Timing is Everything! – Pacing in the Online Classroom

Pacing in the Online Classroom

It might be a bit cliché say, but timing is everything! This is especially important when you have a large amount of information to teach in a very short time period. Veterans and newbies alike will tell you, timing can be one of the most challenging aspects of teaching online. Especially when many teachers first start teaching in the digital classroom, they will often struggle to fit the class into 25 minutes.

But don’t panic! Read my tips and tricks and, you too, can be a timing master!

Don’t Ever Start Class Early

Even if the student is there, never begin before the timer in the classroom hits zero. Even if the student keeps saying, “Hello? Hello? Hello, teacher?” Don’t start class before you are supposed to. I will sometimes type in the box, “Hello! My name is Teacher Caryn. Welcome to my class. We will start soon!” This helps the student and parents know that, yes the teacher is in the classroom, but class has not started yet.

Once you enter the classroom, the student can see that you are there, but they can’t actually see you until you open your camera. Also, unless you mute your microphone and sound, they can hear everything you are saying! I recommend that you purchase a headset with a mute button. When I enter the classroom, I always mute my microphone so the student can’t hear me as I am getting ready for class to start.

1 Slide/Minute

A good rule of thumb is one slide per minute. I always try to keep an eye on the timer in the classroom as well as the slide number on the bottom of the page. If I’m on slide eleven, then I should be around eleven minutes into class. Most lessons have between twenty-five and twenty-eight slides, but the first two slides and the last two slides are usually filler sliders. As a result, there really are only about twenty-three to twenty-four slides with actual lesson content. This gives you some wiggle room with timing. At the beginning of class, I always take about a minute to chit chat with my student and find out how their day went.

Trying to fit one slide per minute can be challenging especially for higher levels with lots of reading. If there is a ton of reading, many times, I will read a page and then have the student read a page. Or I might highlight only a section for the student to read. They do not have to read everything on all the slides. Focus on:

  • Keywords
  • Phrases
  • Ideas

Secondly, it is okay if the student has not mastered the content of the slide before moving on. I will correct a student about three times and then move onto the next slide. Don’t spend five minutes on one slide trying to get the student to be prefect. The student will see the information again. The VIPKID curriculum is very repetitive, and everything is repeated multiple times.

If I start to see that I am behind the time, I might have a student do two of the four exercises rather than all four. As long as you meet the learning objective, you should be okay. Like I said before, the curriculum is very repetitive, and the student will see this information again.

If the student is very slow and not a confident reader, I will sometimes have them repeat the sentence after me right away, rather than having them try to read it on their own first and then have me correct them. I find that this helps save a little bit of time.

On the other hand, if the student is speeding through the lesson, there are some tricks to slowing them down. One is to have them read everything! 

  • Titles
  • Sentences
  • Keywords

You can also have them start spelling the words in red or other key vocabulary words. They could also make their own sentences. I will sometimes even say a word and have them circle it. The key thing is to make sure the class is at least twenty-five minutes long.

Is It Okay to Skip Slides?

There is some debate about skipping slides. I have heard that it is okay as long as you meet the learning objectives, but I have also heard never to do that, too. For me personally, I only do this in the most direst of circumstances; I firmly believe it’s not something you should do in every class so that you finish on time. When I first started teaching, I found that I might occasionally have to skip one or two slides towards the end of a lesson; now, almost a year in, I rarely (if ever) skip sides.

Timing is Everything skipping slides

Get Out By 28:00!

Most importantly, try not to go beyond twenty-eight minutes. Even if you are in class with a previous student finishing up the lesson, if you don’t make it to your next class on time, you will be marked as a teacher no-show. It can sometimes be really awkward if you have to leave quickly to get to your next class, but you need to do it! Don’t be late! Also, when you start teaching back-to-back classes, that three to five-minute break between classes becomes a sacred time. Take advantage of it to refresh, go to the bathroom, or drink some more coffee before starting your next class. It amazing how much you can accomplish in five minutes.

Recently, the firemen have been asking teachers to say late if there are many IT issues during a class. You are not required to stay past twenty-eight minutes! If you stay late in a class because the fireman asked you to, you can (and will) be marked as a no show to your next class. Don’t feel obligated to be late to your next class just because the fireman asked you to stay past twenty-five minutes. The firemen don’t always follow the guidelines set forth by VIPKID in our contracts. I have had this happen once. I wrote in the chatbox, “Yes, I will stay to 28 minutes per my contract.” The fireman ultimately ended up canceling the class due to student IT issues.

I Finished Class On Time, How Come the Timer is Still Going?

Once the class is finished, the timer in the classroom will continue to count up for about an hour after the class ends. Don’t worry about that. VIPKID will NOT think that you went over the time. When you go back into the classroom to enter your feedback, the timer might still be counting; this is okay and perfectly normally. Also, the finish type for the class won’t change until about noon Beijing time the next day. Don’t worry that the finish type doesn’t say “As Scheduled” the minute class is done. This is completely normal.

My biggest piece of advice is to try not to stress too much about timing and pacing. It takes practice and gets a lot easier with experience. Not to use another cliché, but the old saying is true: Practice makes perfect! Hope you learned a lot about timing in the classroom, you can also check out how to create an awesome online classroom setup (without breaking the bank!)

Happy Teaching! – Teacher Caryn EU

Teacher Nancy’s ESL teaching strategy.