No Series: Strategies to Improve Transitions and Time Management

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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Discussion and Supporting Materials

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?


  • Private message to Elizabeth Owonikoko

I love this video because time and transitioning are very critical to teaching. Having students reflect on the time it takes to complete an assignment, helps them to manage their time. and to let them know if they need to speed up on their tasks or if they are on time. The use of finger signals helped the teacher control the class while the lesson is going on without having students shout of talk to disrupt the class. The teacher used her head signal to either grant the students a request or not depending on what was going on in the class. Using the timer instills in the teacher the sense of someone tracking the time. It also helps to reduce unnecessary activities that would take away from the lesson time. The timer holds both the teacher and the students accountable for how they spend the lesson time. 

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  • Private message to Kimberly DeLoreto
  1. What is the impact of having students reflect on the time it takes them to complete tasks?
    1. Having students reflect on the time it took them to transition held students accountable and gave them a better understanding of time management. Students not only were interested in making accurate guesses, but it also made them more conscious of what they were doing during the transition time. It gave students the ability to monitor their own behavior and recognize that their transition time matters to the class as a whole. 
  2. How do the 1, 2, and 3 finger signs help limit class interruptions?
    1. The finger signed of 1.I need help, 2. I need bathroom or drink and 3. I need sharpen pencil, really helped with limited class interruptions. Students knew that this is the way they do things and provided a respectful for students follow the rules. The teacher would just nod of say yes or no in reply to their finger signs to prevent explanations or change in conversations. Students understood what the rules were and respected the teacher’s decision.
  3. Why does the use of a timer help both the teacher and students more so than just saying?
    1. The teacher explains that she responds better because it is like there is another person in the room that is keeping track. Furthermore, rather than constant reminders the timer holds accountability for the student’s time management. Also, as the teacher gave the students gentle reminders about the time left, it helped to keep students on task with a gentle and quick check in. Finally, the timer prevented any wasted time of excesses questioning that would have taken away from the following lesson.

I really enjoyed hearing that the teacher works to increase things they can do independently and how much respect she has for her students. It was apparent that the students respect their teacher very much as well. This educator has gained incredible knowledge from her years of experience and now her classroom management has really created an optimal learning environment.

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  • Private message to Jimmy Fagan


 Jimmy Fagan

  It is clear in this video that this teacher has mastered her craft of teaching. Her years of experience has made it clear that you can be in charge without having to state that your in charge. By allowing students to state how long they think an assign should take, now puts the responsibility of getting it done in a timely manner on the student.  

I think the i-2-3 finger helps keep talking and yelling across the classroom down. I've learned that it creates a chain reaction in going to the restroom. The finger motion allows students to ease out and back into the classroom without distrubing other students.

Timers are crurcial because students and teachers can easily loose track of time. Many times in a classroom, one students's question can lead to more questioning and the next thing you know, you have veered off task. Timers helps us to stay focued on task and keeps us in the allotted time we have pre-set.

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  • Private message to Connie Kendall

I think by having students reflect on the time it takes to complete an assignment, helps them to better manage their time. It lets them know if they need to pick up the pace to be on time or if they are doing fine.

Classroom interuptions are fewer by using the 1, 2, 3 finger signs. The teacher can see them and nod if it is a good time for the student to go to the bathroom or sharpen a pencil without the entire class being disrupted. The teacher also has the option to have them wait if it is a bad time to get up. They put up 1 finger for help The teacher can go to the student needing help and everyone else can continue working without needing to hear what that student needs. 

The timer works really well in this setting for both the teacher and the students. It is a good visual and sound that both the teacher and students can see and hear without the students always asking how long before they are done.  The teacher is not having to look at the clock all the time when it gets close to the end of the time period. The timere lets the students know time is up. The teacher just goes by the timer adn lets them know they area done for this time period.

In both videos the teachers had visual aides around their rooms. Both teachers were positive with their students. They found ways to help their students without interupting the entire class.



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  • Private message to Elizabeth Lopez

Classroom timers are a great a way for teachers to reinforce classroom management and time managment. Each activity may be timed in segments to help students stay on task. Timers also set a plan for students to know when to expect a transition. Some students might even get motivated to complete a task before time runs out.  The nonverbal cues help keep the classroom running smoothly.  Teachers receive a message quickly and quietly; therefore, saving time and managing the classroom. 

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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


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