Never Get Distracted While Teaching Again: Introducing The Parking Lot

Hi, Teachers.

Have you ever had a student who really wanted to share a personal story while you're teaching a mini-lesson? 
Have you ever had a student ask a great question that doesn't connect to what you're teaching at the moment? 
Have you ever had a student who had a problem while you were working with another student?
Have you ever had a student want to talk to you when you had to get something done?

If not, you can leave this blog right now since you are clearly Mrs. Super Teacher. If you do experience this (like me and... umm... EVERY other teacher in the world) I have a GREAT solution for you. It's...... a PARKING LOT!

Do you see how happy these teachers are? THIS COULD BE YOU! When students ask questions or have stories to share but you just can't get to them right at that moment, have them jot a word or phrase (one that will help them remember their issue) on a post-it and stick it to the parking lot. I separate my parking lot into two categories. One is the "emergency parking" section, which means that the student CANNOT complete his/her work without having his/her question answered and that they need your help right away. The other section is for non-emergencies.

Save Teaching Time with A Word On Third's "Parking Lot" Strategy

It's really important that you discuss and model this with them when you introduce it.
 They need to know...

  • what qualifies as an emergency. 
  • how long to wait if you don't see that they are on emergency parking
  • to write their name on their post-it so you can get back to them
  • that you will get back to them ASAP. 
  • that asking you to help them over and over again when you have told them to put their thought on the parking lot will not work.
If you choose to use this method, you need to commit to answering students questions at appropriate times and in a timely manner. However, this will save you SO. MUCH. TIME. So much time it's ridiculous! And wonderful!! Here's my one rule with the parking lot... Are you ready? It's really important. It can never be broken if you want this to work.


This is so important! If a child wants to ask you a question and you say, "parking lot," or whatever agreed upon phrase you will use (another popular one is "Burning Questions"), the student must not ask you again. You must not cave when you hear, "But, Miss X, it's just that..." The only things that you can do for this system to work is to repeat yourself by saying "parking lot" or just ignore further attempts to get your attention.

I like to teach my students how to interrupt, however, if there is a serious emergency. If someone is physically hurt, students can interrupt me and say "Miss Savage, there's an emergency. Someone's hurt!" That is THE ONLY way I will listen to them at that moment. If they say that and there is no true emergency, I simply tell them to put their idea on the parking lot. I do a lot of practicing this throughout the year, but it is a huge time saver. I am able to get quality teaching moments in uninterrupted. 

Do you use a parking lot or burning questions board? How do you help your students to be more self-directed when solving problems? How do you squeeze in extra teaching time? Comment below!

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