Monday, November 28, 2005


I've become convinced that time management is the biggest issue facing effective teaching. I don't mean this as a generalization about all pedagogy, but rather as the way I ought to approach teaching, for the time being at least. If I'm to manage class time effectively, I must be well-prepared. I must understand my students' needs and abilities. I must be able to think on my feet, and to adapt the lesson plan according to the students' pace and progress.

A good rule of thumb is to have more planned than can be accomplished in one class period, and then to prioritize. "Today we're going to work on linking and reduction." So I plan to spend some time discussing what "linking & reduction" is, demonstrate it in my own speech, elicit examples from the students, give them some mechanics as well as handouts, and then time for practice. But what if they've all already got it down pretty well? I need to be ready to fine-tune their speech. What if, on the other hand, they can't even get the concept? I need to figure out where the gap is, and spend class time teaching to that. What if some have got it down well, and others are struggling with the concept itself? I need to find a way to diversify class activities so that everyone's doing something meaningful. And always with an eye on the clock. Those fifty minutes need to build on the previous class, and lay the groundwork for the following class. To do this, I can't get bogged down in minutae, but neither can I plan to little and spend ten or more minutes just trying to make the time stretch.

If I have five activities planned, and realize that we'll only get through two, which two are the most important? In order to assess this on the spot, I need to be well-prepared, and constantly conscious of the clock.

Don't want to be overt, though, don't want to cut students off and say "sorry, there's just not enough time." Sometimes there's no choice, but if it's possible to watch every second while maintaining the illusion that everybody is having their say and saying as much as they want to-- that, of course, is ideal.


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