Ready, set, go! A timer is a classroom management tool you want in your playbook. Which timers are the best? And how do you use a classroom timer? We’ve got the answers!
What Is a Classroom Timer?
A classroom timer is, most simply, a timer you use in the classroom. It can be an actual physical timer (that you wind up or set digitally) or an online timer or app.
Why You Should Use a Classroom Timer
Timers may make you think of deadlines and trigger your anxiety, but this is not how a classroom timer functions. It is a classroom management tool that can be a fun component of the day. You can use a classroom timer in several ways.
Chunks of Focus
If you want your students to focus on a task, you will get more buy-in if you signal how long you need that focus. No teacher wants to sound like a parrot repeating, “Focus, focus!” throughout the day. Eventually, your students will just tune out your chiding. Instead, ask for focus in chunks of time. “We are going to work on this math worksheet for 5 minutes. I’m setting the timer. I want your absolute focus on this worksheet during that time, and then we’ll take a brain break.”
Brain breaks aren’t just fun; they’re necessary! Taking breaks to move around, be silly, and relax focus gives the brain a chance to recover from hard work. That will help your students to do their best throughout the day. In order to keep brain breaks as short intervals, set a timer!
Keeping Kids Relaxed
I know it sounds strange. How can timers help kids relax? The truth is that children feel most relaxed when there is a plan. By using timers throughout the day, you keep the routine predictable. That helps kids settle in because they know what to expect.
Maintaining the Flow
We’ve all been there. You plan an activity that you think will take 20 minutes and, the next thing you know, 40 minutes have gone by. By using a timer to keep track of activity length or to signal when to change activity stations, you keep the flow of your day sure and steady.
Keeping Track of the Time
Clocks count up; timers count down. If you give your students a timed quiz, it is much easier for them to keep track of their progress if they can easily see the time remaining. It also helps them to budget their time better.
Online Classroom Timers
Online classroom timers are easy to come by and generally free. There are a bunch available on YouTube, but unless you have YouTube Red, you’ll have to wade through ads. YouTube timers are for pre-set times (since they are videos), so they are generally for common time intervals of 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 15 minutes, etc. Most YouTube timers have music in the background, which may or may not be something you want.
Fun Classroom Timers
A physical timer is easy to use (and not WIFI-dependent).
This magnetic classroom timer has a colored band to show how much time is remaining. It’s 7.5 inches square, which means you can see it from a distance.
This light-up timer signals to young children who can’t yet till time: “Keep Going,” “Nearly There,” and “Stop.”
Mechanical Pig Timer
This traditional windup timer has the head of a pig (it’s actually cute!).
Free Classroom Timers
These timer apps and websites are free to use (as long as you put up with pesky ads).
Visual Countdown Timer App
If you use your phone or iPad in the classroom, this app will work as a fun and free timer. Visual Countdown Timer has various pictures you can uncover as the timer counts down.
Online Stopwatch Site
The site Online Stopwatch has a bunch of classroom timers, from basic to hilarious. I love the swimming timer and the snail race timer.
Toy Theater Site
Sometimes you want a simple online timer with only a few variations. Enter the Toy Theater timer. You set the time, pick the shape and color of the timer (there are 8 choices), and press start. It’s nothing fancy, but it’s free and it works.
Timers count down while stopwatches count up. If you have need for a stopwatch in your classroom, here are some options.
This physical digital timer is large enough to see from the back of the class, and it counts down (as a timer) or up (as a stopwatch). You can set the time from a remote control. Although it is designed for a gym (it’s magnetic), it works equally well in the classroom.
Tiny Stopwatch Timer
This small, handheld timer is perfect for small group work or a calm-down corner. It counts both up and down.
This online stopwatch is super basic but it does the job!
How to Use a Timer in the Classroom
A classroom timer has a multitude of benefits from keeping kids relaxed to maintaining the flow of the day. By choosing one of these timer options, you can implement some classroom management strategies that will have your school day running smoothly.