This summer I have been teaching 5th grade in the Denver Public Schools Summer ELA Academy, a program for students in various stages of learning English (English Language Acquisition). This newly redesigned program has been well worth the time and effort.
During the school year both teachers and students are responsible for an Amazon River of content, with instruction and routines constantly interrupted by various assessments. The gift of this summer program is that academic content, while present, is not the focus. Instead, the students concentrate on learning to speak and write about the content. As a teacher I, in turn, have been able to focus on specific aspects of my teaching.
One improvement I have made is to shorten my whole group instruction to leave more time for rotating work with small groups. This summer I have discovered that the key is to keep whole group instruction simple and clearly focused. As I work with small groups I have been able to add depth to the instruction in response to the specific needs and interests of the smaller group. In the past I tried to pack too much into my time with the whole group, which resulted in information overload for most students. Now every student doesn’t hear every piece of the lesson, but each student pays more attention to what they do hear.