As teachers, we know we can’t spend all of our time lecturing students and then have them complete all their work at home. Having work or study periods is just part of the job.
We’ve all been in classes where “work periods” is just slang for “hanging out” or literally doing anything expect for work. Obviously, none of us want to be that teacher. And I know you wouldn’t be scrolling the internet reading blog posts about the topic if you were that teacher! You’re obviously a super nerdy, always trying to do better teacher, like me!
Giving students time in class to complete work is an important part of their education. Not only do they have lives outside of school that can make it difficult to complete work, they need to learn how to manage their time and work with distractions.
Here are some tips for ensuring both you and your students are getting the most out of the work/study periods you’re giving them.
Make it fun
Make sure that your students look forward to study and work periods by making it fun. Don’t do this by letting them do whatever they want, that’s not why they should be looking forward to this time!
Instead, try to do things like allowing them to listen to their music, setting the room up like a cafe and serving “coffee” and muffins, allowing them to work how and where they prefer, providing supplies like flashcards, and so on.
Also helpful is ensuring you’re not giving your kids too many study/work periods. If they know you give them a ton of time, or if you provide them with more when they’re not finished tasks, they won’t value the time they do have and use it effectively.
If you treat these days like “treats” for your students, they’ll value and look forward to them and make sure they use their time properly.
Set time limits
If you’re providing students with a large chunk of time or a few different classes to complete an assignment, try breaking that time up into chunks. Our students are still developing their time management skills and may not know how long they should spend on certain things.
For example, let students know that they should be done planning in about twenty minutes, then move onto research for the rest of the period, and so on.
Not only does this help keep your students on track, kids who are behind can come and ask for support, recognizing that they may just not be getting it. Alternatively, you can check in on the kids who aren’t meeting deadlines, since some may be hesitatant to seek support themselves.
Provide specific tasks
Unless you have a group of very high achievers who are independent and self-directed, it’s always a good idea to provide students with tasks to complete during work and study periods.
If you’ve assigned a task or project, it’s likely students already know what to do. However, if you’ve given a study period, you may want to provide students with things such as a study guide or examples of ways they may want to study.
Some students may want to teach what they know to others, review their notes, quiz peers, or complete practice tests. If you give them something tangible to do, or some various options, it will keep hem more on task.
Some work periods need structure as well. When I taught sixth grade, we had a standing “work period” once a week or so in which students completed tasks they hadn’t finished during the rest of the week. During these periods, I would provide each student with a checklist for things they still had to finish. Students who were complete could work on an extra task to boost their grade, or support other students.
I’ve written about different ways to use checklists in class before, if you’re interested, check it out here.
check-in with Students
Always make sure you’re checking in with your students during work and study periods. Whether you do this formally or informally, it’s a must. Students don’t always feel comfortable leaving their workspace to approach the teacher, so it’s up to us to ensure everyone is engaged, on-task, and feeling confident about their progress.
Walk around and check with students to see if they have a handle on what they’re working on. This will give them more of an opportunity to chat with you without caling attention to themselves.
You can also set up “meetings” with students and give each one a scheduled time. This way, no one is singled out and you’ll have the opportunity to chat with each student about their personal progress. I like doing this because you can also work with the students who are “ahead” and push them in ways they don’t always have the opportunity to do when focus tends to be on the “lower” students.
do something productive
If your students are all working and on-task, don’t waste your own time! Do something productive as well.
I like to do things like grade essays while kids are working on something I’m more hands-off with. This way, I can pull them up with any questions I have for them or feedback. It’s often much easier to address these things face-to-face rather than writing it all out.
Another bonus, I find that, for some reason, the kids seem to work better while they know I’m grading their work. I have no idea why this is, but it works!
allow various work spaces
Just like students all learn and work differently, they all have different preferences for where they like to work.
Allow your students to choose a place in the classroom or school which will best allow them to work to their full potential. Some may opt to stay in their own desk, but a lot may spread out and take spots at tables, on the floor, on bean bag chairs, and so on.
My rule is that, as long as you’re working effectively and not distracting anyone, you can choose where and how to work. If available, I’ll let students work out in the hall, in the library, or in an empty classroom (as long as I’m close enough to check-in).
Giving your students these options gives them more control over their learning, shows them that you trust them, and makes study and work periods more enjoyable and effective.
allow various groupings
Don’t be afriad to let students work in groups. If you’re afraid of noise, just make sure you’re strict with your rules!
Some students may work most effectively independently, while others need a partner, or a small group. Don’t make the mistake of assuming all students work the same way; allow them to make theirown choices and they’ll begin to recognize how they work best and choose this.
The biggest rule I have when students work with others is that they have to be quiet enough that those working independently aren’t distracted, and they (obviously) have to be on task. I give no warnings, which the kids know, so as soon as they break one of these rules, I move them. This ensures kids make the choice that’s best for them right off the bat and get right to work.
model effective work/study habits
Finally, students often aren’t taught how to work or study effectively. Before you start offering them work and study periods, talk about, and even practice if need be, how to work and study.
At the beginning of the year, I like to give kids quizzes about how they prefer to learn and work. I really emphasize throughout the year learning what tools and strategies work best for them so that they can take these with these as they progress each year.
Early in the year, before tests or quizzes, we will often practice different ways to study. I will give them one or two different strategies to try (such as teaching to someone else, writing their own questions, writing visual notes, re-reading texts, quizzing one another, and so on).
By the time the end of the year comes along, the students have practiced many different ways to study and to work. This way, when we have work periods, they know immediately what strategy will work best for them. Bonus, this is a life skill, so I definitely don’t feel like it’s “wasted time” or takes away from curriculum. In fact, it hits many of the Health curriculum outcomes!
I’ve written about how to teach kids school and study skills before, so if you want to check out that post, click here.
Well, what do you think? Are these tips effective for study and work periods? Have you done any of these with your own kids? Or, do you have any more hepful tips? Let me know if the comments below!
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