Ideas to Maximize Learning in the Classroom When Time is Short

It’s no surprise that high-performing schools are extremely vigilant about how they use their time. We teachers know that there are a million and one distractions and things that interrupt student learning every day. Restroom breaks, people coming and going, students leaving during our lessons for interventions, calls over the intercom from the office during a HUGE lightbulb moment, etc.

Unfortunately for us, these distractions and interruptions are typically things out of our control. But, in the same breath, we all want to be successful. We all want to be a part of those high-performing schools. But how in the world do we fit it all in when both ourselves and our students are pulled in a million and one directions? The simple answer: Make every minute count.

I’m here with some great ideas to help you maximize learning in the classroom.

FREE! Ideas to maximize learning when there isn't enough time in the day! - Young Teacher Love by Kristine Nannini

This year alone, most Michigan schools are going on their tenth snow day. Yikes! While this teacher loves a snow day just as much as the next, that’s ten days of learning gone. Our pacing guides won’t change. The curriculum we have to cover isn’t modified. Even if districts add on days at the end of the year, our testing dates stay the same. At this point, learning time is precious and a scarce resource! Every year when March comes around I hear myself saying, “WAIT! I’m not ready for it to be March!” Can you relate?
After doing a bit of research on maximizing learning in the classroom, there seems to be a common theme. The common theme can be outlined in these three keys to success:
1.) Plan lessons to maximize time on task and student engagement. 

As educators, we know this. We know that we need to tap into all 30+ of our students’ personalities every single day and for every single subject to get them interested and engaged. We know that the sign of a great lesson is when hands are up, heads are nodding, and discussions are not only on task, but deep and meaningful. When lessons like this happen we want to fist pump the air in excitement.

But, there isn’t a one-size fits all approach to planning lessons that are engaging for our students. We have to meet the needs of the individuals in our own classrooms and cater to their needs. Not to mention we have to plan lessons that we are comfortable with and our students are comfortable with.

Heck, if standing on tables and performing a complete song and dance about dividing decimals gets the point of across, then do it. I have.

All jokes aside, here are some quick ideas to help you maximize time on task and increase student engagement:

Maximize Time on Task:
  • Have a strong management plan. Every single movement, direction, transition, etc. must have a plan that all students know. Everything from the supplies students will need for the lesson, organization of materials, where students can find things they need in the classroom, etc. When this is a well-oiled machine, you’re maximizing time for your lesson and student’s time on task.
  • Plan mini-lessons in short meaningful chunks. Quick blasts of instruction allow students to focus on the entire lesson.
Increase Student Engagement:
  • Build strong relationships with your students. Know them as people.
  • Know how your students learn best.
  • Encourage students to build strong relationships with their peers. The number one reason why students aren’t engaged or participate in class is fear. 
  • Create a classroom environment that promotes a culture of learning.
  • Create high expectations of your students so they know that they need to be on top of their game at every possible second.
  • Have fun teaching. Your kids emulate you. When you love it, they will love it too. 
While I would love to expand on this more (and trust me, I could probably write an entire novel), some great books to check out on this topic include: Teach Like a Champion by: Doug Lemov and Teach Like a Pirate by: Dave Burgess. 
A favorite quote from Teach Like a Pirate: 
“We need to be mavericks and renegades who are willing to use unorthodox tactics to spark and kindle the flame of creativity and imagination in the minds of the young.”

2.) Emphasize Attendance
The greatest loss of student learning time results from students arriving late or missing school entirely. Some ideas to increase student attendance include:
  • Make your classroom so much fun that students don’t want to miss.
  • Create as many home to school contacts as possible. Call as often as possible, make home to school visits, invite parents in for anything and everything possible. If parents feel welcome and invited they will do everything in their power to make sure their child comes to school every day. 
  • Reward and recognize strong attendance both school-wide and in your own classroom. A simple bulletin board, or monthly celebration with hand-made certificates means so much to those students! 
Ideas to Maximize Learning in the Classroom- Young Teacher Love by Kristine Nannini Unfortunately, this is a broken pin/image only. If you happen to know the owner, please let me know so I can give proper credit.
Ideas to Maximize Learning in the Classroom- Young Teacher Love by Kristine Nannini Photo courtesy of: My Classroom Ideas 
Ideas to Maximize Learning in the Classroom- Young Teacher Love by Kristine Nannini Unfortunately, this is a broken pin/image only. If you happen to know the owner, please let me know so I can give proper credit.
3.) Minimize Non-Instructional Time
This could be another obvious point. If you’re working on maximizing student engagement and time on task, then your obviously working to minimize non-instructional time, right? And let’s face it, transitions, bathroom breaks, and waiting in line for music class are a must. 
So, instead of offering ideas on how to minimize non-instructional time, I thought I’d put a spin on this and instead give you ideas to make the most out of your non-instructional times! 
The ideas come from your fellow teachers (I asked teachers through my Young Teacher Love Facebook page), and the ideas are amazing! Click here to grab 5 pages of ideas! 
And for the ultimate idea on minimizing non-instructional time, The Restroom Review Bulletin Board! This genius idea was thought up by the fabulous Jodi Southard over at Fun in First!
Jodi gave me permission to use the pictures from her blog because this idea is just too great not to share! Check out her post here!
I’m linking up with some incredible bloggers for the Bright Ideas Blog Hop! 
The purpose of this hop is for our readers to gather as many great ideas as possible to implement in their classroom! 
Head on over to All Things Apple in 2nd to check out Nicole’s fabulous post on Using Technology During Daily 5! 


  1. I loved all of your tips! I have been following you for about a year now, and you always offer WONDERFUL advice! I am new to blogging and hope to offer such wonderful posts, like yourself!

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