Oh, the Ipad timer. How do I love thee? In the land of 2 hour blocks (my current schedule), time becomes as existential as a Camus novel. Minutes fall away, drag on, or get lost in sometimes a mushy second-hand controlled mess.
Enter the Ipad timer...or any timer for that matter...the cute egg shaped one from the kitchen supply store works, too. There is something magical about having a finite amount of time to do something in. Whether it is a 2 minute yoga stretch or a 7 1/2 minute quick write, the productivity of a teenager rises exponentially when a time limit is placed upon them. Check out the difference:
SCENARIO #1 (NO TIMER):
Discussion ensues about said topic (enter curriculum here).
Teacher: I would now like you to do a quickwrite that expresses the three most important aspects of today's discussion. Let me know when you are finished.
Kid A gets up to get a tissue, stops by cute guy's desk, chats, goes back to own desk, takes tangerine gooey lip gloss out, applies, opens binder, sees note from friend, smiles, puts it away, finally finds paper, takes it out, pulls pencil out of case, it's somewhat dull, she sharpens it, this requires her to walk by cute guy's desk AGAIN...
Teacher: (6 minutes have passed) how are we doing?
Kid A: Really?!? I haven't even started it yet! OMG!
SCENARIO #2 (TIMER PROJECTED ON WALL):
Teacher: You have 7 1/2 minutes starting NOW! Go!
Presses start on timer...
Kid A gets up to get a tissue, peeks at timer (inner thoughts: oh crap 1 minute has passed). Walks by cute guy's desk, he actually stops her talking and points at the timer and shrugs his shoulders (in a super cute way).
"Whatever!" she thinks.
Kid A slumps back to her desk, skips lip gloss and goes straight to binder, unclicks, pulls paper out and actually GETS STARTED 3 MINUTES IN. Woo hoo!
Teacher: how are we doing?
Kid A: Really?!? I just barely started (I had to be realistic, right?)
Anyway, for some reason the timer can get a little more work out of your struggling kids and LOTS of work out of your academically minded scholars. It's clean, straightforward and a constant reminder that we have a task at hand. It doesn’t mean you won’t give more time when you check in at the end, but it frames the time given in a very real, digitalized way.
After 13 years teaching high school English, I have found that the small addition of the timer to any level of class (from AP/Honors to remedial or Special Ed) has an immediate dramatic effect on production of work and control of chaos.
Some chaos is good, but it’s nice to give it a time limit.