Why Not Give It A Try?

Only a few months of this school year remain. Already you may be evaluating your instructional lessons and contemplating what to include or change for the next school year. So why not try something different now? It’s the perfect time! You know your students’ academic strengths. Your class management program is in place. Your Things to Do checklist is whittling down. You can implement a few simple changes and reflect on them over the summer months, while sitting on the beach.

1.Eliminate or reduce the use of worksheets and packets

I had been teaching for five years when my principal gave me the no worksheet challenge. Could I teach my second grade /third grade class without using any worksheets in all subject areas? The challenge excluded using worksheets for testing purposes. Of course being young and naive, my response was a confident,” Sure, no problem.” It took some planning and collaboration with my colleagues, but I succeeded. My students’ reactions were so enlightening. They actually were more engaged in the learning process. We shared information in discussions, used more crayons and markers, and created models.Need more convincing? Read Are Worksheets a Waste of Time?.  Join the #NoWorksheetWeek Twitter Chat on April 26 at 8 pm Central time with Matt Weld and Rae Fearing. Be part of the No Worksheet Week Movement on May 2-6.

2.  Narrow the length of the skill focus lesson

In his book, Brain Rules, John Medina discusses the fact that the brain has a stubborn timing pattern of 10 (2009). After about 10 minutes of direct instruction, the brain must make a shift to refocus.” Narrowing the Focus and Length of a Lesson to Make It Brain Compatible by Joan Moser. My first thoughts were how I possibly can teach a lesson in 7-10 minutes. Being the loquacious individual that I am, it seemed unrealistic. Since I respected the research, I started the process by stating what we were learning and why it was important. Next, I modeled the strategy using a picture book, short article, or part of a story. Then students were given some time to apply what they learned. This time for practice is so important since it is not effective to teach skills in isolation.  I used this time to observe and facilitate.

Record or make a video of  your lessons to evaluate how much you really needed to say to meet the lesson objective. Time your students to observe when they begin to no longer focus and become distracted. Here is a resource: Brief Focus Lessons – The Daily Cafe Don’t shy away from using a primary level book with older students. The simplicity of the text makes it easier for the intermediate student to grasp the concept.

3. Teach more poetry

“When you immerse you students in rich, lively poetry, you introduce them to intense, concise, skillfully crafted language. They learn how authors convey a maximum amount of thought and feeling in the fewest carefully chosen words. In a way, everything they need to know about reading and writing exists within a poem.” From the book, Guiding Readers and Writers by Irene C. Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell.

It is recommended that teachers spend 90-120 minutes each week or at least twice per month teaching poetry to our students. These instructional lessons would consist of minilessons on creating images with words, personification, repetition and pattern, onomatopoeia, etc. The poetry minilesson can take the place of reading/writing lessons and replace the one time poetry units of the past. We need to make poetry accessible to students, encourage response to poetry, and share student written poems.

April is National Poetry Month. If you want to know more about the Dear Poet lesson plans,  ideas for your classroom and school to use for Poem in Your Pocket Day on April 21, and other information for National Poetry Month click here.

If you still have not found the ideas that make you want to try something new, read Every Child Every Day: The six elements of effective reading instruction don’t require much time or money—just educators’ decision to put them in place.


We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths. Walt Disney



I graduated with an MS degree in Elementary Education from SIUE. I have endorsements for Language Arts, Science, Social Studies, and Middle School. I am certified to teach K-9 and Gifted Education. Over the years I have taught Kindergarten - Fifth Grade. Now I am currently a Literacy Coach, who works with a wonderful group of teachers.

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