Time Is Ticking Away

Thursday, August 6, 2015
Here to help you count the days and make the most of them...Lori

187, 186, 185...Teachers--more so than most others--know the constraints of time. My husband is in commercial real estate, and whenever his workload is heavy and the pressure is on to hit the market or take a deal to close, he works late nights. His schedule really is at the mercy of the market, and if he has to stay until 10pm to get the job done, then that's what he has to do.

Whenever a teacher's workload is heavy (which is always) and there is pressure to grow kids and raise scores (which is always), working late nights actually does us very little good. Our schedule is at the mercy of the finite school day and school year. We have 187 instructional days, and even less than that when you count testing days and all of the other shenanigans that steal our time. And it's not like you get a full day with your kids. Nope. Chances are you get them for 45 or 90 minute blocks at a time.

We cannot waste time. Here are three routines that many ELAR teachers spend lots of time with and receive little payoff. Instead, think about replacing these time suckers with more rich and authentic activities.

You need this in your life.
Time Waster #1: The DOL (Daily Oral Language)--I've seen these take on different forms, but the premise is always the same. I've even done them myself [hangs head in shame]. A DOL is typically a multiple choice practice for revising and editing. It is often done as a bellringer and most kids circle letter or bubble answer and then wait for the teacher to tell them they're wrong. Or, kids don't do anything and just wait for the answer. Or, and this is most defeating, kids will get the answer correct, but they cannot explain why.

The Curly Fix: Write with your kids every single day. Use those writing moments to embed real grammar instruction. After all, one problem with a DOL is that technically it is practice. But I have a question. What are they practicing if it hasn't been taught to them? (Yes. Many believe they should know this stuff because they have been taught it. Yes. The should, but they don't. So there.) Visit our favorite posts for great explicit grammar instruction: Jeff Anderson's Invitation to Notice and Gretchen Bernabei's Star Points. 

Everything at their fingertips...
Time Waster #2: Supplies--Find a pencil. Get a pen that works. Everybody find two different colored highlighters. Pass around a pad of post-its. For the love of all that is holy, QUICKLY STAPLE YOUR PAPER! Distributing supplies or waiting on kids to use a station that you have set up can be frustrating and it can really break the momentum of a lesson. 

The Curly Fix: Tool boxes!! These have become popular additions to many classrooms that use grouping on a regular basis. I stock mine with pencils, pens, crayons, colored pencils, post-its, and mini staplers. If I have a special material for the day (like manipulatives) that I need for just that day, I can tuck them into supply boxes before my first class. 

Time Waster #3: Study questions--Stop giving mounds and mounds of non-specific study questions as a post-reading activity. Come on, friend! You're so much better than this! 

The Curly Fix: Novel Unit Rehab. Teach with explicit skills-based instruction to focus on an eensy weensy skill that you want kids to prove that they've mastered. 

Day one is only days away! What will you do to maximize your time?

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