Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Using a three-minute-pause to break things up

I rarely walk into a classroom anymore where a teacher starts a video at the beginning and lets it just run all period.  Those days are long gone, thanks to United Streaming and YouTube where we can pull a seven minute clip rather than a forty-five minute documentary.  Last year I blogged about studying for tests, and I mentioned that I usually consider a minute per grade level the maximum a student can do the same thing before zoning out.  So for the average eighth grader, we're looking at about eight minutes of note taking, video gazing, worksheet doing, or even group discussion before they get sidetracked and lose focus.

Enter: the three minute pause.

I love this strategy because it is a quick and easy way for a student to regain focus and for the teacher to gauge what is happening inside the student's head.  Here's how it works.

  • Decide ahead of time if you want students to discuss while pausing or work independently.  I tend to lean toward discussion if the lesson has been a sit-and-get with note taking or independent if the students have been actively involved in discussion or activity.  
  • Also decide ahead of time how you want your students to be held accountable for the pause.  Should they write out their answers on a page?  On a large piece of poster paper?  Sticky notes?  Record it?  
  • After eight minutes of a video or note-taking, find a logical stopping point and pause.
  • Ask students to summarize key points so far, make connections and react to what they've learned, and ask questions or predict what they will learn next.
  • Resume the activity.
  • At the end of the activity, take a few minutes to have a group discussion about how the Three-Minute-Pause worked for them as learners, and get a feel for who seemed to benefit more than others.
And that, my friends, is it.  So go ahead.  Use it, and use it often.  Watch that forty-five minute video.  Make those kiddos take notes for the period.  But pause, pause, pause.  Don't forget who you have sitting in front you, and understand that they're all going to need to get refocused - even if you are shoveling the information in by means of the correct learning style.  

1 comment:

  1. Thank you, Heather. I love this approach! I easily can see how effective it would be. I advocate and practice inter-active teaching and learning and this is a very simple and easily memorable way to keep learning alive. Thank you!