Using timers in lessons

1 hour? 50 minutes? 30 minutes? Whatever the length of your lessons, you will probably want to divide them up into several shorter sections or tasks. Making your pupils aware of the timing of your lessons can encourage them to work with more purpose and focus than when they’re not sure how long they have. The other advantage of sharing timings is that it can help to keep track of the time when you are focused on the lesson and helping pupils.

Timing can rely on a normal clock on the wall, or on your watch, but in order to make everyone on the room most aware, a countdown timer is very useful. Using a timer in lessons is nothing new and a physical timer can be effective, but if you have a projector in your classroom then a software based timer may be the best option.

There are a number of different timer programs available on the internet. Some are very simple and do nothing more than count down from a set time, while others have loads of bells and whistles like multiple timers and reminders.

The six timers I am going to highlight are all simple to use and are ideal for the classroom. They all have the basic function of counting down from any time between a few seconds to several hours, but they each look different and work slightly differently. Some are more complex and need to be installed on your computer. Others are flash based and will run without being installed. They are simpler, but do have the advantage that they can be run full screen.

Cool Timer

Cool timer is a straight forward timer, but it does need to be installed on your computer. It includes the option to save preset times for quick access. The timer can be viewed as a large or small window and the colour scheme can be modified easily.

The timer will play a sound (some included or use your own) and / or scroll a message on the screen when the set time has elapsed. Cool timer can also be used as a stopwatch and can be set to stay on top of other windows.

Download Cool timer (zip file – 2.4Mb)

Compact timer

Compact timer is, as the name suggests as small on screen timer. It needs to be installed on your computer, but because of this can be set to run from when the computer starts. It also has the option to save preset timers and can be used as a stopwatch as well as a countdown timer. Compact timer can be set to stay on top of other windows and you can set the opacity in 25% steps. The timer will play a sound (or a sound file) when the time is up.

Download Compact timer (Zip file – 198Kb)

Ant 4 pizza timer

The interestingly named Ant 4 pizza timer was, you guessed it, designed to time pizza cooking, but it is a small discrete timer with the option to save multiple presets (or profiles). The program needs to be installed and once it is the settings are very simple. It will play a sound when time us up, but you don’t get a choice of sound.

Once you start the timer it displays a small movable countdown which stays above other windows. You can increase or decrease the time by 30 seconds at a time, but you can’t pause the time.

Download Ant 4 pizza timer (Zip file – 544Kb)

Interactive whiteboard clock

The interactive whiteboard clock is a simple small clock that runs without being installed. It includes three modes; clock, countdown and countup (stopwatch). The countdown time can be set in increments of 30 seconds and up to several hours and a small beep will sound when the time elapses. The clock will stay above other windows and the titlebar and buttons can be hidden by right clocking on the numbers.

Download Interactive whiteboard clock (Zip file – 122Kb)

Clockdb

Clockdb is a simple clock written in flash, but running as a .exe file that doesn’t need installing. This timer will show the remaining time in both digital and analogue forms simultaneously. Being flash based it is possible to change the size of the clock by dragging the window bigger, or show it full screen by selecting ‘view, fullscreen’.

Download Clockdb (Zip file – 832Kb)

Egg time 2

Egg time 2 is another flash based countdown timer and is the only on here that doesn’t run as a .exe file and therefore may work on computers with restrictions on running programs. After setting the time (in seconds) you want to count down from it will show an egg timer and / or a digital readout of time remaining along with other data such as time elapsed and percentage time remaining. Like Clockdb the size can be changed and it can be shown full screen.

Download Egg time 2 (Zip file – 422Kb)

I hope there is a timer there that suits the way you want to work. All six of the timers above are free to use. There is another timer that I would recommend called simply ‘Countdown clock’ from contactplus.com. That timer costs $19.99 (about £10), but does have a 30 day trial, and the website is down at the time of writing. That clock is very flexible, It can change size and the toolbar, buttons and even the background can be hidden. If you do try Countdown clock, go for the old version (3.3) as it is more flexible than the new one which is designed to work closely with PowerPoint.