A Glimpse At Our Day

Yesterday Louise Robitaille, a fellow Ontario teacher, blogged about her daily schedule in an inquiry classroom. When I tweeted out the link to her post, she replied with this comment:

2014-01-04_10-15-44Louise’s tweet made me realize that I haven’t officially blogged about my schedule, so why not do so now?

For me, this post is a little more difficult to do, as my schedule changes each day based on my preps and my Grade 3/4 coverage. In some ways, I guess that you can see our daily schedule best in these Daily Shoot Blog Posts, but as I now explore some changes I want to make come January, I can outline my schedule in a clearer way here. Here’s a look at what our schedule looked like before, and what I envision come the end of January:

Block 1 – Periods 1 and 2 – When I Teach Both Periods

Two days a week, I have my students for both of these periods, and so this becomes our Math block. I’m really trying to embrace a more inquiry approach to math this year, and I think that our current program is a cross between inquiry-based and project-based learning.

I don’t use a textbook and I rarely have tests or quizzes. Marian Small’s philosophy probably guides my math program the most, with a more recent addition of Catherine Fosnot’s work (thanks to numerous online discussions with Jonathan So: a teacher with the Peel District School Board). Students regularly explore the different math topics through various in-class projects and hands-on learning opportunities. Many of them are shared here.

A Podcast Of Students Working Through A Math Problem Together

After different conversations with educators and administrators online and in person, I’ve recently made an even more conscious attempt to create meaningful math problems, where students don’t just learn the skills but are forced to think more deeply about them in a real world context. Regular math congresses allow students to share their learning with others and create new knowledge as well. With so many collaborative learning opportunities in the math classroom, I really like having this double period for math, as then students have the time to work through problems and discuss solutions.

A Student Discusses His Plan For This Math/Media Project

Block 1 – Periods 1 and 2 – When I Teach One Period

Three days a week, I only teach one of these two periods. With a shorter time with the students, I usually try not to teach math, and instead to have one of my Language periods. This time is usually for our read aloud. I try to link this read aloud to our TLCP and/or the Health, Science, or Social Studies topic that we’re currently exploring. As with any read aloud time, I always have part of the period for students to listen to the text, and part of the period for students to reflect on what they heard. Sometimes this includes a written follow-up, and sometimes we link the read aloud to The Arts. Below is an example of that.

Block 2 – Periods 3, 4, and 5

Four days a week, I teach all of these periods, and one day a week, I teach periods 4 and 5. In both cases, this middle block is my literacy block. Before the Winter Break, I slowly started integrating Heath, Social Studies or Science, and The Arts with Language, and my plan is to continue to do so after the Break.

This large block of time gives students the opportunity to really delve deeply into different inquiry activities. With a focus on independent and shared reading and writing, students often explore various Health, Science, and Social Studies topics for two periods (on the day that we have three together). I then rotate and work with different groups of students and/or pull guided groups to work on a specific reading or writing strategy. I’ll often use the modelled lesson ideas from Comprehension and Collaboration: Inquiry Circles In Action to help students with their research and/or exploring options for sharing their learning with others.


I’ve really embraced the idea of moving away from culminating tasks, and so often students work on the in-class evaluation activities during this double block of time. An example of this is in this Storify Story, where students are working in their groups on a Social Studies Murder Mystery.


The last period (in our three period block) is for AWARD (Applied Writing and Reading Daily) Time. This is our literacy centre and guided reading time. I always take two guided groups during AWARD Time, but sometimes one group is for reading and one group is for writing, and sometimes both groups are for reading or writing. With the exception of a couple of students, the focus for guided reading is on reading comprehension skills and not on decoding. For the students that need decoding support, I offer this through guided reading and 1:1 reading support. My guided reading groups are always based on comprehension strategies instead of on reading levels, which allows for more flexible groupings. I’ve done this since I taught Kindergarten, and I’ve always seen the greatest reading gains with this approach, as then students can support each other and they stop worrying so much about comparing levels.


After reading a blog post by Lisa Donohue on inquiry and guided reading, I started using this approach too, and this has been great! Not only does it allow for more integration of Health, Science, or Social Studies and Language, but it gets students more excited about guided reading. They want to read with me. They’re also taking what they’re learning at the “blue table,” and transferring it to their independent and small group reading and writing activities.

