As far back as I can remember, schools have always had times set aside each day for certain subjects and activities. You have your reading time, your math time, your writing time, your art time, your recess time…etc. During these “times” you usually teach/learn/explore about the particular subject or activity it is “time” for. When I was in school you either looked forward to these times or you dreaded them. As a teacher, I sometimes feel the same way but for slightly different reasons than when I was a kid.
This all has been on my brain recently because our district was looking at the instructional minutes taught by each grade level across the district. This was set up to look for patterns and to see if time is an issue when making sure our students are learning. It was an eye opening activity and even more eye opening to see the data complied altogether.
After that activity, I got to thinking about the instructional minutes I am providing my students with on a weekly basis. I look at my own schedule and see that I have a set “time” for each subject, special, and activity, that I am required to teach along with “times” that I feel as an educator are necessary to ensure I am following best practices (read alouds, brain breaks, class meetings, & creative opportunities). Making sure each subject is given that amount of time it needs in order to be effective has always be a huge priority of mine. I take great pride in my schedule and everything must fit neatly within its “time”.
Then I look at today’s learner and the knowledge and skill set that they must acquire. This leads me to wonder, should there only be a math “time” or a reading “time”? Or should there just be a learning “time”? After all isn’t the goal of school to teach students how learning is everywhere at any point of the day? Isn’t it the goal to prepare students for life by discovering that reading, math, science, writing, art, and technology are everywhere and all involve one another? I found myself saying YES! THIS! Then followed my an immediate, but what would that look like? How would I manage it? How would I communicate with administrators, colleagues, and families what I am doing? Would minutes overlap? Is that ok? If a lesson involves more than one subject, do all those minutes count toward their perspective subjects or can you only count them once?
I am currently in my 10th year of teaching 2nd grade. I have noticed that throughout my years as an educator, the teaching of different subjects has started to flow seamlessly together. I talk about reading all day and we read all day. We write all day and we talk about our learning all day. I realized I had only been talking about math during math and so I’ve been consciously trying to make an effort to correct that.
So how do I let go of the time? Can I let go of the time? In a sense I feel I have taken baby steps toward this. In order to teach my students how to write opinion pieces, we use the inferential comprehension questions that go along with our reading story to write during reading time. I use nonfiction texts that connect with our social studies and science standards during reading time. We practice character education while playing outside and visit our butterfly garden to see if there is anything new during recess time. I love integrating subjects together not only to maximize my time with my students but to show them that learning is everywhere. Just because it isn’t writing time doesn’t mean a sentence doesn’t start with a capital letter. However, in my experience students don’t make that connection on their own. They have to see that for themselves and be given opportunities to practice and apply that skill.
Maybe then the goal is to have times set aside for certain areas of academics and within that time show kids the learning connection. Maybe I need to highlight that more so students can move toward learning time instead of a math time. I feel the goal for the rest of the year then is to look for ways to connect and integrate in a way that is natural for everyone. I say I integrate but am I really integrating in a way that is most beneficial for the 21st century learner and is it presented in a way where they can easily see I’m integrating? Perhaps in looking at this with a more critical eye, I can move more into a learning time. I also need to remind myself to be more flexible and think outside the scheduling box!