For Teachers

A Teacher’s Time Toolbox: How to Keep Kids On Schedule

Keeping your students on track can be tough – ADHD or not. Learn how a timer, analog clock, and planner can help kids better manage their time, all while helping you feel more organized in the classroom.

Teacher and school kid using digital table in library
Teacher and school kid using digital tablet in library at school

Making good use of the hours and minutes of the day requires planning, prioritizing, and sticking to a schedule. These skills don’t come easily to children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). How can you help your students do a better job of estimating how long it takes to complete a task or to get somewhere? How can you get them to pay attention to due dates?

Here are some helpful strategies to help students manage time more effectively.

Practice time estimation.
Make a game out of predicting, timing, and checking students’ estimates of the time needed for various activities. How long does it take to walk from the classroom to the school office? To complete an assignment? Ask parents to help their child estimate and time various activities at home.

Use an analog clock.
Digital clocks are easier to read, but an old-fashioned clock with hands gives students a better sense of how swiftly time passes.

Set a timer to motivate targeted behaviors.
To help with transitions, for example, tell students they have five minutes to finish their work, and set an alarm to signal when time is up.

Make sure students begin tasks promptly.
Children with ADHD often use delaying tactics – like sharpening a pencil – to put off doing tasks they find boring. Stand next to your dawdlers to get them started. If punctuality is a problem, include it as a goal on a daily report card or as part of a behavioral contract.

Putting It on Paper

A written class schedule provides structure for the school day and breaks time into meaningful chunks. Review it each morning, and refer to it throughout the day, noting the time allotted for each activity. With younger students, let pictures convey the day’s events.

Attach a daily to-do list to each desk, and see that your students get in the habit of crossing off accomplished tasks. Have them add personal reminders – like “bring lunch money to office” or “return library books” – and work together on prioritization. Encourage parents to use checklists to improve time management at home.

Take a few minutes at the end of the subject period or school day to lead students in recording assignments in their planners. Present assignments both verbally and visually, and post them in a designated place in the room. Encourage your students to get in the habit of checking their planners on a regular basis.

Instruct students to enter an assignment on the page showing the date it is due. Make sure it’s done correctly – students with ADHD tend to write things in the wrong place – or assign “study buddies” who can check on each other. (Choose a well-organized partner for a student with ADHD.)

If a student has difficulty copying assignments, provide them on a typed page that she can paste into her planner.

In addition to assignment due dates, make sure that your students are entering tests, class trips, and other events in their planners. Post a monthly calendar in the classroom, as well.

Adapted with permission from sandrarief.com and How To Reach And Teach Children with ADD/ADHD, Second Edition, Copyright 2005 by Sandra F. Rief.

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