One of the greatest challenges for novice and seasoned teachers is the pacing of lessons. Instructional pacing is defined as the amount of time that is spent on each segment of a lesson and the rate at which the content is delivered. Most teacher preparation programs focus on methods courses, theory, and various pedagogical approaches. However, very little time is spent on providing the skills necessary to ensure the proper pacing of a lesson. Lesson pacing may seem very minute. However, inappropriate pacing may prevent students from mastering important learning targets and objectives. Lessons should be meticulously paced so that students are never disengaged or left without something meaningful to do. According to research, student achievement is higher in classes where teachers maximize their instructional time (Taylor et. al., 1999 and Walberg, 1984). The following strategies can be used to appropriately pace lessons:
- Systems and routines should be in place. Establish procedures such as entering the class, beginning/completing the do now assignment, asking questions, distributing materials, cueing students to bring them back from whole group or small group activities, etc. These routines should be taught and practiced during the first few weeks of school. Students should be self-managed and minimal prompting should be required from the teacher
- Plan, prepare, and practice all lessons (3 P’s). Effective planning is crucial to ensuring that lessons are properly paced. Prepare all instructional materials in advance. This maximizes valuable instructional time and students are never idle while waiting on the teacher. Any scaffolds should be preplanned as student misunderstandings are anticipated. Practicing lessons ahead of time either independently or with a colleague can prove to be very beneficial because this is an opportunity to work out the kinks before delivering lessons in front of students.
- Check for understanding frequently throughout the lesson to assess mastery. If students seem to be mastering the learning targets quickly, lessons can be taught at a faster pace. If students are not mastering the learning targets, the teacher should consider slowing the lesson down and including specific scaffolds. A few check for understanding strategies include dry erase boards, fist-to-five, no opt out, entrance ticket, exit ticket, cold call, etc. http://www.theteachertoolkit.com/index.php/tool/category/C7 https://www.engageny.org/sites/default/files/resource/attachments/checking-for-understanding-techniques.pdf
- Transitions should be smooth. Transitioning from one activity to another should be seamless. Ineffective transitions can interrupt the flow of the lesson which can take away from valuable instruction time.
- Use a timer to monitor time during each segment of the lesson. https://products.lakeshorelearning.com/learning/Classroom-Timers
- Use a visible online clock that will help students stay focused. This helps students to become competent self-managers. http://www.online-stopwatch.com/bomb-countdown/
- Present instructions visually using a PowerPoint or Prezi presentation. Instructions should be clear and concise. Unclear instructions can possibly create chaos and disrupt the learning environment.
- Provide an early finisher assignment. This affords students the opportunity to engage in meaningful activities that extend and refine the learning. This will keep students from disrupting other students who may still be working on the initial task.
- Make goals clear. Communicate learning targets/objectives for the day both verbally and written (white board protocol).
- Determine the time parameters for the instructional activity. Using a white board protocol, post the agenda so students will know what the expectations are for the day.
A quality education depends on having sufficient time for teaching and learning to take place. In order to deliver quality lessons and maximize student learning, planning and executing coherently structured lessons at an appropriate pace are paramount. Properly managing instructional time can only lead to student academic success.