When I was working in the classroom, I would often say that I could sleep over at school every night and still not feel caught up. What’s even worse is that the moments with our students are fleeting; time is precious, especially for students. Our students’ days are jam-packed, their attention levels are low, and an abundance of standards need to be mastered. As a classroom teacher in a high-priority school, I was trying to get two to three years of learning packed into one to get my students caught up to grade level. Not a minute could be wasted, and my students relied on having quality first-time instruction and efficient practices put in place to ensure success. I know I am not alone.
When I asked the Reading Horizons Teachers League what their top three challenges in reading instruction were this year, one teacher, Shannon Dean Clark, posted, “1. Not enough time; 2. Too many kids below grade level; 3. Not enough time.” I feel your pain! This is also a sentiment I hear when I am out on the road coaching teachers in implementing Reading Horizons. I wish I could offer you a magic wand to grant you more time in your day, but since I can’t, I do have five simple tips to free up time during a Reading Horizons lesson.
Review with a Fast-Paced Game
Reading Horizons games add so much value to the lesson. For starters, they are highly engaging, and we all know that students who are engaged learn more and are less likely to act out. Games also build automaticity and build upon social and emotional teaching. Start your lessons off right with a fun game to review and harness enthusiasm toward phonics.
Move Transfer Cards to Centers
This quick tip is twofold: it will save you time during whole class instruction, and it will save you time after school from having to extensively plan an entirely new center activity. Students love transfer cards, and there are dozens of games and activities you can have your students play with the transfer cards (such as Tiny Teacher and Change That Word) to keep the center engaging.
Rely on Accelerate
If you use the lesson planner on Accelerate, you will save time with the students and keep your sanity. The Accelerate Lesson Planner brings all your resources to your fingertips. For example, instead of spending time trying to find where you stored either the digital or printed copy of the Whole Class Transfer Card, just look it up right from your lesson planner to save time and stress.
Clean up Dictation
Dictation should run like a well-oiled machine. The teacher says the letter or sound twice, students immediately repeat it twice, students write and mark the word once while the teacher uses the word in a sentence, and then the teacher moves on to the next word. You do not need to spend a lengthy amount of time helping individuals during dictation.
You can give students prompts to quickly move them along on the right track, but you should save time-consuming discussions for small group time. Dictation time should feel rhythmic. Again, with the quick pace and high engagement, any classroom behaviors you are challenged with should be minimal. Also, unless you are doing dictation for guided practice or review, there is no need to have students repeat everything you are saying twice with hand motions.
Keep Expectations High
I worked with a coach once who told me you have to go slow to go fast. Take your time at the beginning, and sweat the small stuff. Take the time to make sure your students are
creating lists going down the left column of the board during dictation and that corrections are worked out to the right of the word. Provide plenty of time to establish routines—from how to take your supplies out to where to put your practice pages at the end of a lesson. These things take time and patience to plan out and implement with your students, but it will be well worth it come October when you don’t have to waste time reminding kids how to put caps on markers or use their hands correctly during dictation.
Have a time-saving tip? Share it in the comment section below or find us on our Community Pages on RHaccelerate.com or facebook.com/groups/readinghorizonsteachersleague/.