When I was studying to become a teacher, one thing that impressed me most about my mentors was how these teachers purposefully used bits and pieces of time for effective learning. I am talking about those precious minutes ranging from 5 to 20 minutes that happen “just because.” They may happen daily, weekly, or unexpectedly. I found myself thinking how the value of quality time fillers adds up over a period of time. It became one of my goals to use effectively these precious bits of time during a school day.
Why are bits and pieces of time important?
1. Educators can use bits of time to recall prior knowledge, build on previously learned skills, or apply concepts already learned—all important to retention and memory. Caine and Caine suggested that spatial and rote memory types are enhanced with these opportunities.
2. Many students, especially those with short attention spans, thrive with having short chunks of instruction embedded into a day that primarily consists of longer lessons and tasks.
3. It is an opportunity to focus on target areas that will benefit or enrich students’ learning.
4. Used creatively and efficiently, time fillers effectively enhance the regular curriculum.
Getting the most out of quality time fillers
- Be purposeful: Assess how this mini-block of time will best serve your students.
- Be prepared: Have everything ready so that each student can access what they need in less than a minute.
- Focus on one type of skill or topic: This dedicated time will have an impact.
Some time-filler ideas:
1. Evan-Moor Thinking Skills develops critical, creative, and logical thinking skills in concise, imaginative activities:
- Grades 1–2: “Find the Pet Owners” logical thinking activity
- Grades 3–4: “Combine and Create” creative thinking activity
- Grades 5–6: “Bug Trivia” deductive reasoning activity
2. Evan-Moor “Daily” titles provide review and practice of math, language arts, science, and social studies in 10–15 minute activities. Daily titles include:
- Daily Academic Vocabulary
- Daily Common Core Math Practice
- Daily Geography Practice
- Daily Language Review
- Daily Paragraph Editing
- Daily Reading Comprehension
- Daily Science
- Daily 6-Trait Writing
- Daily Word Problems: Math
4. Music ideas:
- Total Physical Response such as dancing, clapping, singing, and chanting
- Music theory such as learning about rhythms or notes (e.g., clapping rhythms)
What are some ways you have effectively met the needs of your students using teachable moments?
Marti Beeck started her career in education as a parent volunteer in her three children’s classrooms. Her teaching experience, including adult school, intervention, and the primary classroom, was inspired by her background in psychology and interest in brain-based learning. Marti currently works in the field of educational publishing as an editor.