Keep Classes from Going Too Long/Short

Decorative: Analog clock with a pie wedge out of it


Click the image above to be taken to an online "Countdown Timer" that allows you to set multiple timers and add music or videos to each timer. 

"How to Keep Class Sessions from Running Short (or Going Too Long)" (post) outlines six "approaches to use ... for time-based ... class planning":

  • "Begin with the end in mind."
  • "[M]ak[e] use of a timer."
  • "[H]av[e] an established end in mind for each class session."
  • "[E]r[r] on the side of student engagement versus 'covering the material.'"
  • "[H]av[e] plans for extending the learning if activities are shorter than planned."
  • "[L]eav[e] room for metacognition, meaning, ...[and] time to talk about the learning process."

Each approach is covered more fully in the post: below, I include only immediately actionable suggestions.

1. "Begin with the end in mind"

  • "[B]e intentional about the most important things learners will walk away with as a class finishes."
  • "[H]ave a core question to explore, or a goal to pursue."
  • "[B]egi[n] ... with a provocative question or problem that raises issues in ways that students had never thought about before, or by using stimulating case studies or goal-based scenarios.”
  • "[P]u[t] on different lenses in viewing the same set of ideas."
    • "What does this concept look like in different contexts?"
    • "Where might there be confusion on the students’ part?

2. "[M]ak[e] use of a timer"

  • A timer helps "maintai[n] awareness" and "nudges [you] throughout the class to keep [you] on track of when [you] need to be moving on."
  • A timer can also help "facilitate exercises with students."
    • It gives "periodic reminders regarding how much time is left in the exercise."
    • It provides opportunities to "visit with those groups that have finished early."
      • "[A]sk them if they had any surprises as they went through the exercises."
      • Ask "how confident they are in their answers."

3. "[H]av[e] an established end in mind for each class session"

  • "[A]sk [yourself] how deep the students’ learning needs to be around a given concept."
    • "Do they just need to know that it exists (E)?"
    • "[S]hould they be able to perform a given task or provide an answer with some support (S)?"
    • Do "learners need to be able to demonstrate something independently (I)?"
    • Do they "have a deeper understanding of the concept that will persist for a lifetime (L)?" 

4. "[E]r[r] on the side of student engagement versus 'covering the material'"

  • "[S]eek a way to gain the students’ attention in the beginning ... make them laugh ... [or] [f]eel some other kind of emotion ... [or] [d]raw them into a mystery [you] will be unraveling for the rest of the class."
  • "[D]o something to get them talking ... as[k] the students for examples and pos[e] other questions to them about how what [you] are talking about fits with prior learning from past weeks."
  • "[G]e[t] students talking with each other, reinforcing what they’ve learned, and seeing where there might be misunderstandings."

5. "[H]av[e] plans for extending the learning if activities are shorter than planned"

  • Have relevant "impromptu" group work or active-learning activities ready to use if the class goes short.

6. "[L]eav[e] room for metacognition, meaning, ... [and] time to talk about the learning process"

  • "[H]av[e] students share the muddiest, or most confusing, point at the end of a class."
  • "[H]av[e] students keep reflective journals to gauge their own learning."
  • "[A]sk ... students what seems most important to them from what was addressed in class."
  • Ask "What did you struggle with and why? How does this connect to X, Y, or Z? How would you explain this to someone not in this field?"
  • "[L]eav[e] time for ... students to stay back to share some connection they had made during [your] time together."
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