Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Daily schedule

I have been inspired by Aviva Dunsinger, a teacher in Hamilton, to talk about my daily schedule.  She posted hers not too long ago, take a look at: http://adunsiger.com/2014/01/04/a-glimpse-at-our-day/, great read.

I have been thinking about how to describe what my schedule looks like and have been struggling.  I think the problem lies in that my schedule really blurs, moreso now that I teach primary.  For those that know me, know that I teach predominantly through Inquiry and problem based learning. In fact, it is more the only way I teach. Too me it allows me to reach all of my students and meet all of their needs but enough of that.  Because of this, subjects become obsolete, I mean the curriculum still guides my practice but it's not like set periods of math, language, social studies, etc.  It becomes more of a fluid motion between subjects where one is integrated into the next.  Let me explain a little more:

Our school day is divided Into eight periods, but first period is short so really seven.  I lose one period a day for prep.  This roughly leaves me with six periods to work in various activities.  But I try not to see it as periods in the day more like blocks of time.  I always try to have a double period of math and a double period for language but this may not necessarily happen in a set time, it's where ever I feel it fits the flow of learning.  Sometimes we need to do some language because it is building a context for our math or vice versa our math builds the context for our language. It's also Inportant to note that even though our time may not be back to back, it still continues.  I don't try to wrap things up because I have to go to gym.  We just leave things were they are at and continue when we get back.  At first this left some redirecting and focusing but now my students don't even stop they just get right back to work.

So what do these periods look like:  

Math: is always some sort of contextual problem or an inquiry approach to exploring concepts (some strands are harder to find contexts for all big ideas). For example, we are exploring geometry and 3D figures, so the problem might be there are a bunch of figures on the desk what do you notice. Or look at these categories, one is a yes and one is a no, place the other figures into the categories.  These examples are more inquiry base but help build understanding.  Other times we may be exploring distances kids travel to school around the world.  This context would be read about in class, journaled about in writing and then explored in math.

Language: is predominately done in center form.  I would have five centers that students rotate around for the week.  One center is vocabulary, one is writing, a guided reading group, a read and reflect and another that would be dependant on social studies, science or our writing focus.  Students have choice in the various centers and the reading is often about a social justice theme, science or social studies.  Sometimes, I may use this time to work on just writing or just reading.  

As I mentioned above I try to have two periods for each but this often blurs to three or four depending on student engagement, need and work accomplishment.

For my other subjects (social studies, science, drama, art, media, oral) they are all integrated into math and language.  However, I will often put science, social studies on my schedule board so the students know what to expect.

For both of these subjects it is all inquiry. For science, we do a lot of experiments and posing questions that students have to research.  For social studies, it is one big concept and the students read, write, present and pose new questions of their findings.  Often students will push other inquiry from the discussions and ideas they were researching about.  The arts are also taught this way, with making music videos, podcasts, art work to use in math or media posters.

I also do genius hour once a week for my kids.  Genius hour has been the best thing for inquiry and promoting student engagement.  Genius hour is all about allowing students pursue their own interest a as long as it promotes learning and helps the class.  The students are so engage.  But this is not just let the students do what they want time.  It is tied I to researching, writing, reading, and learning skills.  They are also making media posters, oral presenting and so much more.  My students live it.  Follow the genius hour hashtag for more info.

Hopefully, you see my deliema in articulating what my schedule looks like.  Too me, learning is learning and subject content should be integrated, just because you're in math doesn't mean we aren't doing language.  I think this helps students see the bigger picture and use various skills all through the day.  

I know that I may have been a little confiluding but my hope was to show what my day may look like.  In the end, all I know is that learning in my classroom is always happening and it is always connected together.  

I Would love to hear how other people schedule their day.


  1. Thanks Jonathan for sharing more about your daily schedule here! I completely agree with you about the need for integration, and this is something that I did so naturally as a primary teacher, and somehow struggled with as a junior teacher. I'm so glad that I listened to you and others online (and in person) and re-explored what I was doing before. Spending the day with a real focus on Language and Math, and integration within the two, is wonderful!

    I do find that my students though -- especially my ones with autism -- benefit from the use of a daily schedule on the Board. I'm not rigid about keeping with it exactly, and there's certainly Language in Math and vice versa, but this gives students some context to what they will be learning and doing. I think it helps prepare them. It sounds like you do something similar as well!

    I'm very excited about visiting your class this year, and I can't wait to set something up! It will be awesome to see this "schedule" in action!


    1. Thanks for the reply Aviva. I will say that I do have more time for integration in primary then junior; however, I did find that my day was pretty similar to the one now, just with more breaks then primary. I think that the hard part is training the kids to start and stop and that learning just continues. I did find that integrating more social justice into my program allowed me to do more integration. Overall, I think the important thing is showing students that learning is fluid not ridged and set in stone. The skills you learn in one subject are the same skills for other ones. Thanks again for your comment, can't wait to meet you too.

  2. The key word/concept here is "flow". In middle schools the only flow is from class to class, when the period bell happens to end. At that time, learning is disrupted, regardless of whether it's going well or not, and on to the next class.

    There are very valid reasons for this type of structure, of course, which I won't elaborate on here, but leave it to say the "flow" can often be missing. The tyranny of the ringing bells!

    I will give an adult analogy. For a time in my life all I wanted to learn about was world religions. I read as much as I wanted, while I was inspired to do so. At other times, I was interested in other things. I was free to do so, though, as i'm an adult.

    Now- your genius hour concept does help kids to explore their interests, and you very clearly get how all the subjects can fit together. I say, go where the learning takes you- and I am envious. If in time I work in a P/J environment, I will definitely follow the trails, as I like to think of it.

    Sometimes a topic suggests another topic suggests another topic, and you can follow the trails, or perhaps we might say, grab the learning by the tail, before it disappears.

    This would not work if you were not:
    1) an inquiry teacher, and
    2) aware of the big ideas behind the learning (and in the curriculum) at all times.

    In short (even though it was long), follow those trails! You are an incredibly talented and thoughtful teacher, so keep it up!

    1. Matthew thank-you for the comment. I here you on flow and I think that is what Aviva was getting at. It becomes harder as you move up the grades, or at least that is what I found in junior. I think that my students got acustom to a new reality where learn just continued. They often remembered what we did and didn't need to be refreshed ( some did but we scaffolded for them). I think middle school could rearrange timetables but I know that is hard to do some times.

      As for genius hour it actually started more as a middle school iniative then elementary. Check out @joykir great person to talk to about it.

      Your right too, this does not happen unless you teach inquiry or you have an content understanding. However, that shouldn't stop teachers from trying. I have learned a lot by being immersed in Inquiry as I have by reading content. Thanks again for your reply.