June 27, 2016

Fitting It All In (Part 4)

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Last week, we took on a multi-layered question from one of our readers that cut to the heart of implementing the Common Core State Standards. Today, we tackle part of the question related to “fitting it all in.” We attempt to answer the question that weighs on many an educator mind:  In an already jam-packed teaching day, how do we make time for Common Core aligned instruction?

In a recent conversation with a colleague struggling with this very issue, Kim learned that her colleague was wondering where in her day she’d allot time for close reading. In her mind, her literacy block would be comprised of things like read aloud, shared reading, word study, guided reading, writing, AND close reading. Her thought was that she’d need to find a place to shave time from in order to “make time” to teach students to read closely. Back in April, in a post titled Fitting It All In: “Finding Time” for Close Readings, we wrote:

“…close reading is reader action that involves the synthesis of a host of comprehension strategies, hence it is relevant in any teaching context. Because close reading is performed by the reader, it can be practiced within the context of all teaching structures. When we read aloud, we can reread and ask students to cite evidence and elaborate their thinking in ways that lead to new ideas about text. When students work with texts during guided reading, we can ask questions or lead discussions that require that students return to the story to carefully reread in ways that help them notice details that they didn’t see the first time around. If you have found yourself overwhelmed by close reading, wondering how you will fit yet one more thing into your already busy teaching day, fear not. Close reading can and should be gracefully woven into the fabric of all of the things we already do, offering many opportunities to habituate new ways of thinking about text.”

Close reading shouldn’t be something that we feel we need to teach in addition to all we taught before, but rather, something that we can teach in conjunction with that which we taught before. By design, the standards should force us to look closely at the structures we are using to teach students and question the ways in which we need to shift or revise what we do in our classrooms. For example, if your teaching didn’t allot for much conversation before the Common Core, aligning with the standards would force you to recognize that your instruction wasn’t meeting the CCSS goals for speaking and listening or language.  Instead of saying, “Well, now I have to add speaking and listening to my to-do list,” you should instead think, “What does my day already look like? Where can I integrate more speaking and listening into my day?” This might cause you to identify read aloud as one potential place to integrate speaking and listening and shift to doing a lot more turn and talk as you shared stories.

In teaching, time presents itself as a persistent, unwieldy beast; however, as we get better at managing it, we can discover that this beast can show a tamer side. As a final thought about managing your time in a time-crunched teaching world, we return you to a post titled Putting the Pieces Together: Of Sticky Notes and Egg Timers, in which we offer you a strategy and a plan for implementing Common Core aligned instruction into your already jam-packed teaching days.

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