Teaching With Intention: Chapter 8 The Thoughtful Use of Time

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Welcome back for our last chapter of Teaching with Intention, organized and hosted by the Kindergarten Smorgasbord. This week's focus is on the thoughtful use of time.

We never seem to have enough time in the day to get everything done, do we? We rush around all day trying to fit it all in, but is any of it working? Miller points out, "In our rush to try to fit everything in, we've forgotten that children learn by doing. And learning by doing takes time."

When we rush to meet with each child as often as possible, we end up spending more time "touching base" and less time actually teaching them something. We might scratch the surface in 3-4 minute check-in with a student, but we won't be making much progress. When we take time with 1-2 students each day and work deeply with them, we'll make much more of an impact than if we try to confer with the entire class each week.

So we have to ask ourselves a very important question: Is it better to quickly confer with each student every week, or dig deeper with 1-2, or even 3, students a day? Is scratching the surface with each student more important than developing deeper skills more slowly?

I don't know about you, but I would rather work closely with a few students each day and make a BIG impact, than work with as many as possible in a day and only develop surface level skills. As Miller states, "It's not about how many children we confer with in a day, but how deeply we teach and touch those we do."

How do we do this? Keep it simple. We don't need lots of copies, expensive tools, or a thousand anchor charts. What do we need to teach reading? Good books. Maybe a reflection journal or two. Others we can bounce ideas off of and collaborate with. And time just to read.

Don't have a big classroom library? Go check out some books from the school or community library. Parents are often willing to donate books as well. Don't have reflection journals? Spiral notebooks are $.10 at back to school sales or use notebook paper. And I don't know about you, but in our classroom, we are never lacking for someone to talk to; anyone can talk about a book.

Miller uses a super simple strategy for keeping track of student conferences. She has a 4x6" spiral notebook for each student in her class. When she confers with them, she writes the big ideas in that child's notebook. She may jot down things the student said, teaching points, areas of focus for next time, or anything else she deems important. She keeps them in a basket on her desk. When she is done recording in that child's notebook, she puts it at the bottom of the stack so she knows she's already met with that student recently.

Every few days or so, she lays them out on the ground and sorts them by which skills different students need help with. For instance, if several need help with inferring, she may group those notebooks together, put a sticky note on the front to remind herself, and rubber band them together. Then she focuses on those skills with those students in their next lesson.

That is such a great way to keep it all organized and such a simple piece of documentation if it is ever needed in a meeting, for parent conference, or for report cards.

How do you keep track of your student data?

2 comments:

  1. I am really looking to revamp the way I keep and sort through conference notes. I don't know that having 20+ notebooks would work for kinder. Do you have a system?

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    1. I like her system—it would make it easy to pull out each child's info during a parent conference or other meeting—but I agree, it would be difficult to keep up with all those notebooks. I have a binder where I write down each child's guided reading info, sight words recognized, math skills mastered, etc. It's organized by subject, with each child having their own page in each section. Pulling out just that child's for a meeting takes time, but when I'm taking the notes, it's the easiest system I've tried. What is your system like?

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