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!

Break Cards for Calm Down Corner

    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!