Remember this from seminars on efficient use of time? The speaker asks an audience member to fit dried beans and three hard-boiled eggs into a glass. Invariably the person starts with the dried beans and fails to fit it all; whereupon the presenter takes the three eggs, puts them in the glass first, and then pours the seeds. Presto! Everything fits.
Message: Do the most important things first; fit the rest in around them.
The teachers I’m watching would have known to do eggs first.
Their classrooms have a reading and writing and math vs stuff **ratio that’s way better than what’s typical in most classrooms where a 90- minute reading block may have only 10-15 minutes of actual reading.
It seems counterintuitive that students would do anything except read during reading, right? Well here’s a for instance as to how stuff takes over: if the teacher chooses to spend 30 to 45 minutes preparing for the reading and if the student spends 30 to 45 minutes on a set of worksheets that assess rather than build reading strength and skill, and if, well, we’ve run out of minutes.
How do you get to Fenway Park? Practice Practice Practice. Practice with real bats and real balls and real games. Not talk and worksheets about the game.
During the 90 minutes I spent in the back of Mr P’s classroom Everyone. Was. Reading. All. The. Time.
And Mr P was teaching:
For 3 to 5 minutes with the whole class he built background knowledge and modeled how to re-read. Then he specifically coached one small group. Next he did guide-on-the-side teaching on a one-to-one with the students at their desks. The lesson finished with Mr P reading aloud while the students tracked the print in their own books.
He also got more time-bang for the buck, as it were, by focusing on the same strategy (re-reading) in subject taught later in the day. And again, if it was math, they did math; if it was writing, they were writing, etc.
The ratio of Real vs. Stuff is magnificent.
One more time-increaser I notice going on here: Instruction starts as soon as the brief 9:10 intercom-broadcast (greeting, pledge, moment of silence) ends. The students have already entered the classroom, signed up for hot or cold lunch, handed in homework, put their chairs down, and taken out the materials for their first lessons. In contrast, in many other classrooms all that stuff happens after the 9:10 routine, and lessons don’t start until 9:30.
The high-performing classroom has 100 minutes more of instruction a week because they start at 9:10 rather than 9:30.
Let’s get those eggs in the glass, people! Those minutes matter.
*Doug Lemov in Teach Like a Champion: 49 Techniques that Put Students on the Path to College
**Richard Allington’s The Six Ts of Effective Elementary Literacy Instruction