Using a Tomato to Help Students Stay on Task


In modern classrooms where work is often competing with mobile devices, popup notifications and all sorts of digital distractions, it can be very difficult for students to concentrate and stay on task. Whether your students are looking for techniques to help them study, or you are interested in an innovative and fun way to manage class time, this Tomato inspired productivity trick can really do wonders. Coined ‘The Pomodoro Technique‘ (after the tomato-shaped kitchen timer) this method uses a timer to schedule work into 25 minute, concentrated, distraction-free blocks followed by regular 5 minute breaks. Sounds simple right…

A Quick Look

The Pomodoro Technique

In Practice

1. Can’t beat the real thing

One of the biggest advantages of the Pomodoro technique is how cheap and easy it is to put in place. While the original Pomodoro Kitchen Timer does make a colorful addition to the classroom, it is by no means a necessity. Try using any old kitchen timer, stopwatch or just the default clock app on your phone. While there are many purpose built digital alternatives (mentioned below) the creator of the technique believe there is value in this low-tech approach, where the physical act of winding up the timer confirms the user’s determination to start the task.

2. Apps on the vine

There are a great selection of different apps available to help you and your students start getting productive with the Pomodoro technique. They do vary greatly in price, quality and features, but some of the most popular are Pomodoro Timer (iOS), Focus Time (iOS) and ClearFocus: Pomodoro Timer (Android). My personal favorite is Flat Tomato (iOS) for its modern design and reasonable pricing. There are even some pretty nifty watch apps for those so inclined.

3. Strict Workflow Chrome Plugin

This is the tool that I use day-to-day and the one I would recommend students set up and install. The Strict Workflow Chrome Plugin adds a tiny little tomato timer to menu bar of your Chrome browser. Not only does the plugin help track effort, it also will prevents access to certain ‘distracting’ sites during work time. This site list can be customized of course, but it does come prefilled with some of the usual suspects (looking at you Facebook).

4. Try it yourself

The first step to becoming productive with Pomodoro is to give it a go yourself. This does not mean during class time or with students, try setting a Pomodoro timer for some of your own personal work. See how the technique works for you. Focus on sticking to each 25 minute block and make sure to keep all distractions away during this period… And no cheating!

5. Try it as a class

Once you are comfortable with the technique yourself, it’s time to try it out with your class. Once again I suggest starting slowly, so rather than each student setting their own timers, set one timer for the whole class and put it a place that it can bee seen by everyone. This could be a timer on the front desk, a stopwatch projected on the board or an iPad perched at the front of the class.

Links and Next Steps

Feature image adapted from image courtesy of Flickr, Nina Matthews Photography.

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