Examine the Topic
Classroom routines vary from teacher to teacher, but research suggests that some routines are more effective than others. Read the following statements by Jeanne Paratore and Richard Allington. Consider how these ideas relate to the classrooms you just watched, and to your own classroom and teaching.
I'm really struck by the evidence that suggests that in classrooms where children excel, they spend a greater amount of time reading and writing, than in classrooms where they don't. That seems to make sense. But, in different classrooms, there are huge variations in the amount of time children spend reading and writing. The amount of classroom time is fairly stable across classrooms, across schools, across states. What differs is the amount of time children spend actually engaged in reading and writing. And that time is dependent largely on the routines and procedures that teachers set up.
--Jeanne R. Paratore
In many schools the official school day--the instructional day--begins at around 8:30 a.m. But at 8:30 a.m. in many schools, children are still on the playground or in the school cafeteria when the bell rings signaling the beginning of the instructional day. At the bell, students begin the process of moving to their classrooms. This often involves lining up and waiting to be released to travel down the hall to enter the classroom. After the children enter the classroom, the teacher takes attendance, collects lunch money, book money, excuses for absences, homework, and other such administrative details. Then comes the Pledge of Allegiance and, often, morning announcements. Finally, at 8:50, the teacher cues the children to take out their books and the instructional work actually begins. Students have already sat for twenty minutes of non-instructional activity--often more time than they will spend actually reading during the remainder of the day.
End-of-day routines often take another 15-20 minutes--now more time has been spent on lining up, unpacking, packing up, and assorted other non-instructional activities than was spent reading and writing combined. For efficient use of scheduled instructional time, teaching would continue until the very end of the official instructional day. If the instructional day ends at 2:30, then 2:30 is when kids should put down their books or journals and begin the management process of getting ready to go home. In many schools we can readily locate another 30-50 minutes every day for reading and writing activity.
We must better organize schools to capture every minute of instructional time. A good first step in planning for improved reading achievement is reworking the organization of the school day so that teachers and children have all of the official instructional time for productive academic work. This may mean rethinking procedures for taking attendance and getting needed information out. If your school or your classroom uses many minutes of official instructional time for non-instructional activities, you have located one area to begin your efforts for improving organizational efficiency.
Excerpted from What Really Matters for Struggling Readers: Designing Research-Based Programs, 35-36. New York: Addison Wesley, 2001.
Describe a typical day in your class.
- How much time is devoted to non-instructional routines in the morning, at lunchtime, and at the end of the day?
- How can you change these routines so that additional time is devoted to literacy instruction and practice?
- If you cannot change the school routines, what tasks or activities can students engage in during the early morning, noon, and end-of day times? How can you structure these times so that reading and writing are not interrupted? What routines do you have in place throughout the day that allow time for working with students who struggle in reading and writing? What do you do during this time?
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