How do you structure your 100 minute literacy block in the intermediate grades?
My school district has 300 minutes dedicated to English Language Arts each week. Some schools like to schedule this with four 50 minute periods and one 100 minute block of time. Each school schedules Language Arts differently. At one school I taught at, in addition to the one 100 minute block, the principal gave us 150 additional minutes to teach Social Studies (History/Geography) after our Literacy lesson.
When you’re a new teacher, this feels like a lot of juggling, but with a guide and some structure, your confidence is sure to increase.
My 50 Minute Block Schedule
There are many ways to structure a 50 minute class period for intermediate Language Arts, and it often depends on the students in your classroom. For me, I want to make sure I incorporate a variety of activities so that students’ attention remains focused. This ensures we make the most of the time we have for the subject to meet curriculum requirements and also ensure student engagement.
Here’s how I structure a regular 50 minute period of intermediate Language Arts:
The First 10-Minutes
- I start each class with 10 minutes of silent choice reading. Students can read what they want, and often they make use of our classroom library. Check out this post all about creating a dynamic classroom library.
- To add accountability for this silent reading, we have informal teacher-student conferences to chat about what they’re reading. These help ensure students stay on track. Plus, it’s a great opportunity for 1-1 check-ins to foster classroom relationships.
- Each week I have students complete a reading journal entry about their independent reading novel. Students can write about their thoughts and feelings about the text they’re reading. I have students select 1 journal entry a month for me to assess formally, and I check the other three for completion. Some months you have decided which of the 4 entries gets marked. These digital and printable reading tracking forms and reading journal assignments are ideal for this very task.
The Next 15-Minutes
- After students finish their reading, the next 10 – 20 minutes maximum is a lesson on the skill they need to practice that day/week. These lessons align with the units mentioned in these free grade 7/8 long-range plans.
- For example, if we have started our class novel study, then one particular lesson is about direct and indirect characterization. In the lesson, I define the terms, we look at a mentor passage, and I model finding examples and showing how to record in a graphic organizer.
The Last 25 Minutes
- After the lesson, students work independently or in small groups for 20 – 30 minutes, practicing their new skills. While this is happening, I am conferencing with students at my guided reading table and/or walking around the room to keep them accountable. This provides me with time to assess where students are with their application of the skill from the lesson.
- As you’re circulating, have a checklist with your students’ names so you can make anecdotal notes at that moment about who is achieving the lesson goals and who might need further support.
The Last 2 Minutes of Class
- Once students are working away, I keep an eye on the clock to make sure that I stop 2 minutes or so before the end of the period.
- These final moments provide time for consolidation and reviewing the agenda and homework on the board.
- I require agendas for all students to support the development of their learning skills and study habits. This could be a blank notebook, a real agenda, or they might use a provided duotang with lined paper.
My 100 Minute Literacy Block Schedule
When I have the 100 minute literacy block once a week, I shift the structure slightly from the usual shorter block outlined above.
The First 50-Minutes
- Once again, we kick things off with 10 minutes of silent choice reading, with students being held accountable through conferencing and reading journals. I cannot stress enough how important this is to encourage and support student reading, so students are not just students who read but become lifelong readers (read more about that approach in this post).
- The following 15 – 20 minutes is a lesson on the skill they need to practice that day/week. The goal is 15 minutes, so students remain focused and on-task.
- From this lesson, they apply their learning for 20 – 30 minutes, and I wander the room to answer questions and do a general check-in on understanding and progress.
The Next 50-Minutes
- After this work period, we take a 5-minute brain break in sections to get water and move around the room. This gives students a chance to stretch and prepare for a final push to the end of the class.
- In this final push towards the 100-minute mark, we complete another lesson following the same 15-minute rule for teaching a new concept, or we do a media literacy activity/lesson like those in this media literacy bundle 1 or media literacy bundle 2.
The Final 2-Minutes
As usual, we use the final minutes to wrap up any necessary homework and complete the last check-in with the agenda on the board and their personal agendas.
My Dream ELA Schedule – A 100 Minute Literacy Block Daily
Having a daily 100 minute literacy block for ELA is just a dream rather than reality… but a teacher can dream! So, if I did live this dream, I would use the same format, but the second part of the block would be dedicated to a different strand of language with either writing, oral communication, or media.
Other options to use the 100 minute literacy block include running a full reader or writer workshop (read tips here and here). At this stage, with this duration only happening once a week, I tend to make it a media literacy period for students.
Having a strong structure and plan for all classes is important! But so too is making sure that this structure meets your needs as you cover the curriculum and that of your students too! These plans for my 50-minute or 100 minute literacy block in middle school ensure I’m meeting the curriculum and keeping students engaged.
Plus, this structure also provides some flexibility for those moments where a shift is needed to reflect a student’s voice or a specific world event occurs that needs addressing. In that way, these structures work best for my students and me, and I hope that they can serve you and your students well too!
Full-Year ELA Teaching Bundle
Grade 7 and 8 Teachers – stop working evenings and weekends to put together a comprehensive and engaging literacy program!
This full-year ELA bundle contains 80+ resources for teaching Reading, Writing, Speaking/Listening/Oral, and Media Literacy. Teachers are provided with engaging and cross-curricular lessons to help their students explore and understand Grade 7 and 8 Language Arts.
You can learn more about this bundle here.
You can now enjoy and spend more time with your friends and family without worrying about planning every lesson!
- If you are looking for additional resources for teaching Grades 6, 7 or 8 Social Studies, Science, History, or Geography, check out this blog post.