I received an e-mail from another blogger who teaches middle school who asked about the pacing of the teaching points and units of study. Specifically, she wanted to know, “What if they don’t finish in that time period? Do they finish it at home for homework?” I wrote her back, but figured this might be an issue others are grappling with, so here’s my thinking. (I hope others will weigh-in by posting comments.)
DAILY: I present a teaching point to the children. However, sometimes I know that certain kids are not up to that point. That’s the reality of the Workshop. You hope everyone is moving at the same pace, but inevitably some kids have already done what you’re teaching and others have not. That’s why, in the link, you say, “Today and every day that you’re…” so that it gets them to think that this isn’t just a strategy to use today, but it’s a strategy you can use every time you’re doing __________________. (Fill in the blank with the appropriate words that come from your teaching point.) I guess that’s why we confer with students and pull them for strategy lessons… we know that they’re not all with us (i.e., with regard to pacing) when we teach a minilesson so it becomes necessary to differentiate instruction.
MONTHLY: I always build-in at least two days for extra “revision lessons” when I craft units of study. I write in my monthly calendar “T.P. TK,” which means that the teaching point is yet to be determined. This way I don’t feel pressured to speed through my teaching points if I notice a lot kids aren’t understanding what to do or it’s taking most of the kids longer than expected to grasp the teaching point. Hence, building in these two days allows me to always finish on-time. It’s pretty rare that I push back a Publishing Party since I’ve built in these days.
Note: Sometimes those days are ACTUALLY used for revision. That means pacing is perfect and I want to push my students to really work on some aspect of their pieces as a class. It’s always gratifying when that happens since you can notice the level of their work, once they publish, is much higher thanks to those revision lessons that were thrown-in towards the end of the month.