Time management during STEM activities is an enormous problem for teachers! We never can seem to get enough time to do all the things we want (plus all the things we don’t want, but admin makes us do). 😵💫
We’ll cover teacher time management tips this week and a few more ideas to save time during STEM challenge activities in my next post, linked at the end of this post.
Table of Contents
Time Management Tip 1: Slow Down & Do Less
Sounds like a far-fetched dream, I know. It can be VERY hard to trust that by slowing down and doing less, we counter-intuitively accomplish more. When we cram in as much as we can in an attempt to be uber-efficient, what are the students actually retaining? When we let lessons breathe a little, it gives the brain time to reflect & process. An important thing to remember is that it doesn’t matter how much you “cover”. It matters how much is retained.
Time Management Tip 2: Prioritize
If you won’t “cover” everything, you have to be even more thoughtful about your priorities. What do your kids need most? What will be the biggest bang for your instructional time buck? Think of both content standards, but also soft skills like the 4 C’s of engineering, perseverance & comfort with productive failure. When you plan with your priorities in mind, it’s easier to let all the extraneous stuff go and you’ll have more time for what matters most.
Time Management Tip 3: Fix your biggest time drain
Time problems are overwhelming. Don’t try to fix them all at once. What’s your biggest time issue right now? Distributing materials? Clean-up? Start with one thing and if it makes sense, involve students in helping you solve the problem. Ask for their suggestions. Implement an idea & practice it. Improve it. This not only mirrors the EDP, it may increase student buy-in to work on saving time & involves them in solving a classroom community problem. Once you’ve solved one time drain, rinse & repeat with others.
Time Management Tip 4: Self-Contained Teachers, “Steal” Time from ELA
It has long been a popular model to use the problem in just about any picture book as a springboard to a STEM Challenge. Another way to connect ELA with STEM is by working on oral communication standards when students present their designs & during whole-class discussion. I also enjoy tying in writing about the designs, the building process, or creating fictional works where the designs play a key role.
Don’t limit yourself to using only your science minutes for STEM! Integrating other subjects allows you to “steal” minutes from other areas.
Time Management Tip 5: Make the Most of Math Connections
Math is typically the other subject that has the most dedicated minutes, and obviously, it’s the M in STEM. When possible, work math review into your criteria & constraints lists (design must use at least two 3D solids or design can’t contain more than 5 right angles).
You can also work in a LOT of math after a challenge. Have students identify patterns, shapes, angles, etc. of their designs and others’. Have students create graphs based on the designs. Have students measure various attributes. Have them calculate surface area, volume, etc. The more math you can tie in, the more you can justify borrowing some minutes from math for your STEM activities.
Time Management Tip 6: Integrate More Subjects
If you’ve followed me for awhile, you might have noticed I sometimes tie in physical activities with my STEM Challenges, like relay races. I have found the physical element creates even more buy-in for students, and I taught at a school for many years where we had no PE, art, or music teachers. So as often as I could, I’d combine “specials” with content area so I could have an activity doing at least double-duty. Look for connections in everything you’re tasked with teaching — and even if you’re a single-subject STEM teacher, more connections = more opportunities for depth and to get students engaged!
I hope you got something in there that helps. Next week, be sure to check out ways to help save more time during STEM challenge activities! (Posts on Oct. 15)