Wasting Instructional Time

Maximizing instructional minutes has been one of my passions over the course of my teaching career. After years trying to find ways to cut corners and give my kids the most out of every school day, I’ve arrived at a place of moderation.

Time can’t be replaced, but stressed out kids are even harder to deal with.

Redeem the Time

On the one hand, I still don’t want to waste time during the school day. I have five hours of contact time with my students, 25 hours each week. If I waste that time, my students will not get a good education and will be unprepared for school the following year. Most of my class performs below grade level, particularly in language arts. How can I get them up to grade level? This takes time.

So in my efforts to use our five hours efficiently, I do things like a two-minute start and “Stand When You’re Ready.” These types of techniques speed up the pacing of the class without having negative impacts on student achievement.

Taking our Time

On the other hand, I don’t want my students to feel like everything we do is rushed. I don’t want to stress my kids out because stressed out students don’t learn as well…and an overload of stress is harmful to one’s well-being.

In my efforts to take our time, I do things like brain breaks, think time, opportunities for students to just talk about their thinking (I talk about using pair share for ‘release’ in The 5-Minute MishMash, episode 11), and occasional jokes to lessen the stress.

Action Plan

Here’s my suggestion: Have a sit-down with a colleague. Talk about how you use your instructional minutes. Analyze yourself and figure out where you land on the “instructional minutes” continuum. Are you using up a lot of time on things that just don’t matter? Are there ways you could cut some corners without raising your students’ stress levels? Or perhaps you’re too much of a time-on-task Nazi. Maybe you need to chill out a bit and let your kids (and yourself) be human on occasion. Be honest, and then be patient with yourself. Change takes time. You’re not going to bring things into a perfect balance overnight…and frankly, that perfect balance doesn’t really exist.

I value your comments.

No Sub? Now What?

So your teaching partner isn’t feeling well and there’s no sub. Disaster, right? Nope! A great opportunity to give your students an authentic audience.

Last week, that’s what happened on my campus. I must admit, my first reaction wasn’t supportive and positive. I didn’t have any hard feelings at all toward the sick teacher…just thinking NO! what a hassle to have a bunch of kids in my room who I don’t know and who don’t know me.

But then I was inspired for some crazy reason. Instead of splitting the class up between three other teachers (10 kids each), I volunteered to take all 30. What? Crazy? Yeah…crazy awesome! 60 kids to keep on task.

Over the previous two days, I had taught my students the characteristics of the three Common Core writing genres. My students paired up with our visitors and tutored them on what they’d been learning about writing. My students, even the strugglers, stepped up to the plate and really got into it. I could have walked out and none of my students would have noticed. That’s when you know things are spot on!

I stopped the kids every once in a while to build them up. “Wow scholars! You are really doing an amazing job teaching our guests about the three writing genres! I saw Maxx over here quizzing his tutee to check and make sure the learning was getting through. Keep it up!”

After about 15 minutes of cognitive engagement, I told the kids to find a new partner and check to see how well the previous tutor did. They were off! The buzz of excitement was renewed and the kids were learning.

We all know it’s true…we are more engaged and learn best when we authentically need to teach others.

Share a comment, won’t you?

Fraction Talks on the Latest Episode of The 5-Minute MishMash

Have you heard of Fraction Talks? It’s a very powerful teaching method. Also in this episode:

  • Story Parts Song: Fun song that helps kids remember that stories have characters, setting, and a plot.
  • Using Pair Share to reflect on behavior.
  • Creative Teaching Podcast with John Spencer.

Have you thought about subscribing to the 5-Minute MishMash. When you subscribe to a podcast, it is automatically delivered to your podcast player.


A Fraction Number Line Lesson

Fractions can really give students fits! How can we develop conceptual understanding with fractions?

