I’ve been over planning, and I don’t like what over planning has contributed to my class so far this year. As a fifth grade teacher, I have the following basic responsibilities:
- Teach the Colorado Academic Standards in Reading, Writing, Communicating, Math, Science, and Social Studies
- Participate in the second-year implementation of an elementary reading program
- Integrate technology through the use of student netbooks, wireless access, SMART Board, and document camera
When all is said and done, we have about 3 hours and 40 minutes per day to do our work as a class. As it turns out, that’s not a lot of time.
I’ve planned to the minute to be sure to hit each content area and to integrate technology every day. The problem is, it takes time for students to settle in to learning, to be present in what we are doing. On our recent pace, the class often feels more like a series of hit-and-run activities than it does a rich learning environment. I’m watching the clock as much as I’m watching the learning.
Time is a funny thing. When students aren’t engaged in an activity, often when I’m trying to get through things rather than get into things, twenty minutes seems like an eternity. When students are actively interested and engaged, twenty minutes is just the beginning. Based on what I’ve seen so far this year, meaningful extended work will make a bigger difference for the kids.
So the challenge for me, and I know it’s not a new challenge, is to find ways to integrate the learning opportunities, the technology, and the standards so tightly that each our daily 220 minutes is engaging students in ways that will go beyond whether they were exposed to each of the content objectives for the day.
Rich learning takes time, and while there’s an urgency in education to get all kids to be adequately prepared now, we need to give them time to explore topics, build their understanding, and embrace their learning. If we do this well, we will help them to become adaptable, lifelong learners, and that would be time well spent.