Variety and Timing

A confusion of class schedules

Buffer your way out of chaos

Young teenagers simply don’t have a one-hour attention span. If you don’t provide some variety, then they will; and you know what I mean by that. Class discussion, lecture, audio/visual presentations, computer activities, silent reading, work sheets, group work, and quizzes can be combined appropriately to provide variety.

Earlier I said it was a good idea to make your first day’s lesson plan so long that it would roll over into the next day’s class. This way your timing isn’t so critical. However, some consistency throughout the day is important if only to make your lesson plan scheduling manageable. Let’s imagine that you have what you think is a four-day lesson plan consisting of many of the activities mentioned in the previous paragraph, finally culminating in a test. What do you do if (and it will happen) one class finishes on schedule but two other are done almost a day early and another is a bit behind. You really don’t want to give the faster classes the test a day early and have them reveal its contents to the others. Then too, do you really want to start the next topic with them while the others haven’t yet finished the first?

The answer is that each day’s activities should include some sort of time buffer. A time buffer is an activity that will not suffer from being cut short if the class is falling behind, or extended if the class is going too fast. Typically, when you planned this four-day lesson, you allowed enough time for your slowest class, so you will usually be trying to find a few minutes of filler for the faster ones. Here are some examples:

1. Class discussion or a verbal question and answer activity can be adjusted to suit your time needs.

2. The running time of a video can be extended by stopping it periodically to point out or discuss and interesting segment or to tell an appropriate story.

3. Group work is a great buffer. To shave a few minutes off the time it takes them to finish, you only remind them of the impending time limit every few minutes. This speeds them up by curtailing the inevitable extraneous chatter that accompanies group work.

4. Silent reading, work sheets, and homework. Perhaps you could devote the last ten minutes of the class to a 30-minute activity of this type. Whatever they don’t finish in class, they simply do at home.

Obviously, it makes more sense to put your time buffer at the end of class so that all classes will arrive the next day at the same place in your lesson plan.

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