Slice of Life 24: Maximizing Instructional Time

(During March, I am blogging daily as a part of the Slice of Life Story Challenge!)  Special thanks to the hosts of the Slice of Life Challenge:  StaceyTaraDanaBetsyAnna and Beth.   More Slice of Life posts can be found at  Two Writing Teachers .

How do teachers maximize time for student benefits?

Tip One:  Increase talk time of students in order for them to solidify their learning.  A very specific tip was shared by Lucy Calkins at the Spring Saturday Reunion at Teachers College.


Five minutes.  Find five minutes for students to talk after they have been reading.  No cost.  No text dependent questions. No quiz.

“TALK!” – Lucy Calkins

Chapter 1 “Why Talk is Important in Classrooms” from Doug Fisher and Nancy Frey’s Content Area Conversations will give you additional ideas about the value of talk including “Reading and writing float on a sea of talk.”


Tip Two:  Maximize your use of small groups across the day from Shanna B Schwartz.   “Weave small groups across the day, through reading workshop, writing workshop and word study periods.”  Use small groups to help students meet targets and accelerate learning!


Another source of information about “small group” instruction is Debbie Diller’s Making the Most of Small Groups:  Differentiation for All.  In this book Diller also explains the difference between guided reading groups and small groups working on such skills as comprehension, fluency, vocabulary, etc.  The goals of the group are determined by the data upon which they are formed!


How do you use TALK after reading to improve comprehension?  How do you use small groups across the day?

15 responses

  1. Talk is so important for processing. Sometimes teachers are afraid to let students talk because they don’t trust that they really will talk on topic. Sometimes you just have to trust they will.

    1. I love to use sentence frames and actually give the students the ” beginning words/ phrases” to help them reframe the question. That also emphasizes the value of purposeful talk!
      ( and adults don’t always stay on topic either!)

      Thanks for commenting!

  2. Well, we talk a LOT in my classroom! But I think it’s important to practice and model the talking process in those early months of school. My kids know how to talk (most of the time!), and I learn so much from them and about them through this.

    1. I love to use the “fishbowl” to model with a small group inside the circle as a demo of both “what to do” and “what not to do” as well as even how to “get back on track. Some of the tcrwp video clips are also great models as well as those at the Teaching channel.

      Thanks, Tare!

    2. What about these as “possible look fors” to guide teacher/ student development of own class guides?

      1. These look a bit like the sentence stems we have posted all about the classroom – it definitely helps to have that framework for guidance.

      2. If I have them set up in partnerships, I would consider having Susie report out with a post-it saying “Joey” on the stem that her partner Joey used and Joey would put a post-it saying “Susie” on the stem that Susie used. (A bit of partner accountability that would also show me what students used!)

  3. I love how you take two tweets and MAXIMIZE the value.

    In our classroom talk is huge. Tara has a very good point. They have to learn how to talk which is a constant learning process. Having a guide to direct their talk (the tweet you shared w/ Tara is great- thanks) .
    Talk can happen with partners immediately after individual work, before they go off to work independently or throughout the work. Literally all student work time is peppered with conversation about their thinking. My goal is to get them to learn to synthesize their ideas with this talk.

    1. Julieanne,
      I think the value of partner talk at multiple times during writing workshop is critical. Partners may need to set this up themselves as in, “today I need to draft so I want to tell you some ideas first and then later I want to share just the beginning. . .”
      There is a delicate balance between the “thinking” and then the “talking” that has to be combined in order to move students forward at the upper elementary levels!

      Funny that two tweets can make a post!!! (Saved some – still a week left! LOL)

  4. I love the tip! Thank you! It will help me to move forward tomorrow. Talk time!

    1. Glad you found it helpful, Jennifer!

  5. “Reading and writing float on a sea of talk.” So true! Thanks for reminding me of this great quote!

    1. I’m trying to figure out how to organize quotes . . . slowly! That’s a fave!

      You are welcome!

  6. I love the idea of building in five minutes for talk. Can’t wait to share it with teachers tomorrow. Thank you!

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