Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Does Your Teaching/Learning Year Reflect Your Priorities?

The way we use time in schools reflect our teaching/learning priorities.

Soon educators will be met with school year schedules, system-wide goals, and students' needs and interests. Educators will use that information and their own professional teaching/learning priorities to craft weekly routines.

Educators in the United States recognize that a carefully crafted routine is essential to a successful teaching/learning year mostly because once the year gets rolling there's little time to think deeply, research, and reflect.

With that in mind, how does one craft this routine in a way that truly supports optimal learning.

First, determine priorities.

I've been thinking about that with respect to my own practice and have come up with the following list:
Next, consider the time available and the teaching priorities. 

This is tricky since the standards tend to outweigh both the time available and some students' daily stamina for learning which means you have to prioritize within each area. Which standards will you meet with strength and which will be considered secondary with respect to mastery? Since children come to us with a wide range of skills and abilities, it's difficult to bring all to the same level of mastery.

Note that our school day has the following structure:
  • Approximately 1 hour of lunch and recess time
  • Approximately 45 minutes a day for specials: art, music, tech, library, physical education
  • 15 minutes of organization
  • 90 Minutes ELA/SS
  • 90 Minutes Math/Science
  • 30 Minutes for Interactive Read Aloud
  • 30 Minutes Project Base Learning (Science/Social Studies focused)
  • Weekly Events: School Assembly (45 minutes), special events and programs from time to time
With that said, I hope to fit in the following lessons during the year.

First Six Weeks
  • 30 minutes of Learning to Learn lessons and activity a day: setting the stage for optimal learning. 
  • 30 minutes of interactive read aloud and/or responsive writing a day
  • 60 minutes of math a day for all.
  • 30 minutes of PBL: Science and Social Studies
  • 90 minutes ELA/SS
  • 120 minutes special, organization, lunch, and recess

Rest of the Year
  • 90 Minutes Math/Science: 60 minutes math learning experience for all, 30 minutes of teacher directed time devoted to those who need extra support. (Other students work from a science/math menu during that time). Weekly assessment on Wednesdays.
  • 90 minutes ELA/SS
  • 30 minutes Science/SS PBL
  • 30 minutes Interactive Read Aloud
  • 120 minutes specials, organization, lunch, and recess. 
Next, consider priorities and patterns related to the learning community.
  • Newsletters: approximately once a week hosted on a website
  • Special events: approximately three a year.
  • Student response: daily, written comments returned approximately once a week, probably Thursdays
  • Learning Design: daily
  • Home Study lists: Online study list updated every Thursday
  • Time to coordinate schedules and efforts at the start of the year, and regular time to collaborate with regards to learning assessments, unit design, and student response. 
After that, determine your professional learning schedule.
  • Time to read, research, reflect, and respond to student work.
  • Time for system-wide committee work, efforts if chosen or required.
Finally, and perhaps this should be first, carve out time for personal health, family, friends, and fun.
  • "All work and no fun, dulls an educator's potential."

Now, I have a pattern in place that prioritizes my main expectations and efforts for the year ahead. This pattern will likely undergo some changes when I hear of the system-wide goals, focus, and schedule in the first days of the school year.