5 Ways to Use a Timer in Your Classroom

Timers can be a very valuable tool to use for your classroom.  Let's talk about five different ways that you can use a timer to benefit your students.

1. Teaching Students to Wait

Waiting can be such a challenging skill for some students.  Many of our students can have a short attention span and have a very difficult time waiting for something, whether it is for their turn with a particular item, going to the next (usually preferred) activity, and so many other instances.  Using a timer can gradually increase a child's wait-time.  A visual timer is important for this because they can visually see how much time is left.  I use different timers based upon the needs of my students.  I'm including Amazon affiliate links for your convenience.  Here's a few of the ones I use:

Visual timer with red "count down" timing.

Sand timers in a variety of minute options.                

Digital timers.

2. Transitioning

Many students need a time warning of an upcoming transition.  Transitioning from one activity to another is something that students often need advanced notice about.  A visual timer is a VERY helpful way to help our students transition.  If you give your students also need a transition piece or something to hold during transition time, the sand timer is perfect because they can visually see when the sand has run out on the timer and it is time to transition to the next activity.  Then they can carry it with them to the next activity.  More about transition pieces and ways to use them in an upcoming post.

3. Data Collection

Timers are GREAT for data collection, which is an essential part of our jobs! You can use a timer to collect SO much data!  If you have a student with a goal of increasing time on a particular task (see #5) or decreasing time on a particular task or a student with a Positive Behavior Plan who has a time reduction target behavior, timers are a great tool to use.  Even if a student does not have a goal in a particular area written on the student's IEP, but you see a need to increase or decrease time in a particular area, a timer would still be beneficial.

4. Breaks

Our students need breaks! You can check out my post specifically about breaks and using break cards to help here.  While taking breaks, it is important to use a timer to set a specific amount of time allotted for taking a break. This helps keep the breaks as short breaks that are targeting what they are intended for, a short period of time to re-group and re-focus for the remaining task or upcoming tasks.  Breaks may mean a quick stop to utilize a brain break for a few short minutes, it may also mean a quick time with a figit tool at the student's work area, or it may even mean a time to use the cool-down area.  A post specifically about Cool Down areas is coming soon.  

5. Increasing Time on Task

The fifth way I want to share with you is to use a timer to help students increase time on task.  Again, whether it is an IEP goal yet or not, sometimes students need help increasing their productive time on task.  You can use a timer for this.  With some students, you may even want to include them with the use of the timer.  For example, Student A typically has 3 minutes of time on task and you want to help Student A increase to 5 minutes on task.  By placing a timer with Student A in the area that the student is working, you can use a visual timer to show the student exactly how long they have been working and how much time is remaining until they finish working.  With other students you may just want to take note of the time they are working and how much they are able to increase.  However, I will say that utilizing a timer and engaging your student by including him or her in the action of increasing his or her time, will help improve the time on task more efficiently.

I hope you find these tips helpful!

I Need a BREAK! Break Cards to Help Students

I NEED a Break!

    Everybody needs a break sometimes.  Our students can become overwhelmed at times, during work time especially, and may need a break.  The thing is that they may not always know how to ask for a break appropriately.  I use these break cards with students to help them learn to ask for a break when they need one.  Break cards are an essential tool for helping students who need to take a break during work time.  It is important for our students to have the breaks that they need.  Breaks can help students refocus and prevent unexpected behaviors (behaviors from feeling overwhelmed) from occurring by providing students the opportunity to utilize calming strategies and by showing students that it is OKAY to need a break sometimes.  We need to teach students to self-advocate for the breaks that they need.  However, we also want to teach them that there is a limit to how many breaks they are able to take so that they are able to have time for work too.  The goal is for breaks to be utilized as a tool for self-regulation, but not to use them as a way to escape work.

