More than Busy Work

At the beginning of every lesson I teach, the class begins with three routine activities.  The first one is Silent Reading.  Some classes settle into this very well, others take forever to get the message.  It takes a long time and perfect consistency.  However, it is worth the time and the effort.  Trust me.

After Silent Reading my students complete a routine number task.  I have three lists, each written on A3 chart paper.  Each list includes 10 number sense/ place value/ routine operation questions that the students need to complete for the given number.  For example: 

1. expand the number

2. odd/even?

3. add 10

4. take 10

5. multiply by 10

6. divide by 10

7. double it

8. halve it

9. multiple of 5?

10. write in words

The students are working on these two activities at the moment.  We take a long time to settle, so I get straight into direct teaching after “Today’s Number” but next term I will start to include a word/ writing task as well.

These tasks may look like “busy work” to some.  Behaviour/ Classroom Management advice will often tell you to set the students up with a simple activity as soon as they enter the room to give you (the teacher) a chance to mark the roll and establish a positive beginning to the lesson.  However, this is not the only reason that these tasks are important inclusions in our classroom routine.  Not only does it give my students the opportunity to enter the room, settle into a routine task and wake up their brains before having to interact with fellow students or even with me.  They are practising important literacy and numeracy skills.  They are remembering rules about how to multiply by 10 and they are categorising numbers according to characteristics.

Often my students struggle to settle at the beginning of a lesson.  Often, they don’t know how to ‘expand’ a number, determine odd/ even, write a large number in words, divide by 10 or halve a number.  Often, they know how to do these things, but don’t know that ‘halve it’ means the same as divide by two.  The flexibility of language and strategies is important for my students to learn and to rehearse regularly.

But, this makes me wonder…

What do you do to settle your students at the beginning of a lesson?  What activities do you use to provide opportunities for revision/ rehearsal of skills?  How are these activities seen by other teachers?

Here is something that might help you to reflect and plan:  

What happens in your classroom that could be mistaken for ‘busy work’?  What is your purpose for this activity? Is the purpose or benefit two-fold (e.g.routine plus practice of skills)?  Are there activities/ tasks that you are allowing to take time in your classroom that is merely busywork?  What can you do to make this work more purposeful OR what is more important that needs to replace it?

Just something to think about.

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