7 ways to maximise learning time in the classroom

Time is precious when it comes to teaching and learning. With big class sizes the norm in most state-funded schools, teachers are having to make every second with each of their pupils count. Minimising wasteful time to maximise learning opportunities in the classroom is more crucial than ever. Losing teaching time, even as little as 5 minutes per day, due to inefficiencies can have a negative impact on learners, especially those who are struggling.

If you are a teacher looking to maximise pupil learning time, here are 8 strategies to help you minimise downtime and give your pupils the extra teaching minutes that matter.

1 – Reduce distractions

Pupil arguments, unexpected classroom visitors and a whole range of distractions can take up valuable teaching time. While it would be impossible to eliminate every single distraction, keeping a journal, evaluating interruptions, and formulating plans to minimise them, should help to reduce distractions significantly.

2 – Sequence lessons intelligently

If the sequence of subjects are intelligently planned to cause the minimum distraction during transition time, you can gain back some valuable time. Ensuring the correct materials are on hand, and that pupils are ready to learn will help with the quick and seamless switching of subjects.

3 – Differentiate support

Different children learn in different ways. Understanding your classroom demographic and differentiating support needs means every child is more likely to get maximum learning time.

4 – Be prepared

Effective planning and preparation are key to maximising pupil learning time. Always over-plan and you’ll always have something to use if pupils get through the planned material quickly. Also, practise your routines to minimise time lost in explaining instructions.

5 – Stick to routines

Hand-in-hand with being prepared, having routines for passing round lesson materials and collecting work will make efficient use of time and minimise any confusion and disruption. With well-established routines and consistent lesson structures learning time won’t be wasted.

6 – Create efficient procedures

Efficiency in the classroom is essential to the running of a well-oiled machine. Simple techniques, such as writing task instructions on the board, having a routine for getting into groups, and pre-sharpening classroom pencils will bring more teaching minutes through time efficiency savings.

7 – Manage poor behaviour

Maintaining control in the classroom is essential if you are to avoid spending time managing pupils’ behaviour rather than teaching them. Continual development of effective behavioural management skills where learning is valued and you as a teacher are respected is essential in limiting time lost to managing poor behaviour.

Follow the school behaviour policy where it is good. Otherwise use the least intrusive methods for behaviour management. Just saying a child’s name can be enough for them to know you have clocked their behaviour. Always work at your behaviour management methods so you have an armoury of techniques – not every approach will work with every child.

How to teach youngsters about democracy

With the snap general election just behind us, and Brexit negotiations about to start, the subject of democracy couldn’t be more relevant. In fact, with the current climate of political uncertainty, there’s never been a more pressing time to teach our children about the values of democracy. When kids ask ‘what’s the point in voting?’ or say ‘they don’t understand’ it’s important we teach them what is at stake. Spouting your personal political views to youngsters isn’t the answer. Teaching the values of democracy is.

Here’s how.

Run your own referendum

Understanding the voting process and hearing different views will give children a snapshot of what democracy and electoral voting is all about. A referendum on school uniform changes, or one of the school rules will give youngsters some idea about the power of their voice and their vote. In the classroom, you could run a referendum on a fictitious topic or debate a current social policy relevant to school. What about the free school meals policy?

Set up a news club and have discussion groups about current affairs

Discussions around ‘what is the point of democracy?’ and ‘what would happen without democracy’ are suitable topics for older primary aged children. Debating and discussing current affairs in an age appropriate format is key.

The Burnet News Club, named after Sir Alastair Burnet, is a network of school news clubs offering support in current affairs. The club’s focus is on developing a particular set of thinking skills for forming independent opinions and enabling sound and persuasive argument. Club members have access to current affairs content written for young people (aged 8 and upwards) by The Economist.

Involve your local MP

What your MP can bring to your classroom will depend on their personality. The main aim should be to show the human side of politicians and create an engaging and interactive forum for pupils to ask questions about local and national politics and social policies.

Give pupils a voice – create a debate

The primary starting place for teaching about democracy is to give your students a voice. While the school curriculum covers much of the academic work required for pupils to succeed, the teaching of how our young people are to become active, responsible, informed citizens in a democracy doesn’t get enough air-time, despite the fact that the teaching of democracy is a stated goal for most schools.

