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Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Fighting Our #1 Enemy...TIME: Saving Time in Writing (and Reading) Workshop

This week I will try and post a number of tips for saving time in our workshop in an attempt to get back some time,  give our students more time to write (and read), and us more time to confer and grow our writers. 

Saving Time Tip #1

I never had scripts or published units of study when I taught in my own classroom.  I had to move through my minilessons quickly and consistently all on my own.  

As a new teacher to the workshop model, I was nervous that I would not have the will power to ask students to hold their questions, comments, and connections as I went through my 15 minilesson  teaching point each morning and afternoon (we had the luxury of an hour for Reading Workshop in the morning and an hour of Writing workshop at the end of our day...).   I would watch the clock, ask certain students to give me a silent signal when I reached the ten minute mark, or just cross my fingers that I would be able to get through the four parts of each day's minilessons under that 15 minute mark. It was tough and I needed more than the ticking of the clock to move me along and help me out.  

Enter my "Minilesson Cheat Sheet".  I decided that in order to transition quickly and consistently and help my students learn the routine of the workshop, I would need some help.  On an index card I scribbled down the phrases that I used every day for each part of the minilesson.  I laminated it, left it on top of my overhead projector (now I am dating myself...), and referred to it each and every day until I had those phrases memorized and they rolled off my tongue.  Not only did I feel more confident having my Workshop Cliff's Notes by my side, my lessons became more efficient and my students could anticipate what part of the minilesson I was up to (and when they had to be a part of it) based on the phrases I was using.  

This past week, in an intermediate school I was working in, we talked about "the enemy" and how our minilessons must be quick and consistent for our students to get to work.  After creating a fiction unit of study for Reading Workshop with an amazing group of teachers on Long Island (along with three scripts for teachers to reference), I created the cheat sheet below for those teachers to come back to time and time again.  I hope that you can use it as a way to keep your minilessons shorter and your reading/writing and assessment time longer.  

Let me know what you use to keep those minilessons under 15 minutes!