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Lesson 2: Finding Additional Instructional Time

The amount of quality instructional time is one of the most powerful variables in determining student learning. Because special education programs are designed to meet individual needs of students, we often erroneously interpret this to mean that we should lower expectations for students with disabilities. In fact, if students with learning disabilities are to improve their skills they often must learn at a rate which exceeds that of other students. It is important that the teacher and the paraeducator convey to the student the importance of learning, and create a learning environment in which students use time effectively. Students quickly adopt the attitudes of the teacher and paraeducator. Low expectations from teachers and paraeducators quickly become low expectations for students. It helps to remember that:

Because students with learning difficulties need to maximize quality learning time, teachers often need to prioritize the skills that students need and adjust schedules accordingly. Paraeducators in the classroom are important because they contribute to flexibility in schedules and types of activities. For example, students who need extra practice on math problems can spend quality practice time with the paraeducator, while students who need additional practice on reading skills can work with the teacher. Paraeducators may also increase the amount of instructional time in the classroom by assisting in organizing the classroom and maintaining the flow of activities. In fact, much of the paraeducator's job function in special education programs is to improve the amount and quality of instructional time for students. This lesson will help you find ways to model and demonstrate that classroom time is a valued commodity and that student attention and performance is expected.

Using Time Effectively

The amount of learning time can be increased in two ways. First, the teacher and the paraeducator can look for ways to find additional time for instructional activities. Second, they may look for ways to increase the impact of the learning activities themselves. Strategies which increase student's attention, provide instruction at the appropriate pace and level, decrease the number of errors students make, and actively involve students in the learning process increase the impact of learning activities. This document provides suggestions for ways to find additional instructional time. In Lesson 3: Working in Small Groups, ways to make existing instructional time more effective will be discussed.

Establishing and Maintaining Classroom Schedules

Teachers and paraeducators often spend time analyzing the schedule of daily activities. Teachers need to assign time to meet the individual instructional needs of students. They must prioritize and find additional time for areas where time for dealing with deficiencies or targeted skills is needed. The schedule must be developed so that it is flexible enough to provide the right amount of time for students who work quickly and also for those who require additional time to finish activities.

Adhering to classroom schedules is not always easy. Students, administrators, visitors, and other interruptions always seem to compete with instructional time. The teacher and paraeducator should make a particular effort to maintain the schedule and provide allocated time for instructional activities which reflect the planned priorities.

Particular care must be taken to maintain allotted time for high priority areas. Core academics skills such as reading (this may vary depending on the classroom and the student) can be scheduled earlier in the day when student's attention is greater and when interruptions and delays are less likely to use up time. Teachers often schedule activities which require effort from students after activities which they prefer in order to increase the likelihood that students will participate in those activities.

Minimize Non-Instructional Time

Activities such as announcements, lunch count, attendance, permission slips, and cleaning up after activities can easily compete with instructional time. The teacher and the paraeducator should spend time developing a plan for handling these noninstructional activities.

The paraeducator may be a particularly valuable asset to the teacher in this area.

Eliminate Wasted Time

The paraeducator can help by assisting in:

Use Organized Lessons

The use of complete lesson plans to set up and deliver instructional lessons has several advantages.

For more information of tutoring and lesson plans visit Unit 4: Developing Instructional Skills.

Manage Materials Effectively

The handling and distribution of materials in the classroom can take a significant amount of time. The following are suggestions for establishing strategies for making the distribution of materials more efficient:

Monitor How Instructional Time Is Used

Work with the teacher to find ways to monitor how well you are using instructional time.

Ideas for Monitoring the Use of Classroom Time:

Recognize and Reward Students for Using Time Well

It is important to identify students who are using time wisely and provide recognition and rewards. The emphasis should not be on catching students who are "goofing off" but rather on students who are working. It is especially important to praise students more frequently when new procedures, routines or activities are being learned.