Reconsidering My 100 Minutes


Lisa Donohue’s Incredible Book: An Amazing Resource For All Grade Levels

Over March Break, I ordered and read Lisa Donohue’s 100 Minutes. I follow Lisa on Twitter, converse with her there often, and was thrilled to meet her in person this year as well. I was also very eager to read her book. I’ll admit though that I just skimmed it. I was in the midst of doing many different things personally and professionally, and I didn’t take the time to really read and think about Lisa’s numerous suggestions. This was a mistake.

At the end of the school year, I wrote this reflection for the We Inspire Futures blog, and I spoke about my three goals for next year. One of my goals is to revisit my literacy block, and look at how students can have more opportunities to read, write, think, and create. With this goal in mind, I decided to re-read 100 Minutes this summer. This time, I gave this book the time that it deserves, and I realized that the suggestions in it really do allow me to meet this goal of mine.

Following the structural format in the book for my literacy block, I can not only provide direct instruction in reading and writing, but give numerous opportunities for students to apply what they’ve learned.

  • I can already see how the writing prompts from previous EQAO tests could be used as some of the writing prompts that we use in class.
  • I can see how I can differentiate the reading and writing activities that the students complete during AWARD time (Applying Writing And Reading Daily) to meet the Grade 5 and Grade 6 curriculum expectations.
  • I can see how I can use choice to have students take control over what they read and what they write.
  • I can see how students can use time during the Language block to help create learning goals and success criteria, and how they can use what they’ve created to guide them during independent practice time.
  • I can see how all of my students can be successful, as the activities are open-ended enough to allow all children an entry point.
  • I can see how technology can be meaningfully incorporated into AWARD Time, and how media literacy can coincide with reading and writing.
  • I can see how I can continually update the reading and writing activities to make AWARD Time meaningful and enjoyable.
  • I can see how timely feedback can be used to help students with their reading and writing activities (and how I can make this work in a real classroom with real students).
  • I can see the intersection of oral language, reading, and writing, and how I can use some of the strategies that I used this year (e.g., small group book talks and the 105 the Hive radio shows) successfully next year.

This book, and the many ideas in it, make me excited for school to begin in September! As I continue to reflect on what I read though, I have some questions where I’m looking for insight from others.

  • In the past, I’ve had good success providing many opportunities for collaboration. While students may read and write together, it’s incredible to see how much they contribute individually. They really do learn a lot from each other. 100 Minutes though seems to focus on more independent work. The biggest opportunity for collaboration happens during the full class reading and writing activities. While students may peer edit some writing pieces or discuss some books together during AWARD Time, this time is not really for group projects. While I can see moving my collaborative learning opportunities to the full class lesson blocks, I’m also wondering about collaboration during AWARD Time. How can it exist during this time? Should I be looking at ways to allow for collaboration during AWARD Time, or should I be focusing on independent work then instead? What are the benefits and drawbacks for each option?
  • I agree with Lisa that technology should not be considered an add-on. I usually emphasize this by allowing students to use technology “freely” during reading and writing activities. As part of Lisa’s AWARD Time though, she has a Tech component. I have mixed feelings about this. I do love how the students get the full AWARD Time to create using technology, but what if the students want to use technology to write their story or to read an e-Book? How could I use technology for both the Tech component and the regular component of AWARD Time? If devices are available, would it be feasible to devote so many of them to each of these components? This might be a possibility, but I’d like to hear what others have to say about this option.
  • Since I’m teaching a 5/6 split, I was looking at ways to incorporate Science and Social Studies into my literacy block. I can see using content area texts for guided reading, and I can see having reading options and writing prompts that link to the Science and Social Studies topics. Students may even want to research some of these topics during AWARD Time. What other ways could I allow for and support this integration?

Thank you, Lisa, for writing such a fantastic book that has given me so many wonderful ideas to consider as I prepare for another school year. I’d love to hear other people’s insights into 100 Minutes and into the questions that I’ve shared here. I hope that we can start a dialogue here about this great educational resource!


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