Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Not all class time is created equal...

Imagine this scenario: You teach at least 5 classes or 5 hours a day (this accounts for both elementary and secondary teachers). Each 1 hour block takes about 5 minutes to get started and ends about 5 minutes early. 

This means that roughly 10 minutes out of every 60 minutes are underutilized. Over the course of the day, this means that roughly 50 minutes out of every 300 minutes are not spent learning.
Over the course of a typical 5 day week there will be 250 minutes not spent learning out of a total 1,500 potential learning minutes.

Over the course of a typical school year of 174 school days there will be 8,700 minutes not utilized for learning. Let's be realistic and cut that number in half because we all know there are assemblies and other events that cut into learning time throughout the school year. That leaves us with 4,350 minutes of time not spent learning.

4,350 total underutilized minutes divided by a typical 300 minute school day = 14.5 days (or almost 3 weeks) per school year we are letting slip through our fingers. 

Instructional time is precious... how are you using it?

Starting class on time and limiting transition time sets the tone for the entire learning period. When lessons are well-planned & designed around efficiency & a steady pace, kids are better able to remain focused & on task.

Too fast and you lose your class... too slow and you miss the show! A steady pace in class will benefit both you AND your students.

There is a misconception around what the teacher is doing to be considered appropriate usage of time. Utilizing instructional time more efficiently and effectively does NOT mean that teachers need to increase their workload in the classroom. Increasing the amount of group collaboration and student led projects/presentations/activities will have increased levels of rigor and DOK while also limiting any added workload to the teacher. We all need to do a better job of planning and designing our lessons so that the instructional time is used to its fullest potential.


Greet kids at the door with a smile and a friendly "hello"
Activities and/or learning objectives visible for students so they know what to expect
Keep kids engaged by having "important" work available for them
Don't be afraid to let go; trust your students to do what's right
Always plan for more than you think you have time for
"Busy" work should NEVER be used to fill time!
Encourage exploration, discovery and inquiry in your classroom
Design "spaces" in your classroom for both group and independent work
Emphasize the importance of your class time to your students 

If your class time is not important and precious to you, then it will never be important and precious to your students... 

Monday, September 17, 2012

Increasing rigor in schools...

"As we continue to focus on increasing the level of rigor in our schools, it is important to first agree on what rigor is. Rigor is more than just the content of the lesson or even what we expect our students to do. Too often, we simply raise expectations without providing appropriate support for our students to succeed. 

True rigor means creating an environment in which each student is expected to learn at high levels, each student is supported so that he or she can learn at high levels, and each student demonstrates learning at high levels. 

Only by creating a culture of high expectations and providing support so that students can truly succeed does one have a rigorous classroom. Supporting our students so that they can learn at high levels is central to the definition of rigor. It is essential that we craft lessons that move students toward challenging work while providing scaffolding to support them as they learn. To simply increase expectations without helping students achieve at higher levels is futile."

~ At the end of the day, who is more exhausted and tired... you or the students? Don't always work harder, work more efficiently and effectively.

~ Assigning more homework & classwork more frequently does not mean we are increasing rigor.

~ Where do a majority of your class activities fall in regard to the Depth of Knowledge wheel? Make it a priority to shift at least one activity per week to a higher level.

Doing lots of worksheets and learning from the textbook can be really hard; not hard because it's difficult or challenging, but hard because they serve no purpose and have very little relevance to actual learning.

Schools become rigorous when students are pushed not only to know information but also to apply and demonstrate their understanding of that information. Requiring students to reflect on and analyze their thinking and learning might be the most challenging task you can require of any student.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Risk & failure & greatness...

"Fortune favors the bold"

~ The phrase means that Fortuna, the Goddess of luck, is more likely to help those who take risks or action.

"Insanity is doing the same thing, over and over again, but expecting different results" ~ Einstein

~ Don't allow fear or discomfort to get in your way of being great. Our students expect and deserve nothing less of us.