Wendy Hopf: [10:02] I guess it’s years of experience. I love teaching language arts. [10:05]

    Interviewer: [10:05] Yeah, it’s great. [10:05]

    Wendy Hopf: [10:08] That’s a really hard question. I don’t know, but I remember— [10:11]

    Interviewer: [10:12] Do you think you’ve changed though? [10:13]

    Wendy Hopf: [10:13] Oh my gosh, dramatically. Yeah. I think I have much more respect for the students than I did when I was in that age. [10:20]

    Interviewer: [10:19] Yeah, I can see that. [10:19]

    Wendy Hopf: [10:20] That age I thought I was in charge or had to pretend I was in charge before, whereas now I’m willing to let things flow a little more with the lesson, more give and take. [10:31]

    Interviewer: [10:35] It sounds like you’re focused on the structure of the activity, and then give the kids the flexibility. [10:41]

    Wendy Hopf: [10:41] Leeway to go with it. Yes, absolutely. [10:44]

    [10:45] So, we’re gonna end our class period, we have about 10 minutes left, with some free writing. Okay? I would like you to turn to the free write section of your writer’s notebook, okay? We’re gonna free write for about four minutes. I am going to let you write about any topic. If you would like to include some color words, you may. You don’t have to. [11:09]

    [11:19] I like the writing workshop philosophy. The whole writing workshop I feel builds a lot of trust, and that’s what you focus on in the beginning of the school year. I share my writing with them when we free write. I always tell them where my thoughts are. I want them to view me as a writer, not as a teacher of writing. I think those free writing times really capture that where everyone wants to share. [11:42]

    Interviewer: [11:43] Right. [11:43]

    Child Voice: [11:44] Okay, so this jellyfish was created by Elizabeth. Okay. Hi, my name is Bob the jellyfish. I live in a very tough life. Why I live a tough life you may ask? It’s because the people of this sick world want to hunt me down. It’s sad. Whenever I feel down or feel scared, I turn invisible so the naked eye won’t bother me. [12:09]

    Interviewer: [12:09] Let’s say that a brand new teacher comes in here. What would you tell her? Teach 20 years? [12:16]

    Wendy Hopf: [12:19] I think over time you have to build up that trust with the kids. I’ve had six grade classes maybe 10 years ago where every few seconds they were like well, when are we gonna do this and rah, rah, rah, rah. Whoa, whoa, trust me. I am gonna tell you. I am gonna tell you. [12:34]

    [12:35] I don’t have that as much anymore because whatever I’m doing is creating that trust. I did plan out the whole first marking period this year too. I have every single aspect of my curriculum, and I share it with them all the time. So they kind of get the idea of where this is going and what I’m going to be expected to do. [13:00]

    [13:00] I think it’s a big communication piece where this is what we need to do to get here, and this is where we’re going. So if you know your curriculum, I guess that’s really key. [13:13]

    Interviewer: [13:14] Sort of calm warmth you have with the kids. [13:16]

    Wendy Hopf: [13:16] Thank you. [13:16]

    Interviewer: [13:16] You’re not overdoing it, but that respect is a big word with you, and you can see it. It was a pleasure. [13:22]

    Wendy Hopf: [13:22] Thanks. [13:22]

    Interviewer: [13:23] Thank you. [13:23]

    Wendy Hopf: [13:23] Appreciate it. [13:23]

    [End of Audio]

School Details

Springfield Twp Middle School
1901 Paper Mill Road
Oreland PA 19075
Population: 527

Data Provided By:



Wendy Hopf


Teaching Practice

Project-based Learning, PBL, Projects, Engagement


English Language Learners, Writing, High School


Reading Analysis, Literary Analysis, High School, ELA, Reading, Writing


Lesson Planning


Professional Learning


Next Generation Science Standards