Saturday, November 7, 2015

Maximizing Instruction Time

Let's face it, as teachers we are busy. And when I say busy I mean when I get home at 7:00 every night I have to ask myself did I eat today? Was I able to leave for the bathroom? kind of busy!

Teaching is super rewarding and I love my job, but at times it can be difficult to find the time in the day to include everything that is expected of us. Over the past 4 years I have tweaked and tweaked and reworked my schedule a ton but I think I finally have things down and feel that I effectively utilize every minute of my day.

I want to share some of the tips, tricks and/or strategies I use in my day with you! Hopefully you can use some of these and leave everyday feeling like you utilized your time wisely.

Whole Group
I spend the first month or so teaching every task I would eventually like my students to do independently in a whole group. This gives me a good idea of how well they can do the task and it gives my para the chance to see what I expect. Sure these tasks are easy and may not be teaching "new" concepts but working independently and in whole groups is something my students can always benefit from.

Independent Center
Once I feel the students can complete some portion of the tasks independently, I open up the independent center. Allowing your students to work independently is a GREAT learning experience. Even if they are getting nothing more than just sitting in a chair by themselves for 10 minutes. For some of my kids that is HUGE!!!!

Having an independent center allows you the chance to work with smaller groups. Here are some independent activities we do in our classroom.


On the iPad- N2Y, Raz-Kids, Xtra Math, Lexia Core 5, Todo Math

Binder Work- The Moffat Girls Math and Literacy Packs, The Autism Helpers, Writing CentersLiteracy Centers, and  Leveled Daily Work  (I put the new sheet on the iPad so I don't have to print 180 pages in color :)) Autism Adventures Bulletin Board Activities (I turned these into bin work), my Independent Work Binder.

Independent Reading- students have individual book boxes and I have comfy seats for them to use. They don't always read independently but they are able to grab their boxes and find a seat independently. Most of them at least grab a book out of the bin and look at the pictures. This is a huge thing in my class and I have seen a ton of improvement in this area. We are hoping to have everyone reading independently after winter break!!

Para Pro
If you are fortunate to have a para pro USE THEM!! I have my para pros work on tasks with the students that correspond with the lesson I just taught or taught the day before. In a typical classroom this would be the "independent practice" portion of the lesson. But since our students need a lot of support on new tasks I have the para work on this with them.

(this is the Para Pro work center)

Direct Teaching
I teach 1 phonics group and 1 comprehension group daily. I split the kids up differently depending on the targeted task(s) for the week. This year I got super lucky and my kids either struggle with phonics OR comprehension so I only work with 4 or 5 students in each group.

I teach new skills and we do guided practice like crazy. I have a SMARTboard and love to incorporate that as the students are able to stay engaged and interested in the lesson. We work on the same skill for an entire week.
(this is where I teach)

In order to help maximize the instruction time and cut down on anxiety associated with transitions you have to make these as predictable as possible. I have my room set up so the students can rotate through the centers in a clockwise fashion. This is helpful because the students don't feel as if they have to go back to something they have already done. I also set a timer and the students have a visual schedule. They know what is expected of them during transitions are are now able to switch from one center to the next in about 15 seconds!!

Break Time
All students benefit from break time. Some teachers use break time as their "independent" center. That is okay, and you need to do what is best for your classroom, I just utilize break time a little differently.

I incorporate break time in between subjects. This allows the kids to be able to distinct between subjects. While the kids are having a break I am able to spend 7 minutes organizing for the next lesson.

I LOVE this because absolutely no instruction time is lost. The kids get a break and we both feel ready for the next lesson.

(this is our break time area)

What things do you do in your classroom to maximize instruction time?

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  1. It's always helpful to hear how another special ed teacher structures their class! I miss having LexiaCore5! We had it at my old school and it aligned really well to what I was teaching. I don't have an iPad at my new school, but I just bought an Amazon Fire ($50 for a tablet!!)... trying to find some good apps on the Amazon apps store or websites for independent work.

    Years That Ask Questions

  2. Great post! Thanks for sharing your setup!