5 Ideas to Help with Lesson Pacing

It's everybody's nemesis ... pacing. A lesson goes too fast, and you feel like you haven't done it justice. A lesson goes too slow, and you've lost them. And with materials that are as thick and packed as ours, how do you get it all in, and well? If you've asked these questions, you're not alone. Pacing an EL lesson well, so that we know students have learned and worked AND we're able to teach one lesson in a day, is one of those things that novice and experienced teachers alike can find is a challenge. 

But strong pacing is incredibly important, especially at the beginning of the year. What can easily happen is that we have trouble pacing the materials to one lesson a day early in the year, and it doesn't seem like that big of a deal. After all, we have 36 long weeks of instructional time stretching out in front of us, and getting a day or two behind, or stretching a couple of early lessons across multiple days, isn't hurting anyone. But those days add up, and then, around Fall Break when Unit 3 begins, we begin to feel the crunch of needing to wrap up Module 1. So we condense those writing lessons at the end. After all, who really needs an entire day to plan and write proof paragraph 1, right? We wrap up Module 1 quickly and move on to Module 2, only to find that students are struggling to write well even with a short assignment. (Remember that skipped lesson from Unit 3 that we condensed because they "didn't need that much time"?) So, we add in a day here and a day there for some practice, and we have to stretch some lessons across multiple days because they're "just not getting it," but that pushes us even farther behind. And so it goes. Next thing you know, it's late spring, and we're struggling to even begin Module 4. We're frustrated and rushed, and the kids aren't producing like we want them to. 

What's a teacher to do? Here are 5 of my favorite ideas to help with strong lesson pacing.

  1. Set and use timers - in places in a lesson where you know it'll be tempting to slow way down such as student transitions, protocols, turn and talks, discussions, and question sequences.
  2. Reach out to your academic coach for a time audit. He or she can come in and time stamp your lesson to see where you might be spending too much time and how you can adjust pacing.
  3. Don't spend more than 5-10 minutes on learning targets. If your pacing is brisk out of the gate, it's likely to stay that way, and it's easy to get bogged down early in learning targets.
  4. Avoid adding things to a lesson, such as more questions, activities, or a spiral review, and avoid turning what's meant to be a "read for gist" into a "close read." The materials are designed to scaffold naturally.
  5. Use the Prepare to Teach Cycle with your academic coach and grade level to make sure you're beginning a Module with the end in mind. When you know where you're going, and what's most important, you're less likely to get off track in the day-to-day.
Looking for more?

So, choose an idea, try it out, and see how it helps you improve at pacing lessons.

Here's to simply teaching well,

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