Language Arts teachers have a lot in common. We love books, we love words, and we love to make connections with all forms of our language. But I think another thing we have in common is feeling overwhelmed at times with all of the different components that make up our subject when it comes time to teach it! Grammar, reading, research, handwriting, vocabulary, spelling, writing, fluency, expression....the list just keeps going on and on. How can a teacher possibly fit this all into a 6 hour school day when there's also math, science, and social studies to teach? And lunch to eat? And recess to attend? And music to be sung? You get my drift.....
This very issue used to be a source of frustration for me every year. I would start to lay out my yearly plan for language arts, and just not be able to physically make everything fit in! Or, if I did manage to squeeze all of the different above mentioned items into my day, it was a chaotic, choppy day of mini lessons just skimming the surface. That's when I knew I had to come up with a better way of covering what needed to be taught in a more connected, systematic way. And that's when my "Daily Bites" were born!
I basically sat down and brainstormed 5 main categories that I wanted my students to focus on independently throughout the week; attacking 1 area each day. The five areas that I decided my students needed the most intensive practice with were as follows: WRITING (informative, persuasive, and narrative), KEYBOARDING AND TECHNOLOGY, READING COMPREHENSION SKILLS, GRAMMAR & VOCABULARY, and SPELLING. Once I had my categories, I began gathering materials that would help my student reinforce and practice the skills associated with each area. I kept in mind that I wanted this time to be an independent work time.
I decided that the best time to implement my Daily Bites would be at the very start of the day. I found out early on that it is a life-saver to have something for the students to work on right away upon arrival time in the morning. Between the morning greetings, checking in, collecting notes and homework, sending attendance, taking lunch count, listening to announcements, etc., this time can become very hectic. However, by putting a consistent routine into place, both my students and myself look forward to this time instead.
I developed a simple rotation by placing a red, blue, yellow, orange, or green color sticker on everyone's desk. Next, I placed 5 bins of the matching colors on my table in a row at the front of the room. Above the bins on the chalkboard I hung up 5 signs that label my categories. Next to each sign, I place an apple cut-out in either red, blue, yellow, orange, or green. I put the materials for each activity in the corresponding color tray. As soon as a student arrives who has a yellow sticker on their desk, they know to go to the yellow box and get the activity for the day. By glancing at the title signs, they will know whether they are going to be focused on writing, keyboarding, spelling, etc. for the day.
By dividing my class into 5 groups, I can easily check what needs to be accomplished for each task. Since about 4 or 5 of my students will be writing in their journals, I know that I will need to set aside about 3-4 minutes to conference with them during my 45 minute work time. If a group is working on the spiral review sheet for reading, I can easily check their work as their completion times will be naturally staggered. Keyboarding and spelling activities are self checking. I may collect a vocabulary or grammar cut and paste for a formative grade. But again, since only a handful of kids are completing each task each day, it makes for simple, focused assessing! The rotation is very easy to maintain. I simply take each apple and move it down to the next sign at the beginning of the next day. ( I attach magnets to the back.) Then I just move the activity papers to the appropriate new color bin and we are ready to roll!
In a nutshell, this simple morning routine allows me to cover 5 key areas in an independent manner each and every day. I can connect it to my lessons and stories that we are doing throughout the week. So even if I don't have a main lesson that contains something to type, by having a “daily bite” keyboarding activity in my rotation each week I know my students will still be getting the opportunity to practice this important skill.
I hope you will consider trying this systematic, highly effective and time saving routine in your own room. I think you will be happy with the consistent results your students will produce. And it will free up valuable class time to dive deeper into the heart of your language arts program!
For a closer look at some of the many materials I have created to use in my Daily Bite stations, please check out the link below to a FREEBIE! 😄