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?


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.