A lot of people have asked what my daily schedule looks like, so here’s a little peek at my day. Read part 1 of this series here.
A couple changes to my scheduling helped me make the most of the time I do have.
First, I started planning units based on a 3-day week. The last day of the week (usually Friday, but often Thursday) have a routine all their own, so that left Monday-Thursday. You know SOMETHING will come up on one of those 4 days, so if I plan around 3 days I’m not having to decide what to cut out or cramming activities together.
The second help to my scheduling dilemma was starting Daily 5. This gives me the perfect chunk of time to axe if something has to go. 🙂 (You can read more about how Daily 5 runs in my classroom in this post.)
Monday, Tuesday, Thursday
Here’s a look at 3 days of our week: Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday (Wednesday is early out for collaboration so the schedule is a little different). The schedule is based on what the kids are doing at the time. I’ll include information about what I’m doing in the explanation. I’ve numbered each event so I can discuss them below.
Buses start dropping off kids about 8:25, but they aren’t allowed in classrooms until 8:35. We have playground supervision before school, so I encourage the kids to play outside. If they choose not to or it’s too cold, they may free draw, read, or start their morning work.
School Starts 9:00
8:55 the first bell rings. The kids have learned to come in, put away homework and take-home books, do their lunch counts, select their Daily 5 stations, and start their Morning Work.
Morning Procedures 9:00-9:15
If they have questions about Morning Work, they’re told to do what they can until after announcements. 9:00 is the late bell. We do the pledge and the principal gives announcements. After that we go over the Morning Work page and I answer any questions. This is one of the most important tasks we do and I want to be sure to maximize our time spent doing it each day.
What do students do when they finish morning work? Each month we go to the school library and each child is allowed to choose 3 picture and/or nonfiction books. In the classroom these go in 5 big bins. These are our fast-finisher books. The first person done at each table may select a bin for their table. Those are that table’s books for the day. So, after finishing morning work, students may read for a few minutes.
Daily 5 Station 1 9:15-9:30
At 9:15, students with finished morning work may start their first Daily 5 station. I use this time to manage housekeeping items for the day.
Morning Meeting 9:30-9:50
If I haven’t walked around looking over the Morning Work during the first station time, we’ll stop stations about 9:30 so we can correct. The kids get a crayon and check their own books. We usually go pretty quickly through this. I spend the most time discussing a few different strategies for solving the story problem.
The kids put their books away and we gather back on the rug for Morning Meeting.
- We start with a greeting.
- Each table is assigned a day to share “news” and take 2 questions or comments.
- If my class can handle it, we may play a quick game together. A couple years this has left them too riled up, so the game gets nixed.
- Then we go over the morning message for the day.
- And we end with a brief meditation.
Word Work 9:50-10:00
A brief lesson regarding a phonics topic. I use the Word Play Phonics curriculum. I’ve found 10 minutes is plenty for a whole-group phonics lesson. I try to make this a very engaging, very focused chunk of time.
Because they’re getting differentiated phonics instruction through their Word Play Phonics word sorting, I view this time as a review for the advanced kids, a reinforcement for the on-grade level kids, and a preview for the below grade level kids.
Writer’s Workshop 10:00-10:30
We start with a mini-lesson that addresses a topic related to what we’re working on. We do 6-week cycles of personal narrative, nonfiction, and persuasive writing (and we try and stick a little poetry on at the end. Poor poetry…always tacked on at the end.)
I struggle to be a good writing teacher. I love writing. I love when kids get excited about writing. But I’ve never found a Writer’s Workshop format that works for me. This is something that I change up EVERY SINGLE YEAR in the hopes that I find the Holy Grail of writing. The closest I’ve gotten to finding it is No More “I’m Done!”: Fostering Independent Writers in the Primary Grades. It has a lot of good ideas.
Before Daily 5, I used to teach math in this time slot and it was awesome! It fit perfectly and flowed so well! But, since I’m a terrible writing teacher, I needed to do it at a time when I was still fresh and full of energy (aka first thing in the morning) instead of right before lunch (which was killer) or later in the afternoon (even worse!).
