English class routines are important. Routine is something most teachers value in their classrooms. Some routines are formal and some are informal, but either way, most of us have classroom routines and appreciate their practicality and efficacy. Occasionally our routines need refreshing. Read more about routines in this blog post.
Today’s blog post is written by Rebecca Gettelman who is a middle and high school teacher from the Midwest. She has been teaching for over eleven years.
Check out three routines that can be added to your English Language Arts classroom.
To Focus on Writing: Quick Writes
I was first introduced to quick writes by my mentor teacher when I was a student teacher. He was of the opinion that getting students in the habit of putting pencil to paper no matter what they are writing about is one of the best ways to encourage their comfort with and skills in writing. The more they do it, the more they are likely to do it again. So two or three times a week, he would have his students’ quick write. These were short (2-5 minutes), timed writes on anything the student wanted to write about.
Students were allowed to write about anything from what they did over the weekend to a made-up story or the steps in making their favourite after-school snack. As these were strictly participation credit, it did not matter what students put on the page as long as their pencil was moving.
As a side note, be sure to introduce these to your class as something fun, exciting, and wacky. Don’t introduce these as just another chore or piece of work. By setting the tone for quick writes as something creative and enjoyable that students get to do, you encourage students to want not only to participate but to do their best.
To Focus on Public Speaking: Timed Storytelling
Students love to talk. They come into your classroom talking and often they leave your classroom talking. Timed Storytelling focuses student energy on a purpose.
Timed Storytelling is when students are given a set amount of time (usually two to three minutes) to talk about anything they want in front of a group. It might be the story of breaking their arm or how they fixed their dirt bike’s motor. They could tell a series of jokes or give a recap of their favourite movie. They can fill the time with whatever they choose to talk about. What they talk about is not important; that they talk is.
There are two basic ways to format this. The first is by having one or two students speak to the whole class on any given day. The second is to put the students in small groups and have them present in these groups. Five or six students in a group is usually a nice number – big enough to have the feel of an audience but small enough to allow everyone to speak regularly. I like to make sure students speak no less than once every other week, and more frequently if possible.
When students are done, specific praise is a must. It does not matter how terrible the performance was; find something specific that the student did well and point it out. If the students are in small groups, make sure that someone in each group is assigned to provide that feedback for each speaker.
A Different Way to Look at Verse: Daily Poetry
So often we think of poetry as a stand-alone unit that we jam in between a novel and some short stories. When poetry is taught for only a few weeks at most and we cover maybe fifteen poems, it is no surprise that students have a very one-dimensional view of this art form. The idea of Daily Poetry is to expose your students to a small bit of poetry on a very regular basis.
When students come in, I have a poem on the overhead. Students read and react to the poem in a poetry journal. It can be good to scaffold this activity using a graphic organizer like this one. This should only take a few minutes each day – enough time to read the poem as a group or individually and give a couple of thoughts. Occasionally you might have a class discussion on students’ ideas about a poem or have students find other poems by a poet that they read and really liked, but it does not need to be a regular thing. This does not take the place of a formal poetry unit. It does not cover poetry terms or formal analysis or anything like that. Here is a daily poetry unit that you can try in your classroom.
These are three powerful routines to try in your English class this week.