The other students in the class are working on their own reading and writing activities (now linked to what we’re doing in Health, Science, or Social Studies). I’ve created some activity suggestions for them based on curriculum expectations and student needs, but students can also design their own activities: they just need to link them to their reading and writing goals. I used to tell the students what they had to do and when, but I didn’t like this approach. I wanted students to have more control over their learning and schedule their time in the way that worked best for them. My new rule is that students need to spend at least half of the period reading and half of the period writing. I schedule the guided groups, and they can schedule their other choices. Sometimes they’re involved in activities that meet both expectations, and they work on them for the whole period, and other times, they switch their activities when I switch the guided groups. I really like this approach, and I’m seeing students highly engaged in reading and writing and creating many interesting activities that meet personal goals and overlap with the various curriculum areas.

Block 3 – Periods 6 and 7

My schedule here is the opposite to what it is for Block 1, so if I didn’t teach Math Periods 1 and 2, I do so, Periods 6 and 7. That being said, if I didn’t do the read aloud (and follow-up) during the first block, then I do so during the last block. (If I do this read aloud option, I only teach the students for one of the two periods, and either have a prep or coverage for the other period.)

Ideally, this schedule allows for about half of the day to be for Language and about half of the day to be for Math (and often, Language is immersed in our Math block as well). I’m continuing to tweak this schedule to best meet the needs of all of the learners, and I’d welcome your input in doing so. How do you schedule your day? What suggestions would you make to help me improve this schedule? I’d love to hear your thinking!



11 thoughts on “A Glimpse At Our Day

  1. It’s great seeing that you are a very inspired woman- a single tweet got you on your feet. Your schedule seems quite full! But, you keep them learning and in such a way that they enjoy it. That is the critical point in learning, in which many teachers can’t succeed, but I can see you are not one of them. Do they have French class?? Usually, in the higher grades, kids do because teachers need prep time, right?
    It is great knowing that your students WANT to learn and read with their teacher. But it is also a very rare thing. I personally believe that it is the best feeling for a teacher.
    My ideas would be that maybe you could add in a quick sharing time before school ends. Sharing is the most cooperative time! We can learn in many different ways, and students can learn from their peers. With the sharing time you can do anything. You could to multiplacation facts. Whatever, just the fact that all your students are close together in a cooperative style is enough, that’s what I’d say. I hope you like the idea! I cannot tell you what my students do because… umm… I don’t really have students! 🙂

    • Yusra, thanks for chiming in here! It’s great to hear your opinion on the day. I always appreciate knowing how students feel (even those students that are not in my class).

      As for French, yes, my students have French four periods a week. This is either when I have a prep or when I cover the Grade 3/4 class.

      In terms of a sharing time, I love your idea! I actually have many opportunities for students to share their learning throughout the day. These become or Language Congresses and Math Congresses, and they’re very important times. I don’t think that I discussed these enough in my daily outline, so I’m glad that you mentioned them in your comment. For me, this is the perfect opportunity for students to not only tell the class what they learned, but also to tell them what they still need to learn and/or do not understand. Then we can focus on these areas in the coming days.

      I’m also going to start off the day from now on with a “talk time.” Students can have a chance to converse with each other when they come into the classroom before class starts. This allows them to share information that interests them, ask each other questions, and slowly start getting ready for learning. I’m excited to see how this goes.

      Thanks again for the comment!
      Miss Dunsiger

      • Cool idea! I am sure it will warm up the classroom mood… Thanks for appreciating this… the Congress part of the sharing times make it seem like a sort of soldier theme. Maybe you should make the theme more soldierish!! That’s what students love: Themes. I hope your talk time goes well… please tell me how it goes!

        • Thanks Yusra! Your theme idea is really neat. Now I’m thinking about the show, Survivor, and the congresses each week. Instead of being about “voting off a person,” our congress theme could be about “sharing ideas.” You have me wondering about how I could create this atmosphere. Any ideas?

          I will definitely share about how everything goes. Thanks for the idea!

          Miss Dunsiger

          • Maybe you could have a corner in the classroom with some little props and backgrounds that fit with the theme. It will warm up the atmoshpere at the least. No problem, that is what students are for 😉

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