Less is More (Making the Most of Your Classtime)

30 to 40 minutes! That’s the average attention span of a teenager, according to a study published by Cross River Therapy. However, 80 minutes is the length of a class at Carrollwood Day School (CDS). The effectiveness of the current school system has been in debate for a long time, yet nothing has changed. Students are forced to sit in classrooms for extended periods of time to learn about nothing that will help them in the real world, but the topics taught in school are not what I’m here to talk about today. Let’s focus on productivity and time spent in the classroom at CDS.

CDS has crazy long classes. Instead of being helpful, there is a point where extending class lecture time has a diminishing return. It is scientifically proven that students cannot focus well after 45 minutes, yet we have 80-minute classes. The average 80-minute class at CDS sets students up for failure. It starts off with the teacher frying students’ brains for 60 or 70 minutes with a lecture or discussion. Then, we move to 10 to 20 minutes of classwork, but we’re still not done. The teacher sends home at least another 30 minutes of schoolwork.

Too much information crammed in at once leaves a lot of students feeling lost and confused. This brings me back to class time. After the 45-minute lecture, the teacher paces the classroom while students work. There’s always a ton of questions for the more complicated subjects.

“Sometimes I have to wait five minutes to get my questions answered when the lesson is difficult and everyone is trying to ask a question,” claims a CDS student. Now students accomplish next to nothing because they sit there waiting with their hands up for five minutes every time they have a question. This results in the students spending an hour trying to understand homework that could be done in 30 minutes or less.

A better layout that all teachers can use would look like this: 30 to 45-minute lesson, 10-minute break, 20 to 35 minutes of classwork. Now let’s break it down. This equation is a reasonable amount of time for the lesson because it works with the student’s attention span. It also gives the teacher enough time to teach one lesson instead of numerous ones all crammed together. An added bonus would be to have five minutes of silence at the start of class to allow the students and the teacher to clear their minds so that they can focus better on the lesson. It’s extremely difficult to focus when you’re worried about your soccer game later or your sick dog at home. These few minutes would let everyone settle down and get in the right “head space.”

When this plan was explained to this same CDS student she said, “I agree, it is logical, reasonable, and backed by research.” 20 to 35 minutes of classwork is a great opportunity to give students the chance to see how much they actually learned during the lesson. They can ask questions while the teacher is still there. This will eliminate the struggle of taking it home to figure it out themselves. 20 to 35 minutes is a perfect amount of time to see how much they have or haven’t learned. There’s no need for homework.

Every person learns differently. Some kids learn different subjects faster than others. So, instead of having to do a lot of work from classes that they already understand, they could just choose what work they want to do. If a kid is stronger in subjects like English or History, there’s no point in wasting their time when they already know how to do the work. They could better spend this time reviewing their classwork from more difficult classes like Math and Physics.
Ultimately, the less information students have to absorb, the more they will stay focused and engaged. They will also retain more of the lesson and be less exhausted. Regardless of your aptitude, we all have short attention spans which impact our memory, critical thinking, creativity and attitude. Sometimes, less is more, and that’s the case when it comes to classroom time.