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Teaching Time is Valuable – Efficiency in the ESL Classroom

Teaching Time is Valuable – Efficiency in the ESL Classroom
Admin - Sep 02 2016

As an ESL teacher, it is common to feel as if there aren’t enough hours in the school day to get through an entire ESL lesson, let alone guide students through the central concepts and themes of a unit. There is always something unexpected arising to dampen your well-orchestrated ESL lesson plans. We all know the importance of repetitive, engaging activities on the language learning process. It was a concept first illustrated by John Carroll’s 1963 study, through which the researcher demonstrated a significant correlation between learning and time spent actively engaged in the learning process. Over the ensuing decades, further studies have confirmed the importance of time spent on task. As such, this necessitates the efficient use of classroom time to maximize learning potential. Fortunately, there are a plethora of resources and strategies that you could employ to save time and introduce efficient learning within the classroom.



Five minutes here and a five minutes there add up to a sizeable amount of time in the grand scheme of things. This highlights the importance of starting class on time and not unnecessarily forfeiting valuable minutes. Luckily, there are a few ways to ensure time efficiency. It all starts with you, the teacher. Make sure that you are ready to begin at the onset of class; students will follow the example that you set. Keep in mind that your enthusiasm, mindset, and punctuality all have the capability of reverberating throughout the classroom. Furthermore, you could incorporate daily warm up exercises to get the class started. For example, simple questions, notes, or a quick recap on the previous lesson, all work well to get class off on the right track.


This article focuses on warm-up exercises for an ESL classroom that don’t require any preparations:


Daily Housekeeping

We’ve all been there, every teacher has experienced the hassles of completing the dreaded daily administrative routines. Taking attendance, collecting assignments, and reviewing homework all siphon valuable time out of your lesson. However, creating an efficient regimen can minimize the amount of time spent on housekeeping tasks. Assigned seating arrangements would help facilitate the processes of rollcall and assigning/collecting homework. Likewise, a weekly classroom monitor can be designated to expedite the processes of handing out/collecting assignments and textbooks. Moreover, a daily warm up could be employed at the beginning of class, such as, fill in the blank exercises, during which you could quickly take attendance without disrupting learning.


This article contains some useful housekeeping tips:


Prioritize Lessons

This approach focuses on organizing the lesson around the most important concepts and tasks. Having priorities and milestones enables the teacher to keep pace throughout the day, while ensuring central themes are covered. The most crucial factor to keep in mind when using this strategy is impact. Teachers should be able to assess the efficacy of a project and realize when to put it on hold if it isn’t achieving the desired impact. Sometimes cutting your losses early is the best approach to getting back on track and getting the most accomplished.



Transitioning from one activity is another time dissipater. A routine could be utilized effectively here as well to save some time. If you incorporate a lot of switching from notebook to textbook work, have a system in place for smooth transitioning. During the first few lessons perfect this routine and have students practice it. On the other hand, if you are an educator who focuses on classroom discussions where rearrangement of desks is necessary, have students practice moving desks efficiently at the start of the year.


Interruptions and Disruptions

Preventing classroom interruptions is next to impossible, however, the next best thing is to limit them whenever possible. Once again, applying routines is helpful in limiting interruptions. Students requiring to use the restroom can often be distracting to fellow classmates. Have a system in place where students could quietly use a pass to leave the classroom while not disturbing your teaching time. Moreover, tardy students can often provide an unwelcomed interruption upon entering the classroom, use a combination of detention and time penalized on quizzes to forestall the escalation of such behavior. Furthermore, unprepared students seeking to borrow pens and paper can be very distracting, have an organized system to deal with such scenarios to maximize your teaching time.  


Plan for the Unexpected

An often practised motto for teachers is: It is better to plan ahead than be caught unprepared. An unexpected event can derail even the most passionate educator from their goals for the class. Certain unforeseeable events can’t be planned around, such as natural disasters; however, every teacher should be able to plan for her students’ needs. Personal tragedies often have negative consequences on a student’s behavior, and in turn can potentially lead to disruptive students. This scenario could be avoiding by building a rapport with your students; assess their needs, and then fulfill those targeted areas.


Importance of Homework

Repetitive work is best suited as homework assignments. By assigning these tasks to be completed outside the classroom, you free up valuable time to spend on more pressing and impactful activities. The additional time should be used to focus on structured tasks within the class. Furthermore, assigning blocks of questions from textbooks for classwork is unnecessary, inefficient, and frankly, boring for students. Undoubtedly, the best approach is to free up time, and then use that time on engaging activities. Repetition is good for homework to reinforce ideas, while class time is best utilized to build a structured, practical connections between lessons and their applications within society.



Whether inside or outside the classroom, time is a valuable commodity. Treat it as such, and treat it with respect. Cut down on unnecessary time loss by employing systems for various scenarios, such as; bathroom breaks, transitioning between activities, reducing distractions, and efficiently completing daily housekeeping tasks. Turn your classroom into a well-oiled machine with a focus on efficacy and impact. There is an abundance of material to cover and it could be overwhelming at times. Prioritizing structured classroom activities, in conjunction with repetitive worksheets as homework would best serve to bring out your students’ potential. Classrooms are filled with eager students, it is up to us to bring out their inherent talents and that is best achieved by effectively managing the time within the classroom. In the end, their success is worth all the time and effort in the world.

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