The Pros and Cons of Classroom Timers
My older son went to elementary school K-4th grade, and every year there was some crazy trauma, for lack of a better word. For instance in kindergarten, three hours after I had personally put him on the bus, the school called to say he wasn't there - like at school, at all.
So, you can see what I mean by trauma.
Next, in first grade he was introduced to timed math tests. During one of the tests he had such anxiety that he broke out into a petechial rash. Basically he was so frustrated that he was blowing up inside, but physically trying to contain it on the outside.
When I discovered the rash that evening I had him have the school nurse look at it the next day. She told us to call the doctor immediately.
If you've ever seen the movie "My Sister's Keeper" the purple rash is a sign of Leukemia. Again trauma. In our case it was a sign that timed tests were out of the question for our six year old.
He was not alone.
According to Edweek.org, research shows that timed tests are the direct cause of the early onset of math anxiety.
Educators have pointed out drawbacks to classroom timers such as:
- Undue stress and pressure
- A distraction: students are looking at the timer and not on their assignment
- A negative attitude toward subjects and curriculum that is timed
Positive Uses for Classroom Timers
- Help transition to different tasks (more on that below)
- Helps students understand concrete deadlines
- Stay focused on task because a limit has been applied
- Students have a visual to help understand task duration
- Timers encourage project or assignment completion
- Provide needed breaks for prevention of nearsightedness
Classroom Management Techniques Using Timers
Task Transition: Often with young students or special needs students, transitioning to a different task can be difficult. They get engrossed in what they’re doing and to change to a different task is a major disruption.
By giving them a heads up to say in 5 minutes we will be moving on to another subject, for instance, then setting the timer gives them a concrete period of transition. Just like us adults like to hit snooze to get those nine more minutes of sleep in the morning.
This is also a great way to manage classroom schedules within a time period. When students know quiet reading is going to be 10 minutes followed by 15 minutes of circle time, they can mentally plan for transitions and not wonder if a task will go on and on.
With an actual timer, the teacher is then not the arbitrary enforcer of time. Students do not feel they are at the mercy of a teacher’s “desire” to move from task to task. Time frames are strategically calculated a head of time and adhered to.
Deadlines are a part of life: Completing tasks is the cornerstone of success and therefore deadlines are an absolute necessity. By setting a limit on the amount of time given to a certain task, students are motivated to focus.
Extra-curricular activities are often regarded as a help to personal time management because they limit the amount of time students have to spend on homework. By initiating time discipline in the classroom, students can train themselves to stay on task.
This is definitely a case where teachers need to be able to judge what is right for their students, because as stated in the list on cons, timing tasks can back-fire and cause anxiety and apathy toward lessons and assignments.
Managing Eye Health: The reason I purchased two manual kitchen timers for my sons in middle school is because their eye doctor told me they should not be reading or using an iPad for longer than 20 minutes without taking a break. The first thing my older son said was, “we use the computer at school without taking a break.”
With the intensity of classroom learning these days, breaks are a luxury, I know. Here the thing though, Myopia is booming among school-age children. Myopia, also know as nearsightedness effects half of all young adults in the United States and as much as 90% of Asians.
Ever wonder why the “smart owl” wears glasses?
Research reported that bookwork is the cause of astronomical increase in children needing glasses.
Set the timer for 20 minutes. Eyes and minds need a break – even as short as 20 seconds to focus on something in the distance.
Manual vs. Online Countdown Timers
Like I stated above, I purchased manual timers for my kids because they have that out of sight, out of mind mentality. I wanted something that they could grab, twist and set.
In the classroom teachers have reasons for using one or the other.
Things to consider when choosing a classroom timer:
- Manual timers are easier for children who don’t understand time or numbers. These students can see the visual countdown of the dial moving counter clockwise.
- Teachers often use timer apps on their personal phones, which is a terrible idea because students should not have the temptation to access a teacher’s personal electronic device. If using an online timer app, only use it on a school issued computer or tablet.
- If you use a classroom iPad or computer as a digital timer, that shouldn’t be used for other work-related tasks because the timer app could be accidentally closed or reset.
- Students can take turns setting a manual egg timer, which is a fun opportunity for students to feel in charge of time setting.
Pampered Teacher is proud to be featuring manual timers in an upcoming subscription box! We feel that there are many positive opportunities for classroom management and healthy time management.