I giggled to myself as I created the title to this blog post! If you are new to my blog, I’ll have you know that this is the THIRD time I’ve written an “ELA in 50 Minutes a Day!” post. In 2017, it was my first year having to fit both reading and writing into a combined 50 minutes. It was nothing short of a disaster. So, I tried again in 2018. I did better, but it still wasn’t great.
And so… here I am AGAIN!! My third annual “ELA in 50 Minutes a Day – The Reboot 2.0” post!!
Lemme just start by saying… 50 minutes is NOT, in any way, shape, or form, enough time to adequately teach ELA. I do not care how gifted of a teacher you are… it is NOT enough time. End story.
But, alas, most of us do not have a choice and so we work it out.
Okay… so this summer, I did A LOT of work. I started by rereading Gallagher and Kittle’s 180 Days. I went through that book with fine tooth comb, watching the accompanying videos and revisiting my notes from their workshop back in December. Next, I spent some time really reflecting on my year: what worked, what didn’t, what I didn’t get to, what I included but shouldn’t have… etc. In doing that, I came to a few realizations. The first was that I did too much “teaching.” What I mean by that is I spent too much time teaching kids stuff that they already knew or stuff that isn’t all that important to know. My overall “talk” time or “teaching” time trumped their actual reading and writing time, and that was a mistake.
I also realized that I spent too much time doing “fun” stuff instead of writing. Now, don’t get me wrong, the fun stuff is important, but my number one goal is to get kids to write, and to write A LOT. This cannot be second fiddle to anything else.
My third realization is that I sacrificed precious reader’s workshop time for teaching from my anthology. This pretty much got me no where. Despite spending so much time in the anthology, my kids didn’t do all that well on our mandated benchmarks (these are a part of the Literature series our district uses). Sure, they could tell me all about the five stages of plot and the ways a writer creates a character, but they didn’t have the stamina and skills to comprehend the complex stories that are part of their benchmark tests. They only, only, only, (and one more time for the people in the back) ONLY way to improve kids’ reading comprehension is by reading. Period.
So, with those realizations, I’ve decided a few things for the upcoming year. The first is that we will have 15 minutes of uninterrupted reader’s workshop time EVERY.SINGLE.DAY. I will still do my First Chapter Friday, but that will replace my mini-lesson on Friday and not our reader’s workshop time. This will mean that I have to cut out several short stories that I teach (along with their “fun” activities) and will have to streamline the teaching of literary elements. But, I really think this will result in a better outcome. Time will tell 🙂
The second is that I will cut my mini-lessons to no more than 10 minutes. If I need more time than that, then the lesson will continue to the next day rather than cut into our guided/independent work time. So, rather than teach a 20-minute lesson on comma rules (which I could easily do), I will cut that in half and teach two, mini mini-lessons over two days. This ensures that our practice time will always be at least 25 minutes every day. Admittedly, this will require careful planning and I can get lazy about that. I find when I don’t meticulously plan a mini-lesson, it can easily get out of control time-wise pretty FAST. This needs to stop, even it means spending more time planning.
The next decision is to move nonfiction and Article of the Week to after winter break. My hope is that kids will have matured and gotten a handle on ELA in middle school by then. And that should mean that I can do less
hand-holding re-teaching regarding this routine.
And finally, I’ve decided that the overall “vibe” of my class will be that of a writing class. We will do lots of reading, that’s for sure, but much of it will be us “reading like writers.” We will be reading for the purpose of becoming better writers. You will see from my scope and sequence below that more than 2/3rds of the year will focus on writing units. Yes, there will be reader’s workshop every day, and yes we will be reading a ton of mentor texts, but we are first and foremost WRITERS in our room.
So, first things first, this is my daily breakdown. Technically, I have 56-minutes per class, but in reality, it’s 50 after all is said and done. Those 4 minutes of “chat” time is what will likely go by the wayside.
And, this is my year-at-a-glace plan:
I promise that I’ll make a PDF of this available soon, but right now my Adobe account is being weird because it seems that I’ve forgotten my password too many times. Oops.
Okay, thoughts, questions, suggestions?!?! I am open to hearing them!! I still have about two weeks until I’m officially back to school, so these plans are subject to change as I
obsess look over them for the next 14 days 🙂
What does your daily schedule look like? I’d love to hear about it!