Wasting Instructional Time

Maximizing instructional minutes has been one of my passions over the course of my teaching career. After years trying to find ways to cut corners and give my kids the most out of every school day, I’ve arrived at a place of moderation.

Time can’t be replaced, but stressed out kids are even harder to deal with.

Redeem the Time

On the one hand, I still don’t want to waste time during the school day. I have five hours of contact time with my students, 25 hours each week. If I waste that time, my students will not get a good education and will be unprepared for school the following year. Most of my class performs below grade level, particularly in language arts. How can I get them up to grade level? This takes time.

So in my efforts to use our five hours efficiently, I do things like a two-minute start and “Stand When You’re Ready.” These types of techniques speed up the pacing of the class without having negative impacts on student achievement.

Taking our Time

On the other hand, I don’t want my students to feel like everything we do is rushed. I don’t want to stress my kids out because stressed out students don’t learn as well…and an overload of stress is harmful to one’s well-being.

In my efforts to take our time, I do things like brain breaks, think time, opportunities for students to just talk about their thinking (I talk about using pair share for ‘release’ in The 5-Minute MishMash, episode 11), and occasional jokes to lessen the stress.

Action Plan

Here’s my suggestion: Have a sit-down with a colleague. Talk about how you use your instructional minutes. Analyze yourself and figure out where you land on the “instructional minutes” continuum. Are you using up a lot of time on things that just don’t matter? Are there ways you could cut some corners without raising your students’ stress levels? Or perhaps you’re too much of a time-on-task Nazi. Maybe you need to chill out a bit and let your kids (and yourself) be human on occasion. Be honest, and then be patient with yourself. Change takes time. You’re not going to bring things into a perfect balance overnight…and frankly, that perfect balance doesn’t really exist.

I value your comments.

No Sub? Now What?

So your teaching partner isn’t feeling well and there’s no sub. Disaster, right? Nope! A great opportunity to give your students an authentic audience.

Last week, that’s what happened on my campus. I must admit, my first reaction wasn’t supportive and positive. I didn’t have any hard feelings at all toward the sick teacher…just thinking NO! what a hassle to have a bunch of kids in my room who I don’t know and who don’t know me.

But then I was inspired for some crazy reason. Instead of splitting the class up between three other teachers (10 kids each), I volunteered to take all 30. What? Crazy? Yeah…crazy awesome! 60 kids to keep on task.

Over the previous two days, I had taught my students the characteristics of the three Common Core writing genres. My students paired up with our visitors and tutored them on what they’d been learning about writing. My students, even the strugglers, stepped up to the plate and really got into it. I could have walked out and none of my students would have noticed. That’s when you know things are spot on!

I stopped the kids every once in a while to build them up. “Wow scholars! You are really doing an amazing job teaching our guests about the three writing genres! I saw Maxx over here quizzing his tutee to check and make sure the learning was getting through. Keep it up!”

After about 15 minutes of cognitive engagement, I told the kids to find a new partner and check to see how well the previous tutor did. They were off! The buzz of excitement was renewed and the kids were learning.

We all know it’s true…we are more engaged and learn best when we authentically need to teach others.

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