Time Management and Pacing

So, I sort of “binge posted” five things a few days ago, and now I’m making a late-night post for August 8th, having skipped doing new ones this weekend (we went out to see Fiddler on the Roof with my siblings, my mom, and my nieces to celebrate my birthday and my mom’s before my sister’s kids go back to school). I’m still counting this as doing a blog post every day! 🙂

Anyway, let’s start talking about tonight’s topic. I’ve been reading a few posts about “the close” of a lesson, and I’ve been thinking about pacing for years, and I have to be honest – I still struggle with it every day. In my old school, I had 44 minute periods, but that included 3 minutes of passing time, so by the time students arrived, we only had 41 minutes – and sometimes less, if they were coming up from gym or they were at the other end of the hallway! However, at my old school, they programmed math classes to meet 8 periods (sometimes 7 or 9) per week, so three to four days, I usually had a double period with my students, which wound up being a little more than double because I kept my passing 3 minutes to be class time.

And I often felt like there still was never enough time to have the kinds of rich investigations, rich conversations, and then the check for understanding/exit ticket at the end of class. I found there was often too much to be done in one day, even in a double, but ESPECIALLY in a single period, in part because it took students so long to settle down and get started on the warm-up.

This year, at my new school, math classes are programmed for 6 periods of 43 minutes (but the three minutes of passing time are in ADDITION to that, so a total of 46 minutes for the second period in a double). I’m also going to be teaching younger students (6th and 7th grade instead of 8th), so I’m worried about shorter attention spans and more need to move. I’m thinking about how to fit everything into a class lesson – especially if I want to dedicate ten to fifteen minutes to a number string/number talk.



I feel like the warm-up can be something simple to get the students “ready” for math class, whether it’s taking out their notebook, or beginning to notice/wonder about something, or doing a silent which one doesn’t belong (after the routine has been introduced). Given the mental math aspect of number talks/number strings, I’m hesitant to use those as warm-ups, since I like students to have something to work on independently at the start of class. Typically, while students are engaged in the warm-up, I like to go around and check HW on my clipboard – but it usually takes me between 5 and 10 minutes to get around the whole room of 33 students,  so I might need to rethink this procedure this year or make it speedier somehow.

After we do a number talk of some kind, there’s the “content math” for the class, whether it’s introducing my 7th graders to histograms and how to interpret them or facilitating my 6th grade students’ understanding of negatives (in our first units), there will be some kind of problem posed. The launch could take between 5 and 10 minutes, depending on whether I’m doing a notice/wonder for that, or telling a story, etc. Then the students will do some work on the problems or perhaps have a turn-and-talk with a neighbor. While they work, I’ll circulate and try to target students to share in the whole class conversation. They should have at least 10 minutes, if not more time, to work on most problems – often twenty minutes. I tend to like to break up work time into “independent” and “table talk” time where they have mostly unstructured conversations with their neighbors and share strategies (which differs from a turn-and-talk where I give a prompt about what to talk about). I usually do between 3 – 5 minutes of independent think time where students begin by reading a problem, drawing a picture, writing important information, etc, followed by an informal table-talk time where I tell them they can check in with their partner, see if they have anything they want to share about or ask questions to clarify on, and work together/discuss together – but not force it. I do enforce silence during the first few minutes because I emphasize to the students that it’s important we all have time to make sense of the problem and think about it independently before we start talking about it.

While sometimes my lessons fit within my allotted time, I’ll often discover that either the task is TOO easy for some students, and I run around giving them challenge problems OR that it’s more complex than I anticipated, and students need more time.

However, you’ll notice this is already potentially as much as my full 40 minutes (if there’s a 6 minute warm-up, a 15 minute number talk, a 10 minute launch and a 15 minute work period for example), so I worry about what the conclusion should be. I do know from watching good lessons that sometimes, lessons (especially problem solving ones) have to be split up into more than one period – and I think that’s okay. I’ve also come to realize that not every student needs to have completed the entire investigation to have something to say in the share out where we might summarize their findings.

How do you manage time and pacing during a lesson?



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