How to “Teach Less” and have students learn more with technology

” It’s the teacher that makes the difference, not the classroom.” -Michael Morpurgo

When I walked into my classroom for the first time four years ago I was terrified.  I put on a determined and confidant facade, but at times I had less hours in the day to prepare for the next and a lack of understanding on how to make it “work”.  From the word “go” I knew I did not believe is primarily using basal textbooks that teachers were and are provided, but I didn’t know where to start, and creating curriculum for four major subjects was daunting.

My classroom 4 years ago before I changed anything

So, I started with the subject I cared the most about and really focused on that subject.  I approached my principal and told him I believed 4th graders needed to read entire chapter books instead of sections from a basal.  I also explained that I would provide all of the materials if he would allow me to step away from the basal.  He did. That was my first step in implementing things I believe in doing inside of a classroom.  Fast forward 4 years later and this is how I “teach less” and students learn more.  After the first two weeks of school when students are settled in and understand expectations, I do the following:

Reading / Writing Block : Time 1:15 – 1:45

Reading / Writing Block

Reading / Writing Block

My reading and writing period is the first thing I do during the day and it is the longest.  Some days I may read a children’s book aloud (I also have a keynote that correlates on the smart board: download one of them Those Shoes).  This usually happens at the beginning of the week, so we can refer back to it.  I focus on a reading skill that week such as characterization. While I read to students I focus on the skill, “Guys, how would you describe ____.”  “Did he or she change during the book?  How?”  After that read aloud students go to centers or stations.  The remainder of the week I will complete one or two more mini-lessons on the skill and refer back to the read-aloud.  A mini-lesson usually lasts 15 minutes.  We may read a short article or a portion of our children’s book for the week, but the lesson doesn’t last more than 15 minutes.

I alternate between units of direct instruction of reading and writing.  First, I teach a unit on reading so they are familiar with a genre.  Then, I teach writing.  For instance, I will teach a unit on realistic fiction.  Then, I will teach a unit on narrative writing.

After looking at the chart above, here are some options for stations marked –:

If you need to have one on one interventions with students, you can take the teacher rotation out and fill station 4 with an activity for students to complete.

Math Block : Time 1:00

Math Stations

Math Stations

I usually spend no more than an hour on math.  My math block does not vary nearly as much as my reading and writing block.  To begin math, I complete a 15 – 20 minute mini-lesson.  Then, students rotate at centers or stations like they did during reading.  At station 1, students usually work on Moby Max, or this upcoming year Kahn Academy, because they target skills students need to understand.  These programs differentiate and teach with out a teacher being present!

Science Block : Time 0:45

In the past, my science block has not looked different than any other teacher’s aside from the fact that I integrate technology into most of my lessons.  However, going forward I am going to assign the reading, then allow certain students to get in small groups or assign buddies.  Next, I am going to pull a small group to read the text for the day and this group will act as an extra reading intervention group!  I am also  going to begin phasing out our science book and begin using iTunesU courses made by other educators.

If we are doing an experiment that day, groups usually complete experiment(take photos and videos while doing experiment) and load it into a digital science notebook.  At the end of the block, we recap and take notes on a piece of chart paper and hang it in the classroom the remainder of the year.

Social Studies Block : Time 1:15

In the past Social Studies has been a lot like science where I teach whole group, but this year my strategy for teaching science and social studies is about the same.  For social studies, however, I have already made some of my OWN iTunesU courses that my students will use throughout the year to learn our units of study.

Units of study during social studies usually have a iPad project that will be taken as a grade by the end of the unit.  At the end of the block, we recap and take notes on a piece of chart paper and hang it in the classroom the remainder of the year.

Part of my writing area

Part of my writing area

Students working in a small group

Students working in a small group

One snapshot of my reading area

One snapshot of my reading area


As we progress through the year, students and parents use my wiki to access files in and out of school. My goal this year is to begin using genius hour and augmented reality.  Please let me know if this post was helpful, if you have additional questions, or if you would like more information!


One thought on “How to “Teach Less” and have students learn more with technology

  1. Pingback: Mentor Projects: 4th Grade Reading Comprehension | Purpose Driven Teaching

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