Students do require teaching to fully understand and appreciate the democratic process and why we need to protect it. Using debate in the classroom teaches children that they have a voice and are allowed to express their opinion. Parliament’s teaching resources offers a debating pack for age 7 -11 year olds.

Our young people are the future. They deserve our investment.

Increase of Primary School Pupils in Recent Years

Recent statistics have shown that the Primary School population in England has reached its highest level ever since the 1970s. With around 94,000 pupils attending Primary Schools across the country this year, this is putting increasing strain on finding teachers for these pupils and creating more places in local schools.

There has been an estimated increase of about 200,000 children to Primary Schools in two years, which is showing as a result of the rising population over the past few years. This has presented a fairly large challenge to Primary Schools as they try to adapt to the growing number of pupils in their classes. Around 87 Primary Schools throughout England now have over 800 pupils.

If this doesn’t slow down within the next few years, there could be a serious placement shortage for Primary School children from all walks of life. A further 460,000 extra pupils have been predicted within the next five years, which is a staggering number when compared to the last few years.

Soon enough, this population boom will also reach Secondary Schools, which is a major cause for concern when it comes to understaffed teachers. Now more than ever, it is essential that more students are encouraged to study degrees in teaching, and there is a higher demand for teachers, substitute teachers and teaching assistants than ever before, nationwide.

Spaceship Crash at Brookhill Leys Primary

imagesWhen it comes to learning in the name of Science and making your own discoveries, nothing is more exciting than seeing Science first hand. Earlier this month, pupils from Brookhill Leys Primary & Nursery School scavenged through the ‘wreckage’ of a ‘crashed spaceship’ in a Sci-fi themed day.

The aim was to add a bit of excitement to the children’s lives by getting them involved in the sciences through a number of themed activities and competitions.

alien-308429_640Around 400 pupils in total took part in the afternoon activities, showing a great interest in the activities there were to offer. The ‘spaceship’ also touched upon other subjects, with Year One pupils being encouraged by their key stage 1 teachers to write letters to the ‘aliens,’ as well as using Maths in rocket experiments to help predict elements such as its trajectory and speed.

The ‘crash site’ is full of interesting bits and bobs, with electrical wires showing how the ‘ship’ works as well as futuristic technology that helps explain to children how things work. It was a great way to involve the children by appealing to their sense of excitement and adventure, whilst also providing a good lesson to learn. The event was organised with the help of three Science teachers from Hall Park Academy.

Clyste Hydon Pirate Invasion

Last month, pupils from Clyst Hydon Primary School dressed up as swashbuckling pirates and scurvy dogs in a bid to raise money to refurbish their old pirate ship playground equipment. The ship is looking a little worn for wear and would do well with a fresh lick of paint, so the fundraiser was a great way of getting the children involved, while also doing a good deed for the school.

pirateBoth teachers and pupils got involved for the ‘pirate day’ and managed to raise a total of £45, giving it a great start for repairs needed. It was a great effort by all involved, bringing together staff and pupils in order to donate towards a good cause, as children ‘raided treasure chests’ in order to raise the money.

Joint Chair of Governors, Clive Nicholas, had this to say about the event;

“It links to learning themes across the school and is part of developing our children to take an active part in looking after their school and each other”.

This fundraiser has also perhaps given the local children a sense of ‘earning’ their equipment back and will be a worthwhile lesson that they will hopefully take into adulthood.


Community Garden Project at Luton Primary School

Earlier this year, Surrey Street Primary School launched the Growing Together community project, where pupils, parents and teachers work together to create a medley of different fruits and vegetables. The project is designed to help give children a greater understanding of where their food comes from.

The garden project is in development in a grassy area at the front of the school and is hoping to turn the area into seven different garden groups; one for each school year group. Throughout the course of the year, the children will take part in a number of gardening and cooking projects in order to give them a better understanding of the importance of where their food is grown and how it grows.
The Growing Together project is also known as the Surrey Street Family Growing Club, which mets every Friday at 2pm to tend to the gardens and get children and parents spending time together outdoors. As the campaign this year has been a resounding success, the school has plans to continue it for new families this September and in April next year, looking at different seasonal fruits and vegetables.

