Thursday, January 29, 2015

Not a Minute to Lose

Marsha Levering
Primary Literacy Collaborative Trainer

Recently I’ve been reminded of how important it is to make the most of every minute! I began to think about this from a personal standpoint when I suddenly found myself on bed rest with a serious back injury, dealing with pain and probable surgery. Important routines and urgent plans came to a quick halt, and my future health was uncertain. Medical professionals became my lifeline as we worked to manage the situation and determine a course of action.   

During those long weeks, I had plenty of time to evaluate my life and think about the people and events that surround me. I thought about my family, friends, colleagues, and about the work I do in literacy learning. Unasked questions hovered in my mind—what if, at the end of this situation, I can’t do what I’ve always done? What will those limitations be, and how will they affect the course of my life? Will I be able to shift my thinking and actions and adjust to living a bit differently in this world? The “unknown” was not a comfortable place to be.  

Then a physical therapist said to me, “It’s about what you CAN do, not what you can’t do.” And somewhere in my head, although I have heard that said many times, I realized the truth of it in a new way. Since then I’ve had plenty of revelations in my personal life about this statement, but I especially want to use this blog to touch on a place in our teaching where we have many opportunities to do what we can do, and where there really is ‘not a minute to lose.’  

I am talking about Guided Reading. During some of my wait time, I reviewed several Guided Reading videos and was struck by the variance in how that time is utilized by teachers. All of the lessons were effective, yet some seemed to include more explicit teaching, more student application, and more purposeful moves that support each individual student. There was no “downtime”, and those teachers intentionally tuned their eyes and ears to each child, keeping them on track and giving specific support. By sharing examples of what I observed, I hope you will consider your own teaching decisions within that sacred (approximately) 20 minutes, and begin to plan intentionally for your students. The following bullets show how teachers invest small amounts of time in a consistent manner to make the most of guided reading lessons.  

Before Reading: