As I “hunkered down” for Tropical Storm Hermine, with the roads into and out of my neighborhood flooded (but not our actual house or yard, thank goodness), I was transported back in time.
When I was in 7th grade, our Social Studies course was Florida History or Florida Studies or something. I remember very clearly having some Florida map project where we had to color the 67 Florida counties by population.
Being a poor judge of time (and vastly overestimating my skills), I waited until the last minute. Literally, I waited until the day before to start, ignoring my teacher’s daily reminders to work on it.
You know how this story goes. At 10 pm the night before, I realized that I only had 22 counties done and would never get it done in time. I wasn’t ready to pull an actual all-nighter at age 12.
I went to bed, resigned to a really bad grade, or maybe, if I was lucky, a deadline extension in exchange for points off.
I was given a second chance and I promised the Weather Gods that I wouldn’t waste it. I worked that whole Hurricane Day and turned in a beautiful map the next day.
I thought about that a lot last week as I was, again, given the gift of unexpected extra time.
All day Thursday and Friday, I cleaned my house, played with my kids, hung some pictures I had been meaning to hang, pulled some weeds in between rain bands, and cleaned out a closet. I also worked on a family photo album and did some online shopping. All things I wouldn’t have had time for on a normal week.
As teachers, we all know the frustration of not enough time. There are benchmarks to teach, pacing to keep up with, remediation to fit in, review to facilitate... and no one has increased our class time hours to keep up with the increased demands.
I will encourage you to look for those elusive minutes in a pretty regular place -- your bellwork.
Our science colleagues (and plenty of others) are really big on the 10-70-20 idea of class time. Meaning
- 10% of your class time on Bellwork
- 70% of your class time on The Lesson
- 20% of your class time time on Wrap-Up and formative assessment
I would encourage you to time yourself in a couple of classes. Give one kid (who usually is done early or who needs a special job to stay focused) a timer and have him or her time how long each part of the lesson takes: your bellwork, your main-part of the lesson, and your wrap-up
If you have traditional 45-minute class periods, that should be only 4-5 minutes, from start to finish.
If you have block periods, that should take 8-9 minutes.
Time it. With a stopwatch, a phone, or http://www.online-stopwatch.com/
Seriously! That really isn’t much time. In my class, bellwork was easily 10-15 minutes, sometimes creeping up toward 20!!
I really think if we are tighter with our bellwork/intro times, we will feel like I did in the 7th grade -- blessed by More Time. You may not get your house (or classroom) cleaned, your yard weeded, or your Florida Counties appropriately colored, but you will get those extra couple of minutes to teach, exhale, and confirm the learning.
Use those precious recaptured minutes to see if your kids actually learned what you want them to have learned. Use those reconquered minutes to have your students tell YOU what they have learned.
You might just learn something good -- that they DID get it. Or that they need more help. Either way, you have more and better info to reteach, reinforce, or remediate if necessary.
See if you can grant yourself More Time. Your students don’t need ten or fifteen (or twenty) minutes of bellwork. Take a few minutes from there and see if that can help you do more of what you need to do.
As always, I love to hear from you. Did you time your bellworks? How were your times? Did you find a way to take some of that time and use it for a better purpose? Let me know! firstname.lastname@example.org