The worst art teacher feeling in the world is looking at the clock while your students are painting and realizing that they leave in 3 minutes! I have tried multiple alarm solutions to avoid that stomach-sinking feeling. For a year, I had alarms set on my phone. It was better than nothing, but sometimes the alarm wasn’t loud enough. And it was a pain to dig around in my purse every class period. This year I decided to find an alarm program that I could install on my computer. (My school uses Windows operating systems.) The best program by far was Free Alarm Clock.
Right now, I have 16 alarms set on my computer. It is easy to set up the alarms. It took about 5 minutes to create alarms for the whole day. You can choose different sounds for each alarm. I have one sound for clean-up and a different sound for leaving. My students have gotten to the point where they instinctively start cleaning up once they hear the alarm! It’s also easy to edit the alarms. When I’m starting a messier project that requires more clean-up time, I can quickly change the alarm in between classes. My absolute favorite thing about this program is that if I have my computer on mute, it will still sound the alarm.
I use a countdown timer once clean-up time has started so students know how much time they have left. (Any minutes that they save go towards their Centers Day on Friday.) I wanted a simple, bold timer for my computer so that kids could easily see how much time they could save. I really like this Minimalistic Countdown Timer.
The timer automatically goes to full screen, which is nice when I want my students to be aware of how much time they have left. But if I need to do something on my computer, I can minimize it, and it still runs in the background. I have found that periodically announcing how much time they have left helps my students to hold each other accountable and encourage one another to finish cleaning up.
It is crazy easy to set, start, pause, and re-set the timer. There is a 3 second countdown to start using the timer in the free version, but I haven’t found that it keeps me from doing what I need to do. (Honestly, it’s nice to have an excuse to stand still for 3 seconds!) If you can buy the full version, that lag time goes away and you get other features.
The screen that displays when your time is up makes it very clear that the timer has stopped. However, I usually stop the countdown timer when the kids are done cleaning so that it doesn’t interfere with our circle time.
Both the alarms and the countdown timer have made my classroom run so much smoother. It opens up so much of my brain space, not having to constantly check the clock to figure out when we need to start cleaning up. The timer has reinforced the idea of saving minutes for Centers Day. Giving my students clear information about how much time they have to clean puts them in control of saving as many minutes as possible for stations on Friday.