Cut the 'Time Wasting' from Your Courses

We live in a world where educators are expected to get better results from students without any additional classroom time. To make sure that your teachers can meet the objectives of the curriculum, it is important to recognize and remove the 'time filling' activities that teachers fall into every day. Here are some of the 'fluff' exercises that can be removed or assigned for homework.

  1. Vocabulary Lists - The vocabulary list activity, in which students are given a list of words that they must then define is great in theory. But the reality is that the time spent on these exercises is rarely worth it. Students will often forget the definition right after they are finished the task. It is much better to spend time teaching vocabulary in context as questions arise. Teaching vocabulary in context is much more likely to lead to a student remembering what it was they learned because they have a memory of why they learned it.
  2. Spelling Tests - Spelling in English is without a doubt a hard task to master which is why spelling is a high priority for some teachers. The reality is that spelling tests are not accurate measures of whether or not a student can reliably spell a word. Doing well on a spelling test is often an act of short term memorization. The best way to teach spelling for the long term is with extensive reading and writing practice.
  3. Using Independent Reading as an In-Class Exercise - It is great to encourage a love of reading in students but using classroom time for independent reading is not an effective use of time. The purpose of the teacher being in a classroom is for guidance and independent reading bypasses the role of the teacher. Instead, it is best to use time in class to do focused practice while giving students incentives to continue with independent reading on their own time.
  4. Taking Up Every Single Homework or Test Question - While teachers should ensure that students have completed the homework correctly, reviewing every question is not a good use of time. Hand out an answer key and have students quickly correct their own work. Then ask if students have questions about any answers. Only spend time on answers that students are confused about.

Adapted from: http://www.edutopia.org/blog/literacy-practices-we-should-abandon-nell-k-duke