Thursday, May 23, 2013

My Time is Your Time

Time.  It always seems to fly by.  Well, not always.  Not when you have a ten year old who doesn't like to work.  Then time stands still.  Actually, sometimes it feels like it creeps backwards.

From taking two hours to pick up the sticks in the front yard to spending an entire day completing fifteen math problems, I've seen my share of slow-moving kids.  As a teacher I've had those students who can sit through my 55 minute class and accomplish absolutely nothing, not even getting their name on the paper.  Sometimes they can spend the entire time digging around in their backpack looking for a pencil to write their name!  It's a crazy problem, but I have found a pretty good solution.  It's called a timer and it's one of my favorite inventions of all time.

Let's consider the fact that there are three girls in my house that shower at night.  We have a limited supply of hot water when that time rolls around.  Amy showers first since she is younger and has an earlier bedtime.  

The problem:  Amy was taking an eternity in the shower and using up all the hot water before anyone else had a chance to shower.

The solution:  Meet my best friend, Mrs. Timer.

The success of the timer is completely dependent on finding a good balance.  You want to give them enough time so they won't have to rush through a task, completing it poorly, but on the other hand, you don't want them to have too much.  Giving too much time will not break the slow-moving habit.  What's a mom or teacher to do?  Ask the kid.

Break down the task into small chunks.  Ask how much time she needs for each one.  If she can't give you a time, use the timer to time her as she pretends her way through each step and then add a little wiggle-room. 

For our shower example we broke it down into the following:

  1. Gathering pajamas and getting into the shower (2 min)
  2. Wetting and shampooing hair (3 min)
  3. Soaping up washcloth and washing self (5 min)
  4. Drying off and dressing (2.5 min)
  5. Brushing teeth (2.5 min)
This gives Amy a total of 15 minutes in the shower each night.  So into the bathroom she goes, timer in hand and out she comes clean and with some hot water to spare for her sisters.

How do I get her to stick to the allotted time?  It's tied to her bedtime.  If you run late, you hit the sack a half-hour earlier.  The system polices itself which, in my opinion, is the mark of a good system.  Basically, it's all her.  She's the one giving herself an earlier bedtime if she moseys through her evening routine.

This timer system has been a help to us with so many things, writing spelling words, nightly reading, cleaning mirrors and changing bed sheets.  Teaching my kids how to manage time is one of my jobs.   The timer days end for each one when she is able to stay on task and get things done without it.  Those days on on the horizon for Amy.  She'll get there in no time at all.

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