So Much Content, So Little Time

Fifty-nine minutes. That is all of the time I have with my students each school day. Just fifty-nine minutes. In those fifty-nine minutes as a high school English teacher I am expected to teach my students how to read literally, figuratively, and analytically. I am expected to help my students increase their vocabularies and improve their grammar. I am expected to guide them through the writing process and help them become better writers. And then don’t forget about researching, citing, quoting, summarizing, paraphrasing, sentence combining, finding the theme, analyzing the theme, writing the theme, and well, you get the idea.

What it all boils down to is that fifty-nine minutes is not a lot of time at all. Then when you add in mandatory standardized tests and other events that take up valuable class time (whether it be assemblies, field trips, absences, and weather), there just isn’t enough time.

One way that I try to make sure I cover the necessary curriculum in my classroom is to work backwards and plan from there. I think about what I want my students to ultimately do, and then I fill in the space with lessons, assignment, activities, notes, and discussions that will get my students to where I want them to be. I also like to combine one of the three writing genres (argument, informational, and narrative) with each major piece of literature we read. For example, when we read The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet in the Spring, I also teach argument writing. As we read the drama, I have the students look for clues that they can later use as evidence and quotes in their writing. This saves valuable class time, especially when you are working with ESL students who already find this task to be extremely challenging. I think ahead to the essay prompt, and guide my students as they keep a dialectical journal of all of the important quotes.

Another way that I try to make sure I cover the necessary curriculum in my classroom is to prioritize efficiently. When I prioritize my curriculum, I talk to the teachers who teach one grade level above me. I ask them what essential skills they would like their incoming student to be familiar with and which one they would like the students to have mastered. By doing so, I am helping out other teacher in my department, setting my students up for success in my class and in future classes, and covering all of the essentials for the year.  

For more ideas on how to maximize your instructional time and teach what matters most, check out THESE other blog posts.