Morning Recess 10:30-10:45
If I don’t have to do recess duty, this is an awesome little prep in my morning. I love recess!
If I am on recess duty: Boo! I hate recess!
You know how it goes.
I was a terrible math student, but I think it shaped me into an awesome math teacher. I love teaching math and my students love doing math.
However, I detest, loathe, despise, reject, and abhor our math program. It’s everything that ruined me for math as a student relabeled as “standards based.”
Thankfully my administration understands my rancor and supports me in making math hands-on, meaningful, problem-solving based, and rigorous. Most of my lessons are adapted from Math Solutions books. Except for a measurement book, I have loved every book I’ve bought from them. A personal favorite is the It Makes Sense! series. They have books on Ten Frames and the Hundreds Chart.
My district doesn’t love me doing math in the morning. They prefer literacy in the morning.
Again, I’ve been blessed with good administration and they trust me when I tell them that kids get more from math when it’s earlier in the day.
And I’ve found that the demands of literacy fit our afternoon energy flow better than math. Our attention is waning a bit after lunch. Literacy allows us to go at a less rigorous pace than math.
Daily 5 Station 2 11:20-11:35
As students are finishing their math, they can transition to their 2nd station choice. If math goes long, this station gets cut a little short.
This is another reason why I choose not to have “Read to Self” as a Daily 5 choice. If a student chose Read to Self during this chunk of time, he/she might have less than 10 minutes of independent reading. That’s not enough!
Daily 5 Station 3 11:35-11:50
This station often is a bit rushed. It’s not my favorite chunk of time. Often math goes a bit long and because we can’t move lunch, this station time gets cut and they end up doing their Station 3 choice after lunch and we don’t get to the 5th station choice.
Specialty Classes 12:30-1:00
I pick the kids up at 12:25 and lead them to the bathroom for a quick break. Then I take them to their class for that day. We have a different specialty each day for 30 minutes. Our classes are: PE, art, library, computer, and music.
I realized my class needed a calming transition from specialty classes because they often come back riled up. We have district handwriting books, but I try and supplement with Handwriting Without Tears when I can.
Science/Social Studies/Health 1:05-1:20
Yes, it’s only 15 minutes. Let me explain why.
I may be a poor writing teacher, but I’m an even worse one when it comes to science, social studies, and health. I like the subject matter and I know it’s important for kids and, of course, they love it!, but where it falls apart for me is in the daily prep. Yes, I’m teaching new math and literacy content every day, but a lot of that is kind of built into a routine that supports my planning. And planning a hands-on math lesson is easier for me–I have cupboards full of manipulatives–than it is for other subjects where I have nothing.
If something came up during the day (an assembly, an assessment, a visiting speaker, etc.) this was the chunk of time I’d cut. It was easy to find excuses to not teach science. Especially when I felt like, “I have a really awesome weather unit planned, but haven’t had a chance to prepare it yet, so even though we are scheduled to start the weather unit today, I’ll push it back till tomorrow (the next day, next week) when I will have it pulled together.”
And then the lengthy IEP meeting (bus duty, collaboration, sinus infection, etc.) after school means I have just enough energy to prepare one lesson for tomorrow. Will it be math or the prep-heavy science lesson? Math wins, again. We’ll do science later.
Please tell me I’m not the only one who has to make these kind of choices!
Eventually the deal I made with myself is that I would be consistent in teaching the content areas, but I would only have to plan/prep for 15 minute blocks of time.
I know it’s not ideal, but it has worked out really well.
The kids get content on a regular basis and I’m not worked to death or consumed with (too much) guilt. And if the day’s activity runs a little long, it just means our Daily 5 station is a little shorter.
Daily 5 Station 4 1:20-1:40
As kids finish their science/social studies lesson, they transition to their 4th Daily 5 choice.
Reader’s Workshop 1:40-2:30
The kids clean up their stations and join me back at the rug. We do a mini-lesson (usually something from Reading With Meaning by Debbie Miller. Oh, how I love this book!).
