Using PowerPoint 'Timer' Movies to Manage
Time in Presentations and Classroom Instruction
Time management is important during workshops. Presenters often have a great
deal of material to cover and little time to waste. Using count-up and count-down timers inserted into PowerPoint
presentations can energize your audience and keep both you and them attentive and time-conscious.
Teachers can also use timers during classroom instruction to help students to maintain attention and ultimately
to become better ‘time-managers’.
Wright: I regularly use the
timer movies featured here in my PowerPoint presentations.
People often approach me during workshop breaks to ask how the timers
work and where they can access them. Well, the timers run as movies
in PowerPoint, are absolutely free, and can be downloaded from this
page. You will find some of my ideas below for using the timers
in presentations and classroom instruction. Hey, if you have other
creative ideas for using these timers, I would appreciate hearing
from you at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks!
Available! : This article has been
translated into the Serbo-Croatian
language by Anja Skrba from
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This article has been
translated into the Estonian
language by Karolin Lohmus. Aitäh, Karolin!
download these movies and save to your computer, right-click and
choose 'Save Target As...': If you encounter a delay in downloading
any of these movies, you may want to try again during a less busy
time of day.
NOTE: All movies are in Windows Media Video (.wmv)
This page contains downloadable movies
that you can import into PowerPoint presentations to use as count-up or count-down timers. (The animated image
in the upper left corner of this page gives an idea of how these timer movies will appear in PowerPoint.)
If you have questions about how to load movies into PowerPoint, try these informational links:
Also, check out the ideas below for using these free timer movies for presentations
and classroom instruction!
Using Timers in PowerPoint Presentations
[view pdf version]
Timers can be used in PowerPoint presentations to:
- Get People Back in Their Seats Promptly
After Breaks. Presenters who give their audiences a short break can have difficulty pulling the group back together
again! Display a PowerPoint slide with the 10- or 15-minute count-down timer at the start of the break to help
participants to gauge how much break time they have left and ensure that they return to the presentation room in
a timely fashion.
- Keep Participants Focused During Table Activities.
Presenters who direct their audience to take part in table activities will find that using a timer helps participants
to stay focused on the task. For brief table discussions, use the 2- or 5-minute timer. For more extended activities,
use the 10- or 15-minute timer.
- Build Audience Motivation Through 'Lightening' Discussions. Workshop participants often need a variety of activities to hold their interest, particularly
during longer presentations. Pacing is everything! Consider posing interesting questions for table discussions.
Using a short (1- or 2-minute) count-down timer, present the question to the group, direct tables to begin their
discussions, and start the timer. When the time period is over, call randomly on audience members to share the
high points of their discussion.
- Encourage Fun Competition. Energize
your audience by giving them a fun competitive table activity. Use a count-up timer. As each table completes its
task, have them write the elapsed time (the number of minutes displayed on the count-up timer at the moment that
the table finishes the activity). Consider giving small prizes to tables with the speediest performance.
Using PowerPoint Timers to Improve Student Behavior and Learning
[view pdf version]
When inserted into PowerPoint presentations, count-up and count-down timers can encourage punctuality, positive
student behavior, and active academic engagement. You can use these timers in the classroom to:
- Get Students to Class on Time. Start
the 5-minute count-down timer as students are passing between classes. Students who are in their seats ready with
necessary work materials when the timer expires earn bonus points toward their grade or some other incentive.
- Speed Up Classroom Transitions. Start
to 1-minute timer as student's transition (e.g., from one learning activity to another, to line up at the door,
etc.). Praise students who transition successfully within the time limit.
- Encourage Active Student Engagement in Large Groups.
Pose a question to the class and direct each student to think of a possible answer. Start the 1-minute countdown
timer. After the minute is up, call randomly on a student.
- Help Students to Monitor Their Work Time.
When students are working in cooperative groups or independently, start the 5-, 10-, or 15-minute PowerPoint timer.
Inform students that at the end of the timed period, you will collect student assignments, check in with spokespersons
from each group, or otherwise monitor work completed. Be sure that the timer is visible to all students in the
- Increase Student Work Fluency. Give
students worksheets or short assignments containing academic skills in which you would like to see them build fluency.
Start a count-up timer of the appropriate length for the assignment (e.g., 5- or 10-minute count-up timer). Tell
students to work as quickly as possible on their 'speed' assignment. When finished, each student should note at
the top of the worksheet the time it took him or her to completed the task. (The student's work time will equal
the number of minutes displayed on the count-up timer when the assignment is finished.) Students can be motivated
even more by graphing their own fluency data across multiple days, including percent of items that they got correct
and time required to complete each assignment.
- Boost Student Motivation by Posting Time Remaining in the Lesson. Students who are bored or restless are generally not motivated to work very hard. For
'hard-to-teach' classes, announce that if you see that the class makes their best effort to engage in learning
for a fixed period of time, they can then engage in a more fun, preferred activity. Then start a timer (e.g., 15-minute
count-down timer) and begin the instructional lesson. Students will be motivated to engage academically both because
they want to earn the desired activity for good performance and because they can see via the timer that the lesson
will last only a finite (and manageable) amount of time.
- Provide Specific Time for Student Planning in Assignments. Students do much better on complex tasks such as writing assignments when they take time
first to create a work plan. Use a count-down timer of 10 to 15 minutes. Tell students that they will be allocated
time to create a plan for how they will complete their assignment. Start the timer and direct students to begin
working on their 'work plan' (alone, in pairs, or in groups) while you circulate the room offering assistance and
providing feedback to students on their plans.
- Improve Classroom Behaviors by Deducting 'Time Owed' for Misbehavior. Tell your class that if problem behaviors in the room escalate to the point at which
they interfere with learning, the class will 'owe' you for any lost instructional time. Whenever classroom behaviors
get out of hand, start the 15-minute count-up timer and wait quietly until students get their behaviors back under
control. Then stop the timer and note on a chart the number of elapsed minutes and seconds that instruction was
interrupted. Repeat this sequence as often as needed during the lesson. At the end of the class period or school
day, add up the total amount of time lost through student misbehavior. Inform students that they must 'pay' this
time back (e.g., through loss of recess time, having to stay after class, being assigned additional homework to
make up for lost class time, etc.).