I taught this lesson with a group of struggling 5th grade math learners during an after-school tutoring class. Each student stood at a whiteboard on the wall of my classroom. My goal was to help students conceptually understand why we must find a common denominator when adding fractions. To do this, I asked the students to construct their own number lines. All steps beyond #1 are directions I spoke to students as they wrote on their boards. These were the steps in my lesson:

  1. I modeled how to make a fraction number line: arrows on both ends showing numbers go infinitely in both directions; small dashes pinpoint exact locations of numbers; begin with zero; space each mark evenly; starting at zero, build your number line and work across the number line rather than starting with a 0 and 1 and subdividing the line into equal size lengths. I wasn’t modeling fraction concepts per se; just creating the number line. (Previous number line work showed students struggling with this.)
  2. Create a number line that shows thirds from 0 to 1.
  3. Draw a parallel number line below the thirds number line. Put 0 and 1 directly under the 0 and 1 in the top number line. Now subdivide the new number line into sixths.
  4. Draw arrows down to the second number line where fractions line up.
  5. Solve 1/3 + 1/6 using one of the number lines.
  6. Repeat the above steps with a number line showing fourths and then eighths. (See top photo.)
  7. Add a third parallel number line showing sixths. (See bottom photo.)
  8. Use the proper number line to solve 1/4 + 3/8.

Each time I asked the students to create something, I redirected with small hints and asked students to peer tutor until all students had a perfect model. We constantly discussed the models to help students make sense of their work. In step 7, we discussed how very few fractions aligned with the number line above (sixths and eighths.)

Students made excellent progress as shown in their work on the boards.

Inspiration for this lesson came from my esteemed colleague, Kristian Quiocho. Kristian is one of the most knowledgeable and passionate teachers I know.

The 5-Minute MishMash has a new theme song

A big thank you goes out to Big Ron Crowley, the genius musician behind the new bumper music for my podcast, the 5-Minute MishMash. Besides the new opener, episode 7 has a book recommendation, a gamification idea you can use tomorrow, a tech tip for adding photos to presentations, and a new mini-series called “The Power of Pair Share.”

Subscribe, won’t you? And if you leave a review, I will thank you with some free eduMusic. Just make sure you add your Twitter handle to your review or send me a message.

Finally! A New Episode of the Bedley Bros

It’s been a while since Scott and I have had time to record a new show, but it’s finally here. In this episode we interview the very enthusiastic, contagious, and knowledgeable Alex Kajitani. If you teach math, and even if you don’t, you will want to listen to this discussion about bringing the right approach to learning math…students, teachers, AND parents! You can learn more about The Rappin’ Mathematician, Alex Kajitani, by visiting his website.

If you like the show, please subscribe on iTunes and leave us a review. The only way we can impact teachers and thereby impact students is if educators listen to the show. Ratings and reviews will help bring The Bedley Bros podcast to more Internet searches. Perhaps you would be willing to Tweet about our podcast, share it on Facebook or other social media, or send out an email to your staff. Share the love.

The 5-Minute MishMash, Episode 6

Do you ever struggle with getting kids to get off to a strong start on an assignment? Do you have students who are masters of avoiding doing their work? Listen to a quick tip on episode 6 to address these issues. You’ll also learn about Kahoot and some practical, student-centered tips for teaching spelling.

The 5-Minute MishMash is a fast-paced blast of teaching ideas that you can use tomorrow in your classroom. If you enjoy listening and wish other teachers would listen, too, please subscribe to the podcast, write a quick review on iTunes, and share it with teacher friends on social media or email.

Are you going to the Palm Springs CUE conference this week? Be sure to say hi and ask for a free 5-Minute MishMash sticker. I’d love to meet you and talk some shop!

Be sure to follow me, Tim Bedley, on Twitter and follow The 5-Minute MishMash account to keep updated.  Tweet at me! Let’s collaborate.

EdTech Sucks! CUE17 Special Flashback of the Bedley Bros Podcast

Does EdTech really suck? Of course not! The Bedley Bros use technology with our kids all the time…and we love the CUE Conference! This episode of the Bedley
Bros flashes back to our discussion with Andrew Campbell, a 5th grade teacher, who knows technology very well, but isn’t afraid to ask some hard questions about how we use it. The show provides a healthy look current practices. Enjoy this very edgy episode of The Bedley Bros…and we’ll see you at CUE!

Other posts you might enjoy:

Step-by-step Student Guide for Making Adobe Spark Video Projects (See! We don’t hate EdTech!)

The 5-Minute MishMash Podcast: Quick Tips for Educators