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Onscreen timers inject pace

I find that a simple way to inject energy into any activity is to set a time limit. If you type "classroom timer" into your search engine, you'll find plenty of sites offering free downloadable timers that can be projected onto the whiteboard or displayed full screen on any computer in the room.

Say you want to move students into groups. Setting a 30-second limit and playing some suitably frantic music helps cut the casual chat and zombie pace. Things are further improved when the movement itself has a purpose. For example, I might give them the 30 seconds to find someone who can answer a particular question or complete the other half of a sentence.

Timers are also an easy way of energising starter and plenary activities.

Putting a problem on the board at the beginning of the lesson and giving an appropriate amount of time to answer it gives the students a focused start to the lesson. In English, for example, editing a short unpunctuated paragraph becomes more fun when it's a race against the clock. And a plenary, in which pairs talk about or write down whatever they've learnt that lesson, is made sharper when there's a clear deadline.

However, there are times when you wouldn't want to use a countdown.

Projecting a giant red clock and playing Motorhead's The Ace of Spades during a spelling test, for instance, would probably not be helpful.

Generally, though, an onscreen timer is a simple way of using ICT to liven up any number of classroom activities.

Jon Eaton. English teacher, Kingsbridge Community College, Devon

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