First Days of School and Scheduling

We went back to school this week which means I have been overwhelmingly busy.  Our district redistricted which resulted in my school, previously grades 4-6, becoming a sixth grade-only school.  This was a first for the district, so teachers, parents, and students were in complete chaos!  The first day was definitely tough, but the second day calmed down.  Hopefully, next week it will all even out and we can begin teaching.

This year I will have approximately 100 students.  I’m already a little overwhelmed by the prospect of grading that much.  But I’ve been working out a new schedule and think I have a few ideas.  If any of you also teach language arts for 50 minute periods (4-5 periods/day), please let me know if you have any advice!

I will be teaching language arts to 4 classes each day for 50 minutes at a time.  Until this year I had almost 2 hours to teach language arts daily so this is a huge change.  I’m still angry about losing my time (and feel like it is so unfair to my students) but I am committed to doing the absolute best I can for them.  I’m planning to teach reading for 3 days and writing for the next 3 days, alternating all year long.  This will allow me to continue teaching with reading and writing workshop.  I also plan to have two classes doing reading while the other two are doing writing, hopefully allowing me to spread out the grading a bit.  I’ve come to terms with the fact that this year’s class will not get the scope and depth of instruction that previous classes have received.  However, I will continue with my read-alouds daily and booktalking.  I already do very few whole-class novels and I will continue with those.  But the 50 minute periods will force me to focus on my mini-lessons and not get off-topic.  This year will take a lot more planning but I think I can do it!

How do you schedule your middle school language arts classes?

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5 Responses

  1. I’m in the same boat this year — double the students and half the time. In fact, I haven’t taught in a 45 minute block in nearly a decade. On a positive note, like you, it will force me to focus my lessons. However, on the downside, it will force me to leave a lot of the practice work of writing and reading for homework. There will be a lot of experimenting this year, I’m sure, but my goal is to blog about how class goes every day so that I can look back at the end of the year and revise.

  2. This year I am pretty lucky time-wise. We are building our middle school piece as our school adds a level each year. This year I teach social studies and language arts in a 2 1/2 hour block of time to 6th and 7th graders. Here is a rough estimate of how I break up the block:
    10 minutes Word Study
    15 minutes Read Aloud
    15 minutes Reading Mini-Lesson
    30 minutes Reading Workshop
    40 minutes Social Studies
    15 minutes Writing mini-lesson
    25 minutes Writer’s Workshop

    Next year when our school grows to a k-8 school I will have 6-8, and we will have to split our daily instruction three ways. I might still be teaching social studies and language arts, so I am already thinking ahead to how I would still do everything that I think is important and vital in a shorter amount of time with more students. I alternate reading and writing days and have social studies every day (with additional language arts standards mixed in). Even with my 51 students this year, I am already overwhelmed with all the grading. I am working on getting a smoother system going…

  3. I changed from a 90 minute language arts period in 5th grade to a 45 min. 6th grade reading last year. It probably took me a semester to adjust. In January, I resolved to read aloud at least twice a week and more if I could work it in. We have a curriculum which we are supposed to follow so here is what I did as a compromise but to still give free choice of reading material. I give one day to read the story and take the selection test and that is the only day I do not allow 15 minutes for independent reading. That gets my grades in and is easy to grade, I had 120 students last year. I do literary terms with them and have assessments on those terms as well as a jeopardy type card game. At least once a week I make sure I go around the room and talk to each kid about their free choice book. This year we have moved into middle school with 7th and 8th graders so I am re adjusting. I really used a lot of the Book Whisperer ideas and agree totally that if they start reading for pleasure then they will be better readers. I did not do one TAKS practice sheet and my scores were 95% with 51% commended so even starting as late as I did it was successful plus my 7th graders are still coming to me for their reading material. I am reading “Catching Fire” this weekend because I have 7th graders lined up to read it. I really struggled with the lack of time at first but decided that my read aloud was important and was not expendable. I also do Tuck Everlasting with them as a read aloud and class discussion but as you said I do voc. and a test on it because that is what will happen next year and I do want them to know how it probably will be done the rest of their school life. I taught 21 years of LA in 5th and I love 6th graders even if it means 45 min. periods. Not to say that I am totally happy with how my school district does for reading. Last year math was 90 min. and reading 45. Until the district realizes that reading drives the curriculum I am afraid we will just have to deal with it. I am finding more time with my read aloud this year where I was learning the ropes last year.

  4. I teach 5th and 6th grade English and reading. Classes are all 47 min long. And I have six teaching periods and one planning period. Needless to say, it’s tough. I do my best though to get my minilesson and instruction done quickly in reading so that they can work on their independent reading for the last 10 minutes or so of class. In English, I’m still struggling to find a solid formula for instruction. I usually give the students about 5 minutes at the start of class for journal writing, but I’m finding it harder to fit in my instruction and give them enough time to get to their independent writing pieces. It would help if I could have my class back to back for English and reading but even though I requested it last year, it didn’t happen.

  5. Hello, my name is Lauren and I am a Peace Corps volunteer in Palau. I’m teaching 6th, 7th and 8th grade English for the first time. I do have some resources available but I could really use some help from a professional. The classes are small and broken into 45 minutes each. I would love to see a copy of your scedule breakdown for each day, and each quarter for the year. Also, grading, classroom management and anything else you can help me with would be much appreciated! Thank you for your time!!

    Lauren Truss PCV
    Peace Corps/ Palau
    PO Box 158
    Koror, Palau 96940

    PS- I would like to start a Flat Stanley Project with my students. Would your classes be willing to participate with us? Thanks again!

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