Saturday, June 29, 2013

Lessons from the Limb #3 - Presenting Our Third Teaching Partner ... the Timer

Well, this is awkward. In trying to determine which number "Lessons from the Limb" we were on, since it's been ... ahem ... a little while since we posted, we realized that while we left off after number 7 we never did a lesson number 3 ... whoops. Well, since the chronology of this blog is already shot, we're calling this lesson #3 (shhhhhh ... don't tell anyone our mistake).

We want to show you the single best purchase that we made this year (until Kristie bought a pencil sharpener ... LAWD, don't get her started on that!).

Kristie's unhealthy love for our her new pencil sharpener

This purchase was what helped us achieve our fantasy plan of teaching 40 first graders in small groups for our Reading block. Are you ready to see our miracle purchase, our third teaching partner, the backbone of our Reader's Workshop schedule? Well ...

Drum roll, please

PRESENTING ... our timer

Do you see the size of that bad boy? Your eyes are not deceiving you; it is HUGE and we love it!

So here's the background. We had just gotten to the point where we were working with the children in small groups, and it was going great except that we were having the hardest time keeping to our schedule. First we were having a hard time getting through everything that we wanted to get through with the students each day. Things were taking FOR-EV-ER and we were getting stressed that maybe we couldn't get the students to transition efficiently enough to maximize our Reader's Workshop time like we wanted. Soooooo to solve that problem we turned to a trusty teacher tool - the timer. Both of us had used timers in the past to keep both ourselves and our students on schedule so it was a natural go-to tool for us. And it worked ... kind of.

The thing was the only timer we had was small, a kitchen-sized timer, and our classroom is ... uh ... decidedly not small. It was virtually impossible for either of us to see the timer while we were teaching. The timer was doing its job keeping us on time because we were both standardizing and limiting the amount of time we were spending with each small group, BUT we never really had any idea how much time we had left for our groups because we could not see that dang itty bitty timer. It was eye-opening to realize just how critical being aware of the time is for pacing. This may sound obvious, but to us it was a revelation at just how challenging it was to teach without any idea of how much time had passed or how much time we had left. Just another one of those things that teachers manage without even thinking about it while they are teaching, we suppose. Anyway, back to the timer - what we really need was a gimongous timer and there on Kagan's website (link for anyone who's interested:, our dreams came true.

Finding the perfect timer online

Unfortunately, it also cost us $49 before tax and shipping ... YIKES!!!

Discovering the outrageous price for the perfect timer

But in the end, it was truly worth it. We can see our timer from anywhere in the classroom and we used it constantly, c-o-n-s-t-a-n-t-l-y last year. It truly became our third teaching partner and we feel like we could not have achieved the maximizing of our school day that we did without it. It kept us on time, it kept us moving along, it helped us pace, and it helped the children monitor their independent worktime as we would use the countdown feature to help them visualize how much time they had left. We trained the children to freeze and raise their hands in the air when the timer went off. This told them that their time was up and a transition, with teacher directions of course, was about to occur. See, it really was a teaching partner; it even had its own classroom management systems!

So, what's the lesson here you may be wondering, our wise FLY AWAY? It is as simple as this: you can't do it all alone. Every teacher, no matter how dedicated, no matter how talented, no matter how simple awesome, can do everything alone all the time. Everyone needs help - be it a teaching partner, ideas from a blog, or a bangin' timer. So reach out and take the help you need! There's no time (Get it? Time ... hee hee) like the present.

We love our Mega Timer!

From the limb,

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