by Becky L. Spivey, M.Ed.
Teachers often hear, “My child… never finishes his/
her homework before bedtime… lives in the moment... puts
things off until the last minute… is always late getting ready
for school… never gets to practice on time... completes one
assignment and doesn’t finish any others. Why?” There may be
several reasons. Some students are able to come home, finish
homework, complete school projects, or practice piano lessons,
and pack their book bags for the next school day – unassisted.
Then, there are others, especially those who have weaknesses
in processing or executive functioning skills, whose lack of
time-management skills affects their success both in and out
Children spend as many as seven hours a day at school and some as many as four
more hours in after-school care and/or participating in after-school activities. Once
arriving at home for the evening, there may be projects and homework to complete,
more lessons to practice, etc. Should teachers teach time-management skills? Yes! Even
if some students manage their time well, teachers should incorporate, directly and
indirectly, simple time management strategies in the daily curriculum. Then, parents
should help their children follow through with those strategies at home.
Classroom Time Management Ideas
In the classroom, teachers can incorporate time management skills by:
- Beginning and ending class periods/instruction on time. Structure class periods
in short increments: 1-2 minutes for materials prep, 15 minutes for instruction,
15 minutes for follow-up activities, etc. Students will learn to follow a routine
at home once they get “a feel” for the amount of time it takes to complete
- Using a timer or clock as a visual for students (and teachers), and sticking by
the time designated for tasks. Teachers must take into consideration the work
habits and needs of all students when allotting time. Have other tasks ready for
those that finish before time is up. Ask parents to provide a visual timer/clock for
homework assignments as well.
- Having students predict time needed to complete certain tasks. Record predictions
and compare to the actual time spent. Students will see that their predictions may
be longer or shorter than they needed and will learn to adjust their time on similar
assignments. If students are “wasting” time daydreaming, etc., seeing that others
are working diligently may help them stay focused and complete tasks in a timely manner.
- Having students use an assignment book or
planner that presents each week at a glance.
Subject blocks should have room and lines to write
assignments or short notes for each class period.
Many schools provide planners or “agendas” to
students (in grades 3-5) to help them learn time
management and organization. Teachers should
model and monitor daily use of the planner/agenda and coordinate assignments
with other teachers (in upper grades) as to not overwhelm students with
homework or test prep. Companies producing planners/agendas provide large
poster size representations to post in front of the classroom so teachers may model
writing assignments correctly and jot down reminders of other important dates.
- Reviewing the planner/agenda, helping students prioritize time within each
subject. For example, study math facts for five minutes before completing the
problems; read your chapter book for 10 minutes, etc.
- Insisting students “check off” completed assignments and reset the timer for the
- Assigning projects in stages. For example, have Vocabulary due on Monday,
Introduction on Tuesday, Drawings on Thursday, etc.
- Using the planner/agenda to keep open communication with parents. For
students struggling with time management, sign your initials on planners/agendas
at the end of the day to confirm assignments have been written correctly and add
comments or suggestions. Have parents review and initial the planner/agenda
upon assignment completion. Homework is the student’s responsibility; however,
parents are instrumental in monitoring the student’s time management at home.