Making Every Minute Count

Today's post is written by Lisa Pryor, senior director of State & District Engagement.

Making Every Minute Count is an essential element of effective expanded learning time schools.  When coupled with other essentials such as time for teachers to collaborate and a positive school culture exciting things happen for students. See for yourself in these three video clips from a Palo Alto, CA third grade classroom as featured on the Teaching Channel.

Every movement, every minute and every person in Jen Saul’s 3rd grade class matters. In this video clip Saul demonstrates how she choreographs every minute of the school day to keep students engaged, moving and learning. She prefers to structure each day in 20-minute learning blocks focused on individualized, small and whole group activities that give students the opportunity to demonstrate their learning and mastery of content and skills. A sample daily schedule is here and a sample detailed plan for an afternoon of teaching and learning is here.

In a companion video Saul’s class demonstrates their school-wide silent signals strategy to keep all students engaged in the learning activities, another way to make every minute count in this beautifully choreographed learning space also known as 3rd grade. Saul and her colleagues work diligently and intentionally at the beginning of school to establish a culture of high expectations for all students. Watch her demonstrate this practice with students in the short Teaching Channel’s Ready to Learn: Creating a Positive Classroom Culture here.

Saul thinks about and plans for transitions as part of each day’s structure to make every minute count. Students are taught routines and structures that maximize time and transitions so they move confidently through the day. At the end of each day Saul acknowledges and praises students for their hard work and hard thinking, reflecting her own growth mindset while reinforcing the students’ personal sense of accomplishment.

Students in her class have 15% more time for learning each year with 190, 7.5 hour student days. Their year features a shorter summer break to reduce learning loss during time away from school. Teachers work an additional 7 days in the school’s expanded year providing more time for collaborative planning and data analysis to support the personalized learning and intervention support for students. In addition to expanding their day and year, the school works to maximize learning time and minimize learning interruptions.

Want to know how your school is making every minute count? Use NCTL’s free School Time Analysis Tool  to get a snapshot of how time is currently used at your school. If you want to get a better sense of how time is used in your own classroom, use our companion Classroom Time Analysis Tool. For assistance in using the tools or interpreting the results, please email Lisa Pryor at [email protected].