Hopefully the following tips are already obvious to most teachers, but sometimes a reminder is helpful. Too often teachers only give chavrusa time to classes with stronger skills. This is a big mistake. All students need the time to use the skills they are learning and not just be taught from the front of the room. Furthermore, real learning is an exploration. All students should be given the tools to explore and learn on their own.
- Use a Timer
This simple idea comes from R’ Chaim Feuerman zt”l. When a timer is on the board it does a number of things to motivate students to use the time productively. First of all, seeing time tick away makes kids realize the time is limited. It puts pressure on the students to begin working immediately. Also, knowing an end time helps students stay focused because they know it won’t last forever.
- Give Less Time than You Think is Necessary
Teachers want students to feel they have enough time to finish a task. Therefore, teachers tend to guestimate that more time is necessary. This is a mistake. When you give kids less time they feel a pressure to work and use the time. When you give them too much time they feel they can waste the first few minutes and they often end up staying distracted and off task.
- Give it for Less Time, More Frequently
Instead of frontal teaching for 30 minutes and chavrusa time for 20 minutes, it is more successful to divide it 10 (chavrusa), 30 (teaching), 10 (chavrusa). Teachers rarely give two separate chavrusa times in one period. Students are more likely to work successfully in two separate intervals than one straight interval.
- Give a Chavrusa Grade (sometimes)
If a particular unit will be more successful with a longer chavrusa time, it can help to give a grade for that period. Announce before chavrusa time that it will be graded, not based on output but on active engagement in the learning. This should be used sparingly, to not make the learning all about receiving a participation grade.
- Give Clear Goals
Instead of telling students to learn lines ___ to lines ___, it helps to give students a goal to accomplish. Give students questions to answer. Some questions can be factual, some should be more analytical which force the students to think and apply the information.