Then the kids get their books from their cubbies and choose a spot to read. They may sit at their desks or choose a spot on the floor as long as it’s “two big steps” away from the nearest person. This little guideline is a lifesaver if you allow students to choose their own spots.
I try and give them at least 40 minutes for reading. While they’re reading I work with small groups or one-on-one. I’ve read the CAFE book and like the premise, especially for my more advanced readers, but I never got too far in implementing the program. That’s something I would like to do better. I would also like to be better at keeping up with the students’ reading journals. I always start out so good! And then…it all kind of dies.
For several years I’ve had the highest percentage of on-grade level readers in the school. I attribute it to these 40 minutes of independent reading. And, even though I have teacher guilt, my students made progress even when I wasn’t very diligent about their reading journals, so don’t beat yourself up too much if you’ve dropped the ball, too. (Note: having many opportunities to read appropriately leveled text during the school day is one of the most effective ways to boost students’ fluency.)
I have A LOT of books. The perk of having taught awhile is that Scholastic has helped me fill my library. I don’t think there is a better investment in a classroom than buying books you know will be interesting to your students.
I have 3 book shelves. One for guided reading levels A-G, one for H-L, and one for M and up. Each shelf coordinates with a colored sticker dot, so books can be returned easily. Each book is labeled with a dot.
Students are free to choose among the books on their shelves. I teach the 5-Finger Rule and the Just Right Books lesson from Daily 5, but I try to allow students as much free choice as possible.
Students may not trade books until I call them back to the reading area to do so. They quickly realize that they had better choose enough to keep them busy for a week or so until they get another chance to trade.
A level C reader may have 15 books in his cubby, but a level P reader may have only 3. The level C reader will have the chance to trade books at least once a week. A level P reader may have to wait 2 weeks because those books are longer. I have a chart with student names and rows of blank boxes. I date the last time a student traded books in an empty box so I can see who needs a turn.
When they trade books I like to do conferences with students about their reading, but, again, it doesn’t always happen. I just do my best. This also gives me a chance to take a peek at their books and make sure they’ve got at least some book choices that are just-right for them.
Again, I try not to interfere too much with their choices but if my level G reader has chosen all Level N chapter books, I’m going to help her add some other books to her selections.
We end reading time by coming back to the rug with our books. I allow some students to share how they used our current comprehension strategy (inference, visualizing, etc.) while reading or ask them to share with a partner. Then we clean up and move on.
Quick grammar lesson. It’s a short, targeted practice and it seems to be enough.
Daily 5 Station 5 2:40-3:00
This is the station that gets cut if we’ve had an interruption during the day (assembly, etc.) or something else has gone long. It’s nice to have this little block of buffer time. Because of so many distractions, I’m always having to do some reshuffling of our day’s routine and it’s nice to have something less vital that I can cut out.
Clean Up and Read Aloud 3:00-3:10
I have a job chart with 5 jobs. Jobs stay the same for a week. The kids are cycled through the job chart. Some jobs have 2 students so the student who had the job the previous week can teach the new kid how to do it.
At the end of the day there are several tasks going on: passing out homework, passing out take-home books, collecting pencils, sharpening pencils, resetting the attendance chart, gathering book tubs, wiping boards, emptying recycling, cleaning the floor, etc.
Kids with jobs start working on those and the rest of the class sits back at the rug while I read aloud from a chapter book.
Pack Up 3:10
Students are dismissed from the rug a table at a time. They retrieve their backpacks and homework folders. They stack their chairs and wait for me to call them to line up at the door.
The bell rings and I stand at the door as they leave to offer a handshake, hug, or high-5 (it’s student choice). Then I send them on their ways (or I run quickly out to the bus line to do bus duty).
And then it’s time to prepare for tomorrow!
Wednesday – Early Out
Wednesdays is early-out for the students so the teachers can collaborate. We used to do collaboration during planning time, so I’m a big fan of having a set time to do it when the kids aren’t there. But it means we’re out at 2:30, so the afternoon is abbreviated.
We only have time for four Daily 5 rotations on Wednesday.
Friday- Last Day of the Week
Fridays (or the last day of the week) have a routine all their own.