    Some students only need one break, but others may need more. You can choose how many breaks your students get during a certain period of time.  Teach your students to take the break card off and give it to you.  They do NOT need to use verbal, which is an important factor, especially for our students with Autism Spectrum Disorder and other related disabilities.  I always start by helping the student request the break and have them take off the card and give it to me, using hand-over-hand if your student requires that level of prompting.  Typically, your students in general education classrooms will not need this level of prompting and can utilize their breaks with explanation of what to use them for and how they work.  You know your students best and will know which level of prompting they need.  

    DATA is KEY!  It's important to also take data and keep track of how many/how often your student(s) are utilizing their break cards and taking a break.  I use a data collection sheet (included with the break cards pack) to keep track of the data for student breaks. You can use this data in a variety of ways.  For starters, you can use the data to include in a student's IEP (more about IEPs in a new post series coming soon!)  You can use the data to reduce the number of breaks and/or the duration of the breaks that your student(s) take.  You can also use the data if there are already IEP goals that you are implementing regarding break time and/or work time.  I have also used these break cards for students who are in the R.T.I. process (Response to Intervention - another blog post coming soon).

I hope these Break Cards help you and your students!  Let me know by tagging me in a post on Social Media @teachingzoo and I may feature your photo!  

I Am Grateful - A Reflection Journal

 I Am Grateful - A Reflection Journal

Teaching children to be grateful is an important skill.  It also helps promote mindfulness and teaches them to be present, in the moment and to reflect on themselves and their experiences.  

One way I have implemented reflection time with my own two personal children, as well as with students, is by journal writing.  Journaling also helps improve writing skills, which is an added bonus!

I decided to create a journal that helps children learn to reflect.  I included color and black/white options.  I like having them color certain pages because it helps them express themselves (and they love to color!)  I also included large and small versions and styles for a variety of ages.  

Here's a few pictures of the journal in action.

This picture shows the black/white version of the cover getting some beautiful colors added in!

This is one of the pages that asks children to identify people in their lives that they are grateful for.

This picture shows one of the journal entry pages.  On the top, students write what they are grateful for and on the bottom, they include something fun they did today.

There are a variety of mixed prompts and many of them can be repeated to extend the journal, because there is always something to be grateful for!

Here's a little video preview to show you what is included in the Grateful Journal.  You can purchase the resource by clicking any of the images in this post.

I hope you enjoy this journal with your students and/or your own children!  
Let me know how you like it!  Share an image on social media and tag me @teachingzoo

Tie Dye Ornament


These Tie Dye Ornaments are a fun and easy craft for students to do.  I love the Tie Dye effect and I've done it with so many different crafting themes!  It always turns out beautiful and unique for each child and the one of the beauties of it is that you'll never truly know how it will turn it out until it is done.  

The items you'll need for this craft are:

- Coffee Filter (or plain paper cut into a circle)
- Tissue Paper in a variety of colors and cut into about 1 inch squares.
- Construction paper in a variety of colors and cut into about a 2 x 1 inch square.
- Pipe Cleaners
- A hole puncher
- A water spray bottle 
- A large scrap paper

The steps are simple.  Place the coffee filter on a large sheet of scrap paper.  After you've cut the tissue paper into squares, students choose which colors they want to use and they simply lay them on top of the coffee filter.  I always lightly write the child's name with a pencil on the edge so we know who the project belongs to.  If you don't do this before they start, the project will be completely wet.  After the coffee filter is completely covered, you help the child spray (or spray it yourself) until it is completely covered in water.  Then you just let it sit until it is dry.  I usually move the large sheet to a drying rack and let it sit overnight.  Do not take the tissue paper squares off until it is dry.  Once it dries, you can just lift them off or brush them off.  The tissue paper will literally just fall right off when it's dry.

The results are always beautiful and each one is different.  I always love how they come out!  You can then just hole punch the construction paper rectangles (2 inch by 1 inch) and string the pipe cleaner through to give somewhere for the ornament to hang.  Then you glue it onto the back of the ornament and you're done!  


Post a picture on Instagram to let me see how yours turned out!  
Tag me and tag me @teachingzoo to be featured!

