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Time without pressure

There's 60 minutes in a hour lesson, or was that 45? Sue Cowley recommends your own time and motion study in class.

Timing lessons is a tricky skill to master, with plenty of margin for error required. Children are contrary creatures - if you assume they need 10 minutes for a task, it's guaranteed they'll complete it in two.

Some lessons are a sprint through several activities; others a slog through a single task. Many new teachers try to fit in too much, with an unseemly dash to include it all. With experience you get a "feel" for what can be covered in the available time.

Be realistic about how much lesson time you have. Knock off five minutes to get everyone settled, a bit more for admin, some for a plenary and setting homework.

Before you know it, an hour's lesson has dwindled to a paltry 45 minutes. And that's assuming you don't have to wait for the pupils to be quiet.

Worst is when the bell goes while you're trying to squeeze in one last activity. Do your pupils wait meekly or does the entire class scarper? That's a good measure of your classroom management skills.

And the best advice? Buy an accurate watch with a large face. Be aware of the time, and of how quickly it can run out.

- Sue Cowley is an author, trainer and presenter. Her latest book is Getting the Buggers into Drama (Continuum). For more information, visit

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