5 Ways to Use a Timer in Your Classroom

Timers can be a very valuable tool to use for your special education classroom.  Let’s talk about five ways that you can use a timer in your classroom to benefit your students.

1. Teaching Students to Wait
Waiting can be such a challenging skill for some students.  Many of our students can have a short attention span and have a very difficult time waiting for something, whether it is for their turn with a particular item, going to the next (usually preferred) activity, and so many other instances.  Using a timer can gradually increase a child’s wait-time.  A visual timer is important for this because they can visually see how much time is left.  I use different timers based upon the needs of my students.  I’m including Amazon affiliate links for your convenience.  Here’s a few of the ones I use:
Visual timer with red “count down” timing.
Sand timers in a variety of minute options.

Digital timers.
2. Transitioning
Many students need a time warning of an upcoming transition.  Transitioning from one activity to another is something that students often need advanced notice about.  A visual timer is a VERY helpful way to help our students transition.  If you give your students also need a transition piece or something to hold during transition time, the sand timer is perfect because they can visually see when the sand has run out on the timer and it is time to transition to the next activity.  Then they can carry it with them to the next activity.  More about transition pieces and ways to use them in an upcoming post.
3. Data Collection
Timers are GREAT for data collection, which is an essential part of our jobs! You can use a timer to collect SO much data!  If you have a student with a goal of increasing time on a particular task (see #5) or decreasing time on a particular task or a student with a Positive Behavior Plan who has a time reduction target behavior, timers are a great tool to use.  Even if a student does not have a goal in a particular area written on the student’s IEP, but you see a need to increase or decrease time in a particular area, a timer would still be beneficial.
4. Breaks
Our students need breaks! You can check out my post specifically about breaks and using break cards to help here.  While taking breaks, it is important to use a timer to set a specific amount of time allotted for taking a break. This helps keep the breaks as short breaks that are targeting what they are intended for, a short period of time to re-group and re-focus for the remaining task or upcoming tasks.  Breaks may mean a quick stop to utilize a brain break for a few short minutes, it may also mean a quick time with a figit tool at the student’s work area, or it may even mean a time to use the cool-down area.  A post specifically about Cool Down areas is coming soon.
5. Increasing Time on Task
The fifth way I want to share with you is to use a timer to help students increase time on task.  Again, whether it is an IEP goal yet or not, sometimes students need help increasing their productive time on task.  You can use a timer for this.  With some students, you may even want to include them with the use of the timer.  For example, Student A typically has 3 minutes of time on task and you want to help Student A increase to 5 minutes on task.  By placing a timer with Student A in the area that the student is working, you can use a visual timer to show the student exactly how long they have been working and how much time is remaining until they finish working.  With other students you may just want to take note of the time they are working and how much they are able to increase.  However, I will say that utilizing a timer and engaging your student by including him or her in the action of increasing his or her time, will help improve the time on task more efficiently.
I hope you find these tips for 5 ways to use a timer in your classroom helpful! Do you have another way that you use a timer? Let me know by sending me an email or a message on social media.

Leave a Reply