Teacher and high schools students working together

Why Pacing Matters for All Students And What Teachers Can Do About it

The secret to organized students is all about pacing.

For seasoned teachers, pacing becomes second nature.  But, for many beginning teachers, pacing is one of the most difficult obstacles to overcome.

Too often, students spend way too much time on one task and not enough time on another.  Then, they’re expected to switch.

Without proper guidance, practice, and implementation, students have a hard time transitioning from one task to another.  This creates distractions and, more often than not, disruptive behaviors.

How can a teacher change the pace of a classroom when it's filled with so many different student needs?

Pacing doesn’t have to come after years of classroom experience.  It’s easier than most teachers think.

Efficient and well-run classrooms have an organizational structure.  Everyone knows and understands classroom routines and procedures.  While it takes some thoughtful planning ahead of time, it has a huge impact on student learning.

Pacing helps everyone in the classroom because it…
Conserves mental and emotional energies
Empowers students to focus on a current task
Creates increased productivity
Designs a positive classroom environment

So, how do you create pacing to positively impact you and your students?

It starts with the end goal in mind.

Think about what you want your students to achieve

Classroom procedures need to make sense for both you and your students.  Set a timer on specific tasks students complete and observe how they use their time.  If something is frustrating you during your teaching day, chances are, there’s a way to establish a routine to combat these feelings.

Each task within the classroom needs to fuel the short-term and long-term goals.

Well-established routines enable students to…
✔ Manage priorities and expectations
✔ Feel confident in the cohesiveness of the classroom
✔ Create a classroom environment of self-sufficiency

Identify student needs to complete this goal

Consider how you will support your diverse learners.  How will you enrich students who need it, and how will you support students who need extra assistance?

Chunking major projects into smaller parts helps students feel more successful and confident in meeting expectations.  Discuss with your students and brainstorm a plan for this.  Students feel more invested in the task if they have a voice in the planning.  Another way to support your students in achieving pacing is through individual conferencing.  This will help you to see how your students are progressing towards the end-goal while supporting them with personalized attention.

A helpful way to achieve individual conferencing is to assign students independent work they can complete without much assistance.  That way, you can block out time to support your students in an organized, efficient way.

Plan out instruction based upon the needs of your students

Most lesson plans include the following:
Warm up
Mini lesson or direct instruction

Identify your student population and their strengths.  Then, determine how each lesson will contribute to your overarching objectives.  Investigate your student’s background knowledge.  This is the best way to determine how to support students effectively and structure your timeline.  You can identify their schema and build upon their knowledge for maximum impact.

Make a plan for how you’ll handle transitions, distractions, and interruptions

You can combat distractions through a planned approach.  Interruptions are bound to happen, along with distractions, so if you have a plan in place, you will easily redirect  students without much mental energy expended.

Educators spend a majority of their day verbally redirecting students, and it takes a toll on anyone.  As much as you can, keep verbal redirections to a minimum.  This will help keep other students on-task.  

One way to minimize disruptions is to circulate around the room during independent application of tasks.  Teacher proximity helps to eliminate disruptions, and it’s a reminder to all students you’re present.

When we plan for these inevitable disruptions, we get better with staying on track.

Designate down time for students

While this may seem counterintuitive, we all need breaks to rejuvenate our productivity.  Create a plan for these breaks during instructional time.  Use our planning tool to help students identify the kind of breaks they want to take after certain activities.

This planning time encourages students to understand how to pace themselves in their own lives.  When teachers invite students to plan their lesson, it gives students a seat at a table where they’ve never been before.  And the fact that you are giving them a plan to take a break shows your students that breaks are equally important to productivity.  It helps them to see the relationship between pacing and task completion.

Pacing is the best way to alleviate classroom distractions and stressors.  While it does take some preparation ahead of time for teachers, it’s a worthwhile investment of time and energy.  When you organize a workflow, you save so much time for everyone and keep the pace of your short-term and long-term goals.   You’ll also likely observe a positive learning community unfolding right before your eyes.  Pacing prevents student and teacher burnout, and it equips students with tools for success.