Skip to main content

55 minutes

I have approximately 55 minutes to teach language arts.
It's not enough time, of course. But then how much time is enough time?

As I work through this dilemma, I have decided that some routines are non-negotiable. Independent reading and read aloud need to happen every day, and my students need time to write and explore different writing techniques in a writer's notebook. So far, I've been able to stay the course even if we've had to skip read aloud on occasion.

In the meantime, here are some things I've noticed so far:

Most of my students come in at the beginning of class and settle in around the room with a book; they know that the first 10 - 15 minutes are for independent reading and they take this time seriously.

I have my work cut out with some students who don't like to read, or so they say. What they don't know, or at least don't think I'm serious when I tell them, is that my goal for this year is to make sure that everyone loves to read or, at least, likes it a lot more than they do now.

Some of my 7th grade students choose to write any chance they get. I've started calling this group of six kids, "the writing circle". They don't object.

I've heard my students groan when I tell them we need to stop reading during an specially poignant part of Out of My Mind.

At the beginning of class, my 6th graders ask if we're going to read Esperanza Rising today. They don't yet trust that reading aloud is going to be a fixture in our classroom. After reading a couple of chapters, one student says, "Hey, this isn't a bad book at all." Music to my ears!

We are talking about some universal themes in literature and writing about the one(s) we are noticing in our independent reading books.

We update our reading status every day and share what we're reading with each other. By doing this, the kids are getting to hear about books that they might want to read. (Thanks to Donalyn Miller for sharing this idea in her book, Reading in the Wild.)

My students are starting to keep track of books read, books to read, and books abandoned on Goodreads.

We have launched our classroom Twitter account though that needs more thought and fleshing out on my part and with my students.

I will be figuring out how to maximize our 55 minutes so that every moment counts. How I'm doing that will be for another post. What matters is that over the next few weeks I will have solidified those 55 minutes so that we don't run out of time for what's important - reading, writing and talking about literature. But, for now, I think we're doing fine.



Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Partner Reading and Content, Too Routine (PRC2)

I'm a hoarder.
There, I've said it.
I try to deny that I'm a hoarder but it comes back to haunt me every time I move houses, or pack up my classroom at the end of the school year.
I have old articles, lesson plans, handouts, folders brimming with teaching ideas, past issues of profesional journals. I hardly throw anything out though I've learned to be more selective over the years. My one rule of thumb, and I really try to stick to this, is that if I haven't used or referred to something in a year, then it's time to toss it into the recycle bin. One exception to this rule (you knew this was coming, didn't you?) is past issues of journals from professional organizations. However, with the ability to locate articles online through my professional memberships, even this exception is becoming less and less useful, which brings me to the topic of this blog post.
I am currently reading a copy of The Reading Teacher from 2010. I've clipped a couple of informat…

The Reading Strategies Book - Chapter 12, Supporting Students’ Conversations – Speaking, Listening, and Deepening Comprehension

The strategy lessons highlighted in Chapter 12, Supporting Students’ Conversations – Speaking, Listening, and Deepening Comprehension, in The Reading Strategies Book by Jennifer Serravallo are critical to students’ engagement and comprehension, as well as their ability to write literary essays, or even book reviews, summaries and reflective pieces about books. If students aren’t able to talk about books in a way that is invigorating and joyful, they will be less likely to develop an interest in growing ideas for writing about books.
In her introduction to this chapter, Jennifer Serravallo, reminds us that when conversations go well, children are inspired by what they read and are motivated to keep reading. However, when conversations fall flat, then kids get bored and tune out. How do we avoid this situation and teach kids to have focused conversations about books? The answer is easy: teach kids strategies to help them develop effective conversational skills. 

As in other blog posts a…

Saying Goodbye

I can't get used to saying goodbye to my daughters even though we've been doing it for the past 10 years. You'd think it gets easier, but it doesn't. It still feels like the first time.

Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself. They come through you but not from you, And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.*
At the airport, I watch families with their young children and try to remember what it was like when my girls were little. What I felt like. What I was doing at the time. What we weren't doing. Was I even aware of the passage of time?

When my kids were little I lived so much in the moment that there was no time to reflect on the fact that our time as a family was measured. Sooner than we were ready, we would have to let them go. Send them on their way. Wish them an abundance of everything, but especially of love, health and joy. 

They come through you, but not from you.* 
I nod and smile, a li…