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  Helping Students with Basic Skills








Time Management

by Margaret Prothero

"Do not put off till tomorrow what can be put off till day after tomorrow just as well."
    - Mark Twain


This section is designed to give you various ways and methods of incorporating time management strategies into your courses and help you to assist students with their metacognitive awareness of their time management skills and habits.

Edward Lee out of time to finish assignments

In your classes, how many of your students exhibit any of the following behaviors, and how often do those behaviors occur?
  • come to class late
  • ask to leave class early
  • miss class for reasons other than being ill (appointments, etc.)
  • turn in assignments late
  • do not turn in assignments at all (or during finals week)
  • demonstrate panic before midterms and finals
  • ask for help beginning an assignment due the next class/day/hour (or a week ago)
  • exclaim: "I didn't know it was due today!"
  • mutter: "I don't have my books yet." (said during midterms)
  • come to class unprepared
  • frantically complete homework five minutes before class, or during class

What did you answer?

     How many students: How often:
a. none a. never
b. one b. once per semester
c. a few c. occasionally
d. many, most or all d. constantly

If you answered "c" or "d," most likely, your students have been plagued by many of the symptoms of time management problems.

(If you answered "a" or "b," either this is your first semester teaching or I don't believe you!)

These behaviors suggest evidence of time management problems, probably the most common difficulty faced by college students. Students may not even be aware of how their time management skills directly influence the success or failure of their classes. Or, they may be well aware of their lack of time management skills, yet unable to turn them around.

Girl looking at watchTime Management

Every semester I try various ways to incorporate time management strategies into my courses, depending on the specific problems and needs of the students that semester. Here are a few ideas and ways you can aid your students in building their time management skills.

  1. Course Calendar: It is helpful for the students to see the entire semester on one sheet of paper (two sided). Having the important dates of the semester in your class (midterm and final exams, holidays, major paper and assignment due dates, etc.) clearly laid out allows students to plan ahead with their work. They can use it to work ahead; or if they are absent they can use it to refer to what will be due so that they will not get behind.

If you are not sure of your assignment dates for the whole semester (as it can be difficult to do the first time teaching a course), you can include the ones you do know (the final and holidays, etc.) and have the students write in papers, tests, etc. as you assign them.

Here is a sample of a course calendar.
                                   Finals: May 24-25, 29-31

  1. Calendars and Planners: I have been surprised to discover that not only do many of my students not keep any sort of list, schedule or time planner, but they do not necessarily know how to use them.

    At the beginning of the semester, I make available blank weekly schedules, monthly calendars and semester planners to my students, and I spend a few moments in class modeling how to use them on the overhead projector. While this may sound ridiculous, the students respond positively and gratefully to this demonstration. Usually the difference in students' organization is immediately noticed once they start using them.

    The weekly planner helps students see how much (or how little) free time they have daily. This is a good way for them to analyze whether they are over committed with their time -- a common problem for the hardworking city college student who takes a full class load, works full time, plays a sport, has family responsibilities and wants a social life. Students often do not know that their teachers expect them to spend 1-2 hours of work and review every night for every hour spent in class. Once they see their schedule, it is easier for them to determine if they have allocated enough time for study or to admit that they are indeed over committed and must rethink their schedule in order to have successful semester.

    Here is a sample of a Weekly Planner.

    The semester planner helps students put the most important dates of all their classes in one place. This will help them identify their "killer" weeks so that they can plan ahead for them and not just suddenly realize that they have a midterm, a paper and a project due all the next week.

    Here is a sample of a Monthly Semester Planner.

  2. Analyzing Time/Metacognitive Awareness: Here are four different types of lessons/activities that you might use or modify for your students to teach about analyzing time and being aware of their own thinking and working process.

      1. "Thinking Through Your Workload"
        Ask students to chart how much time they spend during a day and a week on various tasks. Then, the time is added up and subtracted out of total hours possible to determine how much "free time" they have. (Don't be surprised if many of your students' totals are negative number.)

      2. "Real-Time Assignment Log"
        Many students either underestimate how long it will take to complete their assignment and don't finish on time, or they overestimate how long it will take, become overwhelmed and can't seem to begin.
        This activity asks students to make an estimate of how long it will take them to complete a given assignment and note it on their log. The "true" time is also logged as they work, and eventually students discover whether their estimates were high, low, or on target. Hopefully, students will eventually develop a good sense of the time needed to complete their homework properly.

        Here is an example of a Real Time Assignment Log.

        Napoleon doing his Real Time Assignment Log

      3. Class Average of Reading "Rate" (comprehension, not speed)
        My colleague in English Skills, Michele Peterson, shared this technique with me. Although we typically use novels for this exercise, the same concept can be applied to any class text (fiction or non-fiction).
        • Have students read their text for ten minutes (reading at the rate at which they understand the text, and about the same rate they would read at home).
        • Have students count the total number of pages they read.
        • Have students multiply their total by six to get the number of pages they would read in an hour at that rate.
        • Have students write their number (anonymously) on an index card.
        • Make a class average of the number of pages typically read in a hour.

      Not only will this help you to determine the amount of reading to assign your students per class, but it will help students to see that the amount you do assign is remarkably reasonable (considering that you could assign 2 hours of reading per night). Also, every time I do this activity students seem genuinely surprised at how much they can read in one hour.

      1. Test Time Management
        Putting possible point values for questions/sections of your tests helps students know where to spend their time. Or, you may consider giving an estimate of how long you think each section would take for a complete answer.

  3. Online Lesson: For some of my courses, I need to teach a fairly extensive lesson on time management, procrastination, goal setting, schedules and calendars and stress management. For this purpose, I use online lessons and materials I created at http://online.sbcc.net/login/eng70/lectures/framesetpreview.htm

    I can:
      1. teach using the website out loud with my class, using a portable computer cart and projector system.
      2. allow students go through the website individually at their own pace, but altogether as a class in a computer lab, with me there to answer questions.
      3. let students choose to use the website individually, either as needed and recommended by me, or as review of material covered in class.

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