Ever wonder what would be the best way to end your school day? Built-in free time is one of my favorite times of the day… seriously! I refer to it as ketchup, mustard, pickles time, which my students love. And let’s be honest, there’s nothing better than a yummy burger with these condiments. So, just like grilling a juicy hamburger for dinner is a favorite, ketchup, mustard, and pickles time is too!
In my classroom, we use this time to complete tasks, finish work, and have fun! This built-in time is a dedicated block that occurs during the last 30 minutes at the end of every day. We utilize this time before the dismissal bell to help us wrap our day in the best way.
Let me explain what happens during each part, how to get it started, and when students should wrap up.
Ketchup or “Catch Up”
The first part of our built-in time is saved for our catch-up work, they can move into mustard or “must-do” time afterward. This time is used for students to complete any missing assignments or unfinished tests. This time is essential before must-do because if I don’t do it first, then I find students will take longer to complete their “mustard” tasks.
It’s also red, and red means it’s a higher priority!
I love using this built-in free time for students to complete these activities because it doesn’t take away from our class time. Students have the opportunity to work on homework during this time, so they don’t have to do it at home. If they finish, I’ll sign it, and it’s one less thing for them to worry about after school.
Mustard or “Must-Do”
Once students have finished their ketchup time, they move into mustard, or “must do”, time. Students must do these tasks during our built-in free time before dismissal occurs. This includes packing backpacks, organizing desks, wiping desks, and sharpening pencils for the next day.
Basically, anything that gets them prepared to go home or ready for the next school day is done during our mustard time, and it’s non-negotiable.
Pickles or “Pick It”
Finally, once students have finished with mustard and ketchup, it’s time for pickles! This one is their favorite. During pickles time, students pick the activities they want to do at the end of the day. Some of their favorite activities include STEM Boxes, math games, and grammar games. These activities are great because students still learn even while they’re playing!
Take a look at this blog post to learn more about how we use STEM boxes in my classroom.
How to Setup Built-in Free Time
Ready to make the jump and implement built-in free time in your classroom this year? It’s super easy to get started, I promise!
The most important part of this routine is your must-do time. I start by modeling that for my students, and I like to have that routine nailed down that first week. We really hone in on the routine for what happens during that time. I show them how students pack and clean and what those procedures look like. Once that routine is solid, you can add the other pieces.
I like to display a chart on our interactive whiteboard with three categories: mustard, ketchup, and pickles. I have a visual in each category that describes what students need to complete before moving to the next category.
How to End Built-in Free Time
I recommend completing your built-in free time 10 minutes before your actual dismissal. This allows students who are in pickles the time to put away their materials and the students who are in ketchup time to return their supplies and turn in their work. You need a little transition time there to be sure that everything is back where it needs to be and that your classroom is clean before everyone goes home.
This built-in free time structure works at the end of the day because it incentivizes students who finish their work to play games or complete STEM engineering activities. It intrinsically motivates them to get done and participate in the fun. In fact, when I implement this in my classroom, I see 100% completion on assignments (math practice online, homework, etc.) just by scheduling this as a part of my day. Blocking off that last 20 – 30 minutes at the end of the day can greatly impact your students’ productivity and is a nice way to wrap up the school day.
Ready to try the best way to end your school day?
This ketchup, mustard, and pickles presentation is a great tool that helps you be sure you’re ready to put this system into action. I’ve included editable introductions slides as well as a ketchup-mustard-pickles template.
Have a question about ketchup, mustard, and pickles in built-in free time? Let me know in the comments below!