Making the Most of Class Time

At the beginning of class, it takes my students a long time to settle down. We are wasting time as I try to get their attention. Any suggestions? –T., Maryland                                  

To take advantage of the class time we have, it helps to have an established routine so students know what to do when they come into the classroom.

One method I found effective was posting an agenda. When the students entered the lab, they saw what the learning goals were, what activities they were going to work on in class, what needed to be turned in, and what materials they needed (pencil, science notebook, paper, and so on). As they assembled these materials and put their other things away, they still had a little time to socialize, which is important to middle schoolers. When we started the lesson or lab investigation, they had their materials in order.

Another suggestion is to have a warm-up or bellringer activity. Students should get started right away, even before the bell actually rings. The students are focused while you take attendance, distribute materials, or return assignments. Some examples include

  • Answer a question about yesterday’s work or another related topic
  • Respond to a statement or visual to uncover misconceptions or activate prior knowledge
  • Complete a vocabulary entry with a graphic organizer
  • Do a “quick write” with several sentences on a theme or topic
  • Do a “quick draw” on a theme or topic

You can tell the students to quiet down over and over every day. Or you can help students take responsibility for using time purposefully through guidance and modeling (and persistence).


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  1. Diane Hansen
    Posted October 31, 2016 at 7:23 pm | Permalink

    I teach science Pre-K through 2nd grade. Transitions from classrooms are always a time for talk in the hallway and then settling into my STEM classroom. I have 17-19 students per class. I have found it helpful to put down name tags at each seat before class. When I don’t, it is crazy. A lot of shuffling around to sit with friends etc. I give them 10 seconds to find their seats. We have recently adopted Responsive Classroom and the chime works beautifully, if consistently used, to call all to attention. Knock on wood, this has worked well so far and we are ready to begin within five minutes of them entering class. DH

  2. Mary B
    Posted November 7, 2016 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

    Transition times are important at all grade levels, and smooth transitions lead to more time to focus on learning. Thanks for your suggestions!

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