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How to Find More Time to Teach Writing with Megan Polk [episode 41]


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Overview of episode 41:

We’re always looking for ways to help teachers be more efficient and maximize their time, and sometimes, we can’t do that alone. We have a unique opportunity where we’re airing an episode from another podcast! Megan Polk from The Literacy Dive Podcast, has a passion for supporting teachers with their curriculum, particularly in the area of literacy. In the episode she’s sharing with us today, you'll hear how to find more time to teach writing. 

No matter where you teach, your grade level, or which subject you teach, teachers all have one thing in common: not feeling like there’s enough time in the day. You could always use more time to write lesson plans, teach your content with equity, communicate with parents, and the list goes on and on. While we can’t make more hours in the day, Megan can share ways to add more writing opportunities during your instructional time. 

Throughout the episode, Megan asks you to examine your literacy block and whole schedule, to find quick and purposeful writing opportunities. By either making it a priority or using smaller chunks throughout your day, there’s always time for writing. In fact, Megan shares the benefit of shorter time when it comes to your reluctant writers! 

Again, we know adding more time is impossible. However, by implementing Megan’s tips, you’ll have new strategies on finding more time to teach writing that will get your students writing more often and successfully!

Highlights from the episode:

[00:51] Introducing Megan Polk and a preview of today’s episode.

[2:22] Ways to prioritize writing and make it part of your schedule and routine.

[3:51] The meaning behind “some time is better than no time”.

[7:13] Tips on using the time you do have for writing.

[9:19] Areas on where to find extra time for writing throughout your day.


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Read the transcript for episode 41, How to Find More Time to Teach Writing with Megan Polk:

Hey, there, we're so excited to be coming to you today with a special guest episode from our friend Megan, who is the host of The Literacy Dive Podcast. We asked if we could share one of her episodes here so you can get to know Megan and her amazing podcast.

In today's episode, she will be teaching us how to find more time to teach writing. This is such a great episode for Megan that we think you will love. Seriously, it's so good. You know that we are always looking for ways to help teachers be more efficient and maximize their time. So this episode will be the perfect way to help you do just that with your writing. So here is Megan.

Welcome to The Literacy Dive, a podcast for teachers who want to take a deeper dive into all things reading and writing. I'm your host, Megan Polk. My number one passion is, you guessed it, all things literacy, and supporting teachers like you. Join me each week to learn teacher tips and actionable step by step strategies to help you grow as an educator. Are you ready? Let's dive in.

Welcome back to The Literacy Dive Podcast. I'm so grateful that you are tuning in today. And if this is your first time listening, I am glad you're here. Welcome, welcome to the show.

And if you are a returner, I am so glad that you're back because we are diving into this topic that I feel like teachers across America and across the world probably have struggled with at some point in time: how we can fit in writing to a busy schedule.

So the first thing that I want to talk about is prioritizing it, designating a space and a time within your schedule that you can commit to and you can be consistent. This is key in making the time for this writing to happen.

You are going to find that if you reserve a space in your schedule that you can make anything happen. And in this case, it can be writing. And the second part of that is that if you make this time in your schedule, and you start doing this on a routine basis, then guess what, your students are not going to let you forget about it.

I am telling you any time I have tried to start a new system in my classroom, my students would call me out if we didn't do it. So this honestly should be your goal.

Thinking about where can I embed this thing called writing, whether it is your actual block or whether it is additional times where you can just implement those tiny chunks of writing, like I always mention, into your schedule, put them in there and make it to where your students are not going to let you forget about it.

Now for this I'm talking small. I mentioned your writing block, because that is also something that we're going to actually get into in just a minute. But for this actual thing of prioritizing the small designated spaces, I'm talking about small chunks of time. Can you find a small chunk of just 10 minutes for you to be able to put some writing into your schedule?

So that leads me to the next thing some time is better than no time. And what I mean by this is that I'm thinking more about your writer's workshop block. And I'm also talking about these small intentional times that I want to encourage you to do for writing.

Now speaking from my own experience, I have been in a variety of schools and some of them had mandated that we had to do writing every single day for writers workshop. And then I've been in some schools where the districts leave it up to those actual schools, the campuses to decide. And so at that we would have a certain amount of time that we had to do writing and we could break that up however we saw fit. I've also been in a school where we had A Block and B Block and so students did not get writing every single day.

So when I'm speaking to you on some time is better than no time, it's speaking from a general view that your setup could look very different than someone who has to teach it five days per week. But if you have the flexibility within your schedule, I'm talking to you.

So when you're thinking about some time is better than no time, this means getting to the point where you are not eliminating writing when something has to go. So in a way, I'm wanting you to set yourself up for success versus setting yourself up for a potential downfall.

So whether you have to do five days a week, but no one's really looking at you and watching you and counting the minutes and watching the clock, and so you know yourself that you are not doing five days a week, or whether you don't have any expectations, and you're just kind of left to make this up on your own, I want to encourage you to think about staggering your days, making it a point to not eliminate this, but making it achievable for you.

