Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Rethinking Bell-to-Bell Teaching

I think every teacher is taught to work bell to bell every class period.  They always use staggering numbers.  If you conclude one minute early every day, you lose 180 minutes of teaching time.  If you conclude two minutes early every day, you lose 360 minutes of teaching time.  And it goes on. 

The thing no one ever mentions though is that unless your students are completely engaged at the end of class (And when are they ever? Especially in math.), you are losing this time anyway.  I'm usually optimistic, but I think it's more prudent to be realistic on this one.  Let's face it, the last few minutes of class, students are staring at the clock, packing up, and winding down on their work whether you're teaching or not.  (At least this is what I find with my student population.  Maybe it is different in your school.  I just know that I've seen this behavior in the four different school districts I've worked in.)

That is why this year, I am not planing to teach until the bell that dismisses class.  I routinely have students getting up two minutes before the bell rings to put their supplies away while I'm still teaching.  I do not stop them because the slim chance that they are listening to what I'm saying while putting supplies away is better than the alternative of students leaving with supplies strewn about.  What I am going to do is make sure that at the end of class, students are working on practice problems.  This way I'm not being cut off when students are packing up to leave.  If students need more time to finish, they have it.  If I need time to discuss something with a student, I have it.  I will be able to have students put supplies away, and I won't have to worry about students being on time for their next class.  (They won't have to worry either.)  I will also have the opportunity to make sure that all of my calculators have been returned before my students leave the room.  (This is my primary reason for rethinking bell-to-bell teaching.)

Last year, on the days that I did finish early, I found it more valuable to spend my time correcting and passing back exit tickets (I love it when I can give students immediate, written feedback on what we learned for the day before they do their homework.), making sure all supplies are returned to their proper place, and most importantly connecting with my students.

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