Morning Routine 8:35-9:15
Students arrive, put their stuff away, and start Morning Work just like any other day.
Fast-finishers read from their table’s book tub.
Morning Meeting 9:15-9:35
We correct morning work and start morning meeting.
The students scoot from the Morning Meeting circle to sit on the rug. I display the Fist-to-Five posters and we preview the 4 vocabulary words that will be in our book. I read the book and we discuss the words. You can read a detailed description of our vocabulary routine in this post.
Spelling Test 9:50-10:30
I send students, a table at a time, to get the half-sheets of paper that we use for spelling tests. They get out their spelling notebooks and turn to the current week’s words. Then they label their papers from 1-10 and write their names. They may choose to get a clip board if they want.
Completed tests are handed in and student pick up a new “chunk” to begin working with.
All of this takes several weeks to teach. At the the first of the year, I give the test whole-group (everyone tested on the same 10 words) and we work together to make the spelling word list based on the week’s chunk. Once they’re trained, though, they first make a list in their individual notebooks and we compile the words to make one large spelling list.
I explain our spelling program in detail in this post.
Morning Recess 10:30-10:45
Most things get turned topsy-turvy on Fridays, but we do have a normal math lesson.
Phonics Review 11:20-11:45
Okay. This is confession time.
Sooooo. You know how teachers aren’t really given enough time to do everything they need to? Well, I’ve kind of claimed this 25 minute block on Fridays to plan for the next week. And while I do this, the kids are reviewing phonics.
By watching a video.
But it’s a really good video!
Have you seen the PBS show Between the Lions? It’s excellent for phonics and vocabulary. My district has the first couple seasons available for teachers to check out (the newer episodes aren’t as good or engaging, but the first couple seasons are golden!!). I try to find episodes that correlate with the next week’s spelling chunk if it’s possible.
I used to feel guilty about this until once we were making a chunk list based on the -am chunk and I had the words ram and yam suggested with the Between the Lions video as a reference for where they learned the words.
And the Monkey Pop-Up Theatre is kind of my favorite thing ever.
See, it’s valuable educational time!
Specialty Classes 12:30-1:00
12. Task List 1:00-2:15
This is busy, busy time in our class. When students come back from their specialty class, I have a vocabulary flap foldable page waiting on their desks. They know to get started on this right away.
After everyone is settled, we discuss it and they have time to work. When they finish they show me their work. Basically Friday afternoon is just a revolving line of kids back at my table. They’re trained to wait in line on the left side and leave from the right so we keep traffic flowing!
Here’s the list of things they must do.
1. Finish vocap flaps and glue in notebook.
2. Show me and get a new word sort.
3. Cut out and mark the back of new word sort.
4. Choose new spelling words and write them in their spelling notebooks.
5. They show me so I can correct spelling mistakes. I then hand them a homework sheet to write their chosen words on.
6. They write their words on the spelling homework sheet.
7. They bring their spelling homework sheet back to the table for me to check for spelling mistakes again. I hold onto this to be distributed at the end of the day on Monday.
8. Cut out next week’s Jargon Journal cards.
9. Reading time
I have a boxful of books that I’ve collected over the years (thank you Scholastic!) that have seasonal/holiday themes. I change the books out every month. These only come out at the end of the day on Friday. Students can read these books or read their chosen books from their cubbies.
Vocabulary Review 2:15-2:30
We review last week’s vocabulary and take a short quiz on the words. You can read more about our vocabulary program and assessment in this post.
Adventure to Fitness 2:30-3:00
Adventure to Fitness is awesome and free to teachers. After watching this my kids started to make up their own adventures at recess, so I think it’s an absolute treasure.
Adventure to Fitness is the reward for getting all of the task list completed. If kids are wasting time, then we don’t have time to do this. There was a Friday or two where we didn’t get to this at all and a few times when we had to stop it early because we didn’t have enough time left to do the whole adventure. That’s the consequence for not using time wisely.
Then it’s time to clean up and go home.
And I can get ready for Monday morning!
Man, teaching is exhausting.
Word Play Phonics & Chunk Spelling
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