How to Maximize Instructional Time in the Classroom

Maximize instructional time in the classroom with these clever strategies. Then, when you get up in front of your students, you’ll be teaching more than just your current lesson. First, make it interdisciplinary. Second, review and preview. Finally, train yourself to teach vocabulary as you go.

Wondering how to maximize instructional time in the classroom? Use these mindful approaches to weave in lots of learning.

Ms. Sneed Teaches How to Maximize Instructional Time in the Classroom

Once again, our favorite fourth grade teacher, Ms. Sneed, sat at the side table with her student teacher, Mr. Grow. “Now that we’ve finished our lesson plans,” she said, “let’s get back to this week’s topic: the teaching struggle. We’ve discussed my mantra – ‘lift, don’t push‘ – as well as student-centered teaching. Today we’ll discuss how to maximize instructional time in the classroom.”

Mr. Grow nodded. He loved lesson planning, but these pedagogical talks really improved his craft.

Teach More Than Just Your Lesson

Ms. Sneed launched into the topic of the day. “When I made the switch from lecturing to coaching, I spent less time in front of my students. Therefore, I needed to make every moment count. In my daily teaching reflections – which you already know I do every morning – I now considered how to maximize instructional time in my classroom.”

Ms. Sneed picked up a pen and listed her thoughts as she spoke.

“A great teacher,” she said, “teaches more than just the lesson. He or she:

  • links new concepts to prior knowledge and experiences,
  • reviews related concepts and skills,
  • previews upcoming or more sophisticated material, and
  • fosters incidental vocabulary.”

Maximize Instructional Time with Interdisciplinary Lessons

“To link subjects and connect with kids’ background knowledge, we do double duty lesson planning. You know, interdisciplinary teaching. It offers so many more opportunities for learning. When we weave two subject areas together, we get more bang for our buck. Think about today’s science lesson,” she said. “The bird beak lab required kids to graph. Science with a little math sprinkled in.”

“And our adaptations project hits both ELA and science standards,” Mr. Grow added.

“Exactly. So remember, interdisciplinary teaching packs a real punch. It lets you plan ahead to maximize instructional time.”

Wondering how to maximize instructional time in the classroom? Plan interdisciplinary units. They allow you to teach more than one subject at a time.
Are you feeling “pinspired”? Feel free to pin images from this post.


Ms. Sneed circled the second point on her list. “Review,” she said, “is another great way to maximize instructional time. Therefore, it should not occur just before a test. Kids need to hear things over and over to really grasp them.”

“I heard about the rule of seven,” Mr. Grow remarked. “Do you really think kids need to hear things seven times to remember them?”

“Hmm. I really don’t know. However, I do know that when I’m talking, not everyone is fully listening. I also know that kids connect in different ways. Therefore, phrasing it differently or providing different examples helps more kids get it. Anyway, as you teach, weave in review. Keep circling back. It makes a huge difference in kids’ achievement.”

Purposefully review as you teach. Circle back to recent - and not-so-recent - concepts. That will make it stick.


Now Ms. Sneed circled the third item on the list. “Preview,” she said, “lets kids anticipate what’s coming next. Furthermore, it lets me make connections between what I’m teaching now – and what I’ll be teaching later.”

“Sort of like movie previews?” Mr. Grow asked.

Ms. Sneed nodded. “Yes. But also think about that ladder. You know the one. The ladder kids climb as they scaffold to difficult concepts. Obviously, we want them to see each step, understand each step. But we also want them to focus on where they’re going – and how the steps are all a part of the ladder.”

“Whoa, I never thought about it that way.”

Ms. Sneed smiled. “Purposeful. A teacher’s thinking and talking have the power to purposefully take kids where they want them to be.”

Mr. Grow pointed to the list. “You know, my professors talked about these things. But this discussion helps me understand their importance. I just hope I can learn to tie it all in.”

“Unfortunately, even the best teacher misses opportunities. But constantly thinking about how to maximize instructional time in the classroom helps. Every single time you hit one, your teaching improves. Just work at it. Now, let’s talk about the last item on the list.”

Maximize Instructional Time with Incidental Vocabulary

“Oh yeah,” said Mr. Grow. “We’ve discussed incidental vocabulary before. I’m trying to use more fourth grade vocabulary when I teach.”

“I’ve noticed!” his mentor replied. “When you talk just a little above their heads – using new terms and explaining it along the way – kids’ vocabularies and understanding grow without any worksheets or workbooks.”

Mr. Grow laughed. “As a student, I really appreciate learning without worksheets.”

Ms. Sneed smiled. ” I can’t emphasize the importance of thoughtful teacher talk enough. Sure, it helps you maximize instructional time. But there’s more. When you purposely weave in vocabulary like this, you become a master of your craft.”

Ms. Sneed Recaps How to Maximize Instructional Time in the Classroom

Now the mentor tapped on the list. “Let’s review this. Remember, a master teacher (1) links new concepts to prior knowledge and experiences, (2) reviews related concepts and skills, (3) previews upcoming or more sophisticated material, and (4) fosters incidental vocabulary. To maximize instructional time, these things are not planned as individual lessons. Instead, they’re woven into the fabric of teaching.”

Mr. Grow sat back in his chair and sighed. Then he nodded slightly. “I get it. In the future, I need to be mindful about ways to bring more to each lesson. And when I do, I’ll enjoy teaching even more.”

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