Write the Room - Thanksgiving Edition

Write the Room is ALWAYS a fun activity for students that gets them up, moving and learning!  They always enjoy it because they get to move!  Students also love hunting around the room for the words.  If you haven't tried a Write the Room activity before, you should!  You will quickly find that it is one of your students' favorite activities too.  Since Thanksgiving is coming, I set up the Thanksgiving version of the Write the Room activity.  I've made tons of them for every season and theme you can think of!  To set it up, you print out the picture/word cards, cut them out and tape them around the room...on walls, cabinets, desks, get creative!  Decide which option of recording pages you want to use with your students and you're ready for them to Write the Room!!

You can click the pictures to visit my store and grab your copy of the Thanksgiving Write the Room activity.  If you NEED (want) all of the Write the Room Activities, there's also a Bundle!

Let me know if your students like using the Write the Room activities!  Leave me a comment below or post a photo in action and tag me on social media!

Give Away!

 It's Giveaway time!  I want to thank all of you!  See below for your chance to win $25 to my TpT store!  You have 3 chances to win! You can win on my blog, my Instagram, or on my Facebook page!  

Virtual Learning Tips for Parents

In my last post, Tips for Teachers for Virtual Learning, I gave tips that teachers could use to help with virtual learning.  The tips help both teachers and students.  However, I feel that there are tips that parents can do at home to help as well.  I am sharing these tips as both a teacher and a parent who is participating in virtual learning right now.  In my district, we have been back to school with fully virtual learning for a week and a half.  Here are some tips for you, as parents, that I think you will find helpful:

1. Have a designated space for your child to learn.  In school, students have their own space at their desk or table.  I'm not saying you should go out and buy a desk, but if you already have one or want to purchase one, by all means use it.  There are some great options available for desks too.  They even make folding desks that you can put away (like the foldable tables) when you're done using them.  Otherwise, find a space for your child to use that is set up for him or her and that they know it is "their school space".  I think you'll find that this is helpful because it will be the place they know to go "for school". Here's a folding desk that looks nice and is easily stored:

2. Print your child's teacher's schedule.  Have it next to your child.  Having a schedule is something that I recommended for teachers.  Having it available for your child will benefit both you and your child.  Children thrive off of predictable routines.  When they have their schedule visible, it helps them know how their day will go and what comes next.  It provides structure.  I would also recommend laminating it if you have access to a laminator.  If not, Amazon has some inexpensive options that are great.  I personally have an Amazon brand laminator at home and love it.  Here it is:

3. Provide opportunities for your child to release some energy.  Even while your child is working, there are some great products out there to help them maintain focus.  For starters, fidgets.  There are a HUGE variety of fidgets out there.  Not every kind works for every kid.  They are usually relatively inexpensive, so get a few and find the one that works for your child.  Here are a few ideas that I use with both my own children and with the students that I support.

Along with those fidgets, I also recommend a wobble seat cushion.  It has air inside and provides some core engagement, but also some sensory.  Here's the one that I have:

Another thing I recommend, and my own children have, are stationary bikes under their desk.  It gives them a chance for their feet to move, while sitting still.  This can help enhance focus.  Kickbands are also another great option. 

5. Provide opportunities for screen-free activities.  When the school day is over, or if you get a break in the middle, have your child engage in some activities that are off of the screens (computer/TV).  Help your child to be active.  Go outside and get some fresh air.  Draw with chalk or do bubbles. Go for a walk.  Do a nature scavenger hunt.  Play board games.  Have fun together!  *Board games need their own post, so look for that one in the near future!

6. Take some time to teach your children buttons that they will need to click for their classes.  Teach them how to use basic computer skills/functions.  This will help them navigate during their class.  It will also help create and encourage independence.  If they are relying on you for each and every step throughout this process, it can be much harder on them and you in the long run.  

7. Be patient.  Being in school virtually and being in school virtually are two different things.  It's OKAY if it's not perfect.  Just try your best.   Give yourself and your child time to get used to this new way of learning.  Don't stress if it doesn't go exactly as planned.