As some of you may know, we are moving from a 45-minute block of ELA time to a 90-minute block. I cannot tell you how excited I am for this to happen. To actually have more time to dig in, to have fewer students so I can know them better, to be able to pull small groups more often and really support student growth – yes, please! But with this change comes a lot of decisions. We want to make sure students are engaged and challenged well within the 90 minutes. We don’t want it to drag on, we don’t want it to be lecture. So as the year starts to come closer, the ideas and aspirations we have had are starting to take shape and I thought it would be nice to share them here, in case others need some inspiration.
Last year we decided what we believe when it comes to our literacy work together and this is what grounds our decisions. While the chart below is just the overarching theme, our original document discusses things much more in depth, such as the need for equitable practices and for creating opportunities for students as changemakers.
The overarching beliefs we function in are:
|If middle school learners need…||Then we will commit to…|
|Empowerment||Giving them choice|
|Read/write every day||Give them time|
|To have a voice||Discussion/authorship/ownership|
|Developing/understanding their identity||Reflection/guidance/exposure/structure|
|See connections to themselves and others||Incorporate global/local topics and connect to other classes|
|Adult role models
Peer role models
|Read/write/think/discuss with and in front of students
|Visible/continuous growth||Mini-lessons, explicit/targeted instruction etc., exposure to many genres and formats (balanced literacy), and goal setting.|
|Need personalized learning communities||Small group instruction and conferring|
My tentative schedule for our 90 minutes together looks like this:
10 min = independent reading
2-3 min = book talks
15 min = mini-lesson (can be read aloud)
20-25 min = work time (reading practice, conferring, small groups etc)
- BELL BREAK – 3 minutes
10 min = Grammar/mentor text work/free write
15 min = mini lesson focused on writing or speaking
20 min = work time (writing practice, conferring, small groups etc)
5-10 min = read aloud/picture book read aloud/share/closing
Yesterday, I had the chance to sit down with colleagues and spend some time tentatively mapping out our literacy year. Inspired by the maps in 180 Days by Penny Kittle and Kelly Gallagher, we thought providing ourselves with an overview of the year meant we would have a better feel for what to plan for.
This map is intended for 45-minute readers workshop followed by a 45-minute writers workshop. We wanted to make sure that students had two different times to read within the 45 minutes, one chunk of time that was focused on reading for pleasure without any extra “work” attached to it, and one chunk of time where they would be working more on the skills of reading, most often within their own self-chosen texts, but sometimes in a text chosen by us.
We also wanted to make sure that students have time for meaningful embedded grammar instruction, as well as time to free write.
We are a standards-based district and so we have 9 separate ELA standards. These are not assessed every quarter but are instead assessed at least twice throughout the year so that students can see their own growth. Here are the standards we have
The students have not started yet, so all of this is aspirational. I will keep updating it as the year progresses but thought I would share.
There have been a few books that have really shaped my thinking for the upcoming year. They are
Passionate Readers by myself – weird to say your own book but this book holds my reading beliefs and also my ideas for how to reach our goals.
If you like what you read here, consider reading my newest book, Passionate Readers – The Art of Reaching and Engaging Every Child. This book focuses on the five keys we can implement into any reading community to strengthen student reading experiences, even within the 45 minute English block. If you are looking for solutions and ideas for how to re-engage all of your students consider reading my very first book Passionate Learners – How to Engage and Empower Your Students. Also, if you are wondering where I will be in the coming year or would like to have me speak, please see this page.