Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Teaching Priorities

Teachers are constantly getting pulled, stretched, and worked over, just like the salt taffy made back in the day by the Utah pioneers. " Squeeze in this new reading program." "Integrate the arts." "Teach 180 minutes of language arts each day." "Can we come talk to your students about a haiku contest? about their dental health? about safety around power lines?"

One way I manage to feel less stretched and calm, despite all these well-intentioned efforts to steal away my teaching time is that I have very clear priorities. In no particular order, here they are:

Math--everyday---no matter what. I'll shave off some time, if needed, but we "do" math every day, usually for an hour.

Poetry---this is a new one for me, but I haven't missed a day yet and I am luvvving the Nancie Atwell "Naming the World" model.

Independent Reading---between 30 and 50 minutes, every day. Every day. All year.

Writing---at least 4 days a week I make sure my students have a 50 minute writing workshop.

There are other things that I do each day, like spelling, vocabulary, and "punctuation practice", but they're not on my list of things I can't ever skip. I also teach science and social studies, but I like to do three week units and alternate between the two; we're still learning about Egypt, but by the last week in September we'll be studying microbes during that same hour each day.

I was raised in a religious culture with an expectation that certain daily practices would become habitual and so intrinsic to my identity that I wouldn't ever miss a day. Well, I'm not such a devout mormon these days, but independent reading, writing workshop, and math are such high priorities of mine that I do them each day with religious devotion.

What are some of your teaching practices that spring from beliefs so deep and powerful that you never skip or cancel them?

2 comments:

Jenny said...

My list would look an awful lot like yours. I'm really lucky, though, because I teach at a school with similar priorities. Every teacher has a 2 1/2 hour language arts block and an hour math block built into our days. It makes it easy to prioritize those subjects.

The only thing I would add is my morning meeting. It makes such a difference in how we start our day.

Anne said...

Independent reading or a read a loud -- a real experience with reading.

The word of the day.