That’s the skill: schedule and strategy in middle grades


Three stories about the same thing:

1) We memorize a long passage to recite near the end of each semester. In earlier grades, I scheduled time during our school day to learn the assigned portions together. This year, with our theme of increased responsibility and independence, I’m assigning a portion each week and allowing the students to discover how they memorize best.

Each assignment has been about five verses, so theoretically they should memorize one verse per school day. So far, it has not gone very well. Each week most have come back without the previous week’s memory mastered. By that time, it seems overwhelming to master that plus the next week’s assignment.

Today, I asked, “Would you prefer if I assigned you one verse a day instead of a chunk of five verses a week?” The answer was a resounding yes. I pointed out that it amounts to the same, and that they could think of it that way in order to master the larger assignment.

“There’s still something different about it,” one student said.

For now, I will write one verse a day on the board. We’ll see if they are more successful. I suspect that THAT skill — mentally breaking 5 verses a week into 1 verse a day — is what middle school is all about.

2) Each week, the students are completing a commonplace page about our past Friday’s activities. This past Friday we had our service project.  Most of the student completed pages over the weekend documenting the animals we saw at the property or describing the work we did (picking up scrap metal with magnet wands).

Noticing that a student hadn’t completed a page about the service project and that he was leaving his commonplace book at school, I asked when he was scheduling himself to do it.

“Tuesday or Wednesday.”

“Which one, do you think?”

“Probably Wednesday.”

“Why is that? Do you anticipate having a lighter homework day on Wednesday?”

“Not really.”

“Maybe tonight you should note down in your planner what you will write about, and then complete it tomorrow night. You’ll feel relieved to have it done a little earlier, especially since there’s no reason to put it off till Wednesday.”


I’m not sure how much of that made sense, but we’ve got a lot of year ahead. Yes, THAT’s the skill.

3) One of the year’s experiments is to have abbreviated classes and give the students a significant amount of “individual study time” each day to manage their own learning. Our three morning classes (Latin, writing, and math) are 30 minutes each, and the rest of the morning (another hour and a half) is for students to complete work on their own in those subjects, plus their assigned literature reading with left over time.

Every day, I require the students to jot down a schedule for their own use of individual study time, not just what they are responsible to complete but how long they estimate it will take, what order they will work in, and what they expect to take home after school.

Another staff member at the school asked one of the students what he thinks of individual study time. “It’s good,” he said. “I never knew how much I could get done if I made a schedule first.”

Yes, THAT’s the skill.




CC image courtesy of Dennis Hamilton on Flickr.

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