So maybe you're putting the days that you do writing with a little bit more time, but then that gives you flexibility on some days to not do it at all. Now, this is going to be important for you because if you are not writing consistently, then your students are not going to improve at a rate that is indeed possible for them to actually improve. But if you're not doing those big structured writing block times every single day, you can still embed writing opportunities into your day that are really quick and really intentional.

So it goes along with the whole idea that even if you are staggering your days, you can still have a lot of growth happen within your students. And you can still shift and change their feelings and emotions connected to writing. It's all about implementation and being consistent.

So if you cannot commit to daily writing, what can you commit to? Maybe it's three days per week. Perfect. Let's add that to your schedule in a pen so that it has a permanent space.

Is your goal going to be I'm going to write daily, but only for 20 minutes instead of 30 or 45? Awesome. Let's put that into your schedule.

If this is new for you, I would recommend starting with a few days or a less amount of time, so that it's achievable for you. And then you and your students can grow together and add time when you're ready. But I want you to know that some time is better than no time. So just think about what is it that you're able to give and give it your best shot for your students.

That takes us into using the time that you do have. Do you have that awkward five to 10 minutes available? You know what time I'm talking about. It's that time where one subject has ended, but you don't have to be to the next place for like eight more minutes. And so you're just trying to figure out what do I do with this time. And it might just involve you letting your students do whatever they want to do because you need to check your email, you need to drink your coffee, or you just need a breather.

Those are those minutes I'm talking about. But you have to realize that those minutes can be used for quick writing opportunities and it's not going to be painful for your students. So again, we talked about this last week briefly, but it's within those small moments where kids feel like I can do this, I really can do it. Look what I did in this amount of time. And I didn't have the feeling of hatred and dislike and stress connected to it.

So let's not withhold that from your students. So whether it's for yourself, or whether it's for the students, doing anything for seven to 10 minutes sounds way better than doing it for 45. So really piece apart your schedule and identify those times where you have a few extra minutes.

When I taught second grade and realize that I actually had a total of 19, what I like to call “dead minutes”, it was a light bulb moment for me. Like whoa, I could do a lot in 19 minutes.

It did convince me that I needed to shift and shave off some time here and there and kind of group some things together so I could put those minutes together versus having them kind of sporadic, but I was able to have the flexibility to chunk some things differently, and when I had a few continuous chunks of time, boy, was it worth it.

Now I'm going to tell you some of the areas that I was able to shave off some time or I was able to kind of shifted together and designed some routines for so that I could get back some of that time that was in my day.

Routines, like unpacking in the morning and packing up after school. Are there minutes that can be gained during those routine times? Can you teach your students a certain system or a certain method that yes, it's going to take you a couple of weeks to put it into place, but in the long run because that is in place, you're actually gaining time back that's no longer wasted.

Your restroom breaks and other transitions that you have in your day. Are you spending too much time there? Can you find a few minutes if you changed up that routine and how you treated that time that you have there?

Recess. Now, don't come for me don't come for me when I say recess, because this was me. I am 10 times guilty of this, but recess. Are you going outside and coming inside on time? Now this is big right here. And I'm telling you, I love recess more than anyone probably in the world because I need a break, my students need a break. And I love just being able to let them play outside and get their energy out.

But I know that every school has a recess policy. And I know that if there is nothing attached to it, like lunch or enrichment, then we tend to kind of go over the time a little bit. But I really want to encourage you to stick to your recess time, because those minutes can be used.

So I really want you to just be thinking about the unpacking and the packing up, the restroom breaks, your transitions, recess. And then also just the time that you have between a subject ending and going to lunch or enrichment, like I mentioned earlier. Sometimes, depending on how your schedule is, I know every year, same grade level, our schedule would change and rotate to give different grade levels, you know, different specials and lunches at different times.

So sometimes it did not really work out in my favor. But a lot of the time, I did have a lot of dead minutes, I had a lot of dead time. So I started using those for intentional times where we could do quick activities, and the kids loved it.

So those are areas where I was actually able to have this epiphany moment that I actually do have some additional time. And that is when I could embed intentional and purposeful writing time. And I would specifically add in activities that I knew kids would enjoy, that they would have fun with and that they would consider that time to be special.

And one other thing that I'm going to touch on is double dipping. Now, this is when you can turn science, math or social studies lessons into a writing opportunity. Now that's not to mistake not teaching that content area, but it's more after you teach the content, what are you doing with it then?

So on this topic of double dipping, I'm going to leave this episode right here because that is actually the perfect segue into next week's episode, which is going to be finding additional ways to sneak writing into your content areas. I cannot wait to share these ideas with you next Monday.

More About Teacher Approved:

Do you ever feel like there’s just not enough time in the day to be the kind of teacher you really want to be? The Teacher Approved podcast is here to help you learn how to elevate what matters and simplify the rest. Join co-hosts Emily and Heidi of Second Story Window each week as they share research-based and teacher-approved strategies you can count on to make your teaching more efficient and effective than ever before.