Add 90 Minutes of Teacher’s Weekly Prep Time by Cheryl Hecht, M.Ed.
In this day and age of meeting the needs of all learners, high stakes testing, teacher effectiveness, PLCs, and student accountability, our time is at a premium. If teachers have lesson plans to write, papers to grade, or grades to enter into Power School, they are not going to be able to “focus” on meeting agendas or in-service trainings. The following tips outline a beautiful strategy that provides teachers additional prep-time at no extra cost.
- Meet with your staff to explain that you are going to provide an extra 90-minutes every so often by doing whole-grade-level lessons. Brainstorm ideas with them…your teachers might suggest concepts they want practiced, or the site counselor might want to teach a whole group lesson. Once a decision is made, communicate with all stakeholders the goals, objectives, strategies, behavioral expectations, dates, times, or other important information to keep them informed and supportive.
- Put together a team: a group of parent volunteers, one for every 5 – 8 children, a staff member: principal, vice principal, counselor, someone who can lead lessons. You have to have at least one staff member in the room at all times.
- You will need to have a large room available for 90-minute chunks of time in your school, perhaps a lunch room or a multi-purpose room with tables and chairs for all the children in one grade level.
- Determine lessons to be taught either to the whole group or as stations/centers with one station at each table. Lessons are connected to the standards of each grade level. Our team facilitated an origami lesson to 125 students at one time. The students “ticket to leave” was a completed origami cube, which includes over 37 different geometric concepts.
- To prevent confusion, meet with the team prior to the event and share lessons with them so they know what is expected. They need to know if they are just monitoring or if they actually are leading a station/center activity. You can meet for a few minutes right before the event as long as all materials are ready to go.
- Students are prepped in their classrooms as to what is expected of them during the activity. Teachers walk their classes to the multi-purpose room and seat them at their prospective tables. Our staff kept the students together by class and each had a name tag, made from labels, attached to their shirts which made it easier to redirect behavior.
- Parent volunteers are assigned to one station or table to facilitate the activities at each table; usually the parents have students in those classrooms. Our teachers were responsible for getting parents to help, some classrooms didn’t have as many parents willing as others, so the parents graciously filled in at other tables.
- Monitoring during the activity is vital. Staff members who are not leading the lesson (i.e., principal, vice-principal, or counselor) move around the room monitoring behavior, which keeps students engaged and less likely to misbehave.
- Ninety minutes is a large chunk of time. For younger children, schedule a break every 30 minutes or so to use the restroom, go to recess, have a snack, etc. Older students, e.g., 4th & 5th graders can make it through the entire time limit. If the time is at the end of the day, students bring their coats and backpacks and are excused directly from the event.
- At the end of the experience, survey stakeholders, including students, to find out their thoughts and/or make suggestions about future events. Do not forget your special teachers, i.e., art, p.e., music, special educators, as they can have the same amount of prep if their students are attending those activities.
We used this strategy many, many times at one of the elementary schools where I was the gifted specialist. It is a large school with 4 – 5 classrooms per grade level. Often it was me leading the whole group through a lesson with the rest of the team monitoring and assisting. The team was very important to its success. The teachers were so grateful they were willing to provide the center or station activity so all the team had to do was be there and facilitate the process.
© Cheryl Hecht, M.Ed., who is the creator of www.MomsAreMathletes.com, a membership for moms who want their children to learn math with confidence and anxiety free. Cheryl, an author of the first rural NV charter school, writes math lessons that are engaging and bring forth self-discovery of math patterns using hands-on activities. For more information on providing staff with additional prep time, please free to contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As an educator, you need to maintain your energy so that you can serve the students who have been entrusted to you. I encourage you to access the tips booklet: Put Time & Energy Pockets* into Your Life: 52 Tips for Teachers. Pockets can mean the difference between calm and crazed.