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The Two Minute Timeout

[Editor’s note: John Powers is an English teacher and Chapter Leader at Liberation High School in Brooklyn, NY.]

Unlike the two-minute timeout in football or the seventh inning stretch in baseball where the players and fans get a chance to relax for a moment, run to the bathroom or stretch one’s legs, the last two minutes of a class lesson can be a time of restlessness and vexation for teachers and students, especially if the lesson is being observed by an administrator. We teachers know that even with the best planning, organization and instruction, our lessons may end a minute or two early and thus invite criticism of the need to teach “bell to bell.” To make matters worse, students will sometimes begin packing up and making their way to the door; their last class before lunch or the end of the day will sometimes exacerbate these actions. What is to be done?

What follows is a short list of strategies I have used successfully and have shared with colleagues over the years.

  1. Position yourself near the door as you end your lesson to send a “silent” signal that walking toward the door is unacceptable.
  2. Ask the class to write down one thought about the day’s lesson. They can use these sentence starters: Today’s lesson taught me that…One thing that confused me about today’s lesson is…One thing I really liked about today’s lesson is…One thing I would like to know more about today’s lesson is…I can relate to today’s lesson because…etc. Some of these responses can be shared aloud depending on the exact amount of time left in class. Or you can ask students to switch papers and do a “Think-Pair-Share.” These responses can be used as “exit slips” when students leave class.
  3. Go around the class quickly and ask students to share verbally any of the aforementioned ideas (no writing). Students who do not want to share their thoughts can say “pass.”
  4. Use the last few minutes of class for journaling purposes. You can ask students to respond to specific “summary/synthesis” questions. Their responses can be shared for critical dialogues the following day at the beginning of class and or collected and used by the teacher to gauge students’ learning and class progress. Students can then design and create a booklet of their journal entries to be handed in as a final class project. [For more on creating “summary/synthesis” questions, refer to Bloom’s Taxonomy.]
  5. In lieu of journals, students can be given the option of using comic book templates where they can draw and write down their responses. These, too, can be used to create a booklet of responses.
  6. Divide the class in half and ask trivia questions based on the day’s lesson.
  7. Students can complete a “geometric cloze” exercise. Ask them to select either a circle, a triangle or an arrow and then draw it in their notebook and do the following:
    1. Circle: explain how the day’s lesson helped to complete something you already knew and helped you to gain greater perspective on a particular fact, idea or concept.
    2. Triangle: explain how the day’s lesson shifted your thinking and created an entirely new angle, perspective or insight about a fact, idea or concept.
    3. Arrow: explain how the day’s lesson made you aware of a fact, idea or concept and what steps you must now take given what you have learned.

Please feel free to add to and or critique this list by commenting below.



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    · Feb 23, 2009 at 6:48 pm

    […] A Brooklyn high school teacher shares his classroom management techniques. […]

  • 2 roeboat38
    · Feb 24, 2009 at 4:53 pm


    I really enjoyed your two minute timeout strategies. Although I always plant myself at the door towards the end of the period, your suggestions help the students to get more out of the day’s lesson, as well as impress an administrator who may “happen” to be around at the period’s end!


    Rosalie Reeves