Preparing Your Classroom Part One (Planning Your Minutes)
Are you busy planning for your classroom? Do you want to plan, but aren’t sure what to do? I remember getting hired for my first elementary teaching job in July. I was so excited, and I couldn’t wait to get started. I even met with another teacher from the fourth grade team to find out more about what I could expect over the coming year. He was as helpful as he could be, but when I asked him what I should plan for the year, he was at a loss. I think he had been teaching for so long that he didn’t think about getting ready for the fall.
So now that I know what to do, I am paying it forward. These ideas are for an upper elementary self-contained classroom. If you are teaching a different age or departmentalized you can adapt my suggestions to fit your classroom.
First, you won’t be able to plan your daily schedule because you probably don’t have your specials schedule yet, but you can plan how much time you will spend on each subject each day. To accomplish this, you will need to know which subjects you will be teaching and how many minutes you have per day.
Here are the subjects I taught: math, math facts, reading, writing, grammar, vocabulary, spelling, science, social studies, art, and community. This list may seem odd, but I broke it up into specific topics because it helps me chunk my time. Spelling and grammar are a part of writing, but they can be done independent of a writing lesson, so I separated them. I also included community because I want to remember to plan time for morning meetings and daily clean up.
Next, I need to determine the amount of time I have in the classroom. I work in minutes because I want to make every minute count. The average school day is six and a half hours long. That is 390 minutes, but you won’t have 390 minutes with your students. You will need to subtract time for lunch, recess, announcements, and specials. You will also want to consider traveling time, or you will always be behind schedule. So, recess may be 15 minutes, but with travel time it is 20 minutes. I would estimate about 140 minutes per day are spent of these activities. This leaves you with 250 minutes of instruction time.
Here is how I would allocate my time:
Math: 60 minutes
Math Facts: 10 minutes
Reading: 45 minutes
Writing: 45 minutes
Spelling: 10 minutes
Grammar: 10 minutes
Vocabulary: 10 minutes
Science: 45 minutes two times per week
Social Studies: 45 minutes two times per week
Art: 45 minutes once per week
Community: 15 minutes
As you can see, 250 minutes can be used up super quickly. What you can’t see on a plan like this is that curriculum integration will mean more time on each of the subjects. For example, my reading plan for the day could involve a reading passage on the Oregon Trail that ties in with an activity the class will do during the social studies time that same day. Art could involve creating a painting of biomes we are learning about in science.
You may already be overwhelmed at having to plan for each of these subjects, not to mention all your small groups! If your school provides a curriculum for any of these subjects, use it as much as you can. There is just no way to put all of this together on your own. You can also shop TpT for great resources. Here are some of my resources that will help you plan for your students.
Spelling: Traditional spellings lists and tests do not decrease spelling mistakes on other writing. Programs such as Words Their Way are designed to help students learn spelling patterns, but they can be time-consuming to prepare and overwhelming for new teachers. This spelling program is built on the same principle as Words Their Way because students are learning to make sense of spelling instead of memorizing, but it is designed to be easy for teachers. One spelling rule is introduced each week and students are given activities to practice with the given word list. They also have the opportunity to add their own words to fit the rule. Instead of a spelling test, kids show what they have learned by writing a paragraph at the end of the week. You can get a free sample to try out the program before purchasing the entire set. One more bonus - there are more weeks of spelling words than weeks in the school year. The set can be used in third, fourth, or fifth grade!
Grammar: When students understand grammar they become both better readers and better writers, but many teachers lack a dedicated grammar curriculum. These grammar resources include worksheets, quizzes, and activities to help kids learn and master grammatical concepts. Some topics can be taught in a week while others will take two to three weeks. Check it out for a list of everything included.
Vocabulary: Greek and Latin roots are a must in any vocabulary program. Students learn how words are built, so figuring out the definitions of new words is easier. These roots are especially helpful when teaching scientific vocabulary. This set teaches four new roots per week. You get everything you need to implement the program. Literally, all you need to do is print. Plus, it is designed with upper elementary kids in mind. The full year includes 30 weeks, but you can also buy them in 5-week chunks. Aren’t sure if this program will work for you? Grab the freebie and try it out!
Math Facts: Most teachers use flashcards for their students' math fact practice, but how do you know the kids are actually practicing? Plus, with flash cards, kids are memorizing not understanding. These workbooks use math models to help kids understand and memorize math facts. There are options for addition and subtraction and multiplication and division. Plus, there are so many pages for practice that you can easily differentiate for each of your students. There are fact books for every month of the school year and the summer. Click to see more!
Do you want more help planning for next year? Check out part two of this series now!