Teaching Children Empathy Through Reading

empathyWe all know that reading every once in a while gives children a chance to gain literacy and fluency skills, opening their imagination to various fantasy worlds and encouraging them to use more complicated words in different contexts. But did you know it may also help to teach children empathy?

A study conducted from Cambridge University by professor of education Maria Nikolajeva has concluded that reading fiction gives young children fictitious situations in which they can develop and practise empathy. It also gives them an understanding of how other people feel and think.

Finding the right story is essential, as it needs to be a situation in which the children can put their own thoughts and feelings. For this reason, Jacqueline Wilson’s books are incredibly useful due to the way she writes about real life situations and issues from the point of view of young children. Jacqueline Wilson is famous for her gutsy character ‘Tracy Beaker’ and such books as ‘The Suitcase Kid’, ‘Four Children and It’ and ‘The Worry Website’

Young readers connect with the main characters in their story books, following their failures and successes, their wins and losses. They feel the same things as these characters, leading to an understanding of empathy. Empathy can be learned from a very young age in its most basic concept, but in order to gain a deeper understanding of empathy, you need to be able to get into the mind of another, and what better way to do this than with a good book?

School in Scotland Given The Choice of Their Own Educational Research

What happens when teachers lead their own research? Sandbank Primary school in Argyll and Bute; Scotland has been leading their own educational research for the last 18 months in a ‘ground-breaking’ project in conjunction with the Open University.

downloadWhile their primary function is to instil learning in others, it is also important that the teachers themselves are able to grow and learn as teachers and educators. Otherwise, how would we figure out a working formula for classroom reading? For marking homework? For helping disruptive or shy students find their voice? Teachers can certainly learn while on the job, but educational research is also essential in order to get a good foundation.

For example, Sandbank Primary teacher Brenda Reid has seen an overwhelmingly positive impact on her pupils as a result of her own research into behavioural problems. What used to be heated arguments are now easily handled thanks to her new research.

Every teaching class is different, so to apply a general ‘syllabus’ of research to thousands of different classrooms seems a little pointless. It is a leading example of what teachers can do for themselves when faced with the opportunity of leading their own educational research

Children’s Art Week

creative artsWith the SATs over and the Summer holidays on the horizon, this week promises to be a week of fun and creativity with Children’s Art Week. Organised by the National Association for Gallery Education, from the 13th to the 21st June teachers and teaching assistants can get involved by taking children on school trips to local galleries hosting events, or create their own activities.

The week is designed to give children the chance to experience the visual arts for themselves and perhaps even participate, giving them access to much needed arts activities. Last year over 100 activities were held throughout the UK during Children’s Art Week and this year promises to be even bigger.

The importance of the visual arts is showing that children can express their creative selves without being told what is right or wrong. Arts are a way of expression so there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to express yourself. It gives them a chance to stretch their imagination and takes their mind off more literal thinking and problem solving; which can be heavily stressed upon in education today.

Were you thinking of organising something this Children’s Art Week? Perhaps you could follow the lives of a famous artist each day, or have a running artistic ‘theme’ throughout the week. There are so many things you can do to celebrate Children’s Art Week, so get going!

Mud Challenge in aid of Essex Primary School

Both teachers and parents from Lavenham Primary School took part in the 12k challenge, otherwise known as ‘The Gauntlet’ located at Spains Hall Estate in Essex, in order to raise money for their school. The event; which took place in April earlier this year, includes deep mud, obstacles and swimming through water in a gruelling endurance challenge.

racingIt tells a good tale of parents and teacher united together towards a good cause. When it comes to educating their children, parents and teachers don’t always see eye to eye, so to see them competing together for charity is a sight for sore eyes.

‘The Gauntlet’ was hosted by Mucky Races, who strive to produce challenging obstacle courses that tests your strengths and weaknesses while keeping a fun and light-hearted atmosphere.

They host events throughout the country, with a number of upcoming events including the Muddy 5 & 10 in Colchester this July, and Mucky Mayhem in Suffolk in September.

Teachers and parents banded together to raise a total of £1174 for school equipment for Lavenham Primary School, with company Knight Developments promising to match fund the team’s JustGiving original online target of £500. It was certainly a successful day for everyone involved.