The importance of flow in teaching


Recently, one of our Early Years Teachers – Jenna – said schools like ours are going through a bit of an “identity crisis”. She’s right.

One way we’re going though an identity crisis is in our use of time.

We all know that learning is most powerful when we allow it to flow, when we design learning that has momentum and then honour it by letting it continue. Instinctively, we can all sense when our students need more time and when stopping them is an interruption that they may not recover from.

But, what do we do every day of their lives in school? We stop them. We interrupt them. We create brief, fragmented bits of teaching for them. Its the stop-and-start, come-and-go, here-and-there, bits-and-bobs model of education. Its our special way of abusing time!

Fortunately, I am not alone in this way of thinking. A group of our teachers recently went to Learning2 in Manila and came back determined to undo the damage that had been done to their timetables… here are some ways we can all do this:

  • Only have the bare minimum locked in to your timetables. In most schools, this just means specialist lessons that have specialist teachers.
  • Plan one or two days in advance only. Allow the events of each day to inform what happens the next day.
  • Have a paper version of your timetable, A3 is best, that you can write on. This way, you can “go with the flow” as well as indicate where and when you have done the essentials, such as stand-alone maths.
  • Help your students understand the importance of momentum and flow in their learning and get them to tell you when they need more time or when they don’t.
  • Get to know your curriculum like the back of your hand so that you and your students can make connections with it as learning evolves.

Your timetable is often the main thing that is holding genuine, deep learning back.

Change it!


  1. Stephanie

    This is something I really struggle with teaching in an international school. If I had something going on in the classroom that needed extra time, I could let it spread out simply because I was the only teacher in a class bar two ‘specialist’ slots. I do wonder if even specialist teaching ‘blocks’ is a mould that needs to be broken.

    Why do kids get an hour or two of art/PE/music etc. a week no matter what. Why do units which lend themselves more readily to the arts not get extra time? Of course that would involve organising our schools around the learning rather than the learning around school…


  2. jforsythe08

    Hey Sam,

    I’d also suggest having one day a week where teachers, if they are up for it, are totally off time table (i.e- no specialists that day). I had this set up my last year in Phuket. This allowed my class to leave campus every Thursday to do our learning elsewhere, usually in a national park on the beach. There is a well known TED called hackschooling, however we all can’t hack schooling like the speaker did, however we can hack our timetable.


  3. sherrattsam

    Yes… in my Disrupt Strand group at Learning2, a pitch was made for a 4+1 timetable. This is a really simple way to open things up and create more time.

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  5. Mark Holmes

    I would like a genius day, a day where students can work on whatever it is they are interested in for the whole day, without disruption. I would be the guide, the shaper, trying to give their studies a bit of structure and organisation.

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