You could spend an endless amount of time reading up on special education teaching strategies and resources. But what if one creative tool could give your special education class a boost? And help you provide a more individual experience for each student? A Time Timer visual timer—or three—might be just what you need.
“When you have a big population of students who are special ed, it’s hard to give every kid the accommodation they need,” says Rachael Colaw a special education teacher in the Cincinnati area. “Time Timer can help one kid out for one reason and another kid for another reason.” She shared how visual timers supported her teaching methods for a middle school class she co-taught last year. The class included both general ed kids and kids with Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) who might struggle in one or two areas.
Helping Kids Focus (5 Minutes at a Time)
For kids who struggle with attention, focus or transitions, Colaw breaks out her Timer Timer PLUS 5 Minute to help them stay on track. She’ll set the timer on a child’s desk and ask for five minutes of really great work. “They can see the time going down,” she says. “Five minutes to them feels like a lot more than five minutes to us. The timer allows them to see time and think, ‘Oh, only a minute has gone by. Or, wow, four minutes have already gone by.’”
The timer’s colorful disappearing disk helps kids who need something more than “wait a minute” or “just look at the clock.” In fact, Colaw’s students come to her desk when they’re struggling to focus and ask for the five-minute timer. It helps that there’s a volume switch on the back, so you can turn the sound down. Then only the student using the timer hears it go off, and this helps reduce any embarrassment some students might feel about needing an extra tool.
Some students may find basics like sitting at their desks a challenge, and a Time Timer can give one-on-one help in these situations, too. “I had one student who would do her free writing as quickly as possible then was up and moving,” Colaw says. “The timer helped her know when she could get out of her seat.” If the student got up too soon, Colaw would point to the timer and say, “How much time is left?” This kept the conversation around expectations short and well-defined, so the student could go right back to writing.
Keeping Group Activities on Schedule
Time Timer visual timers aren’t just for flying solo. They can be a great special education resource for group activities, too. When she works with small pull-out groups, Colaw often grabs her Time Timer MOD + Dry Erase Board. She’ll use the board to write out the group’s goals and activities. Then she’ll set the one-hour timer for the total length the group will work together. “Students really enjoy knowing what to expect and how long they’ll be with me,” Colaw says.
Sometimes she’ll even list out how long each activity will last—say 5 or 10 minutes—on the board so the group can keep track together. Or even set multiple timers that will go off when each section of the group activity is over. “I don’t like to pull students out of the classroom too often,” Colaw says. “The timer helps me keep track of minutes passing and get students back into gen ed as soon as possible.”
Another great use case: workshop-style teaching that accommodates different work levels. She might have one small group, her co-teacher another small group and a third small group of students might be working independently. “A timer was really nice to keep all of us on track,” Colaw says. “If our group working independently had a couple steps, a timer could help them through that process.”
As Colaw told us, you can’t spend time with every kid in your class every minute of the day. But a timer just might help keep you and your special ed class moving forward together.