A Little at a Time

by Kristin M. Woolums, M.Ed.

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We’ve all been told that doing things in small doses instead of one large task is the better way to get things done.  This is true in the classroom, as well.  Think about it:  we tell our students to study a little each night for an upcoming test, and that all night cram sessions don’t work (and actually work against a student).  Why not apply this philosophy other areas and subjects in my classroom?

Homophones in the Morning

Each day, my students and I discuss a homophone pair or trio as a part of their morning work.  For example, the homophones there, their, and there are constantly mixed up by students and adults alike.  We discuss the meanings of these words (usually accompanied by pictures or phrases for each word), the similarities and differences, why they’re easily confused in the real world, and ways to help keep them straight.  The students then use each word in a sentence (10 or more words in my 5th grade class).

By the end of the school year, we’ve introduced or reinforced the meanings of over 200 words, 2 or 3 at a time.  Students “blossom” in improvement in the use of these homophones, as well as in their sentence length and creativity. This is a must for the English language learners in my classroom, too.  See the attached list of homophones I use each day in my classroom, but many more are available online.

Daily Grammar Practice

Many students don’t enjoy grammar.  Thanks to a great grammar program called Daily Grammar Practice (DGP, for short), we take on grammar for 5 minutes each morning.  DGP is effective because it breaks down the grammar parts on a weekly sentence, but it allows students to see how the parts all fit together.  The best part is that if a student doesn’t “get” the sentence one week, there will be another one the next week, and the repetition ensures that what’s learned is not forgotten.  Offered for grades 1-12, it’s a program that I use each day with conviction.  It’s like taking a daily vitamin of grammar! (Visit dgppublishing.com)

Some other things a teacher could do on a daily basis are:

  • Estimation of whole numbers, fractions, or decimals while learning addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division
  • Quote of the day – give each student a quote and let them explore its origin and meaning
  • Famous figure of the day – whether it’s a famous scientist, entertainer, story character, or historical figure, the options are limitless of learning about a new person each day.
  • State or country of the day – assign each person a region to research and share with the class.

I didn’t invent anything new here, but it’s reaffirming to see how students learn so much better when they take in a little at a time.  I can’t imagine a lesson on just homophones or just estimation!  But broken down into easily digestible daily parts, these ideas are much more manageable for student and teacher alike!

Kristin M. Woolums, M. Ed., teaches fifth grade at a private school in Atlanta and works at The School Box at Southlake during the summer months.

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Filed under grammar, Morning Work, Uncategorized, Writing

5 responses to “A Little at a Time

  1. Mary Ann Yost

    Wow, this is not a lesson for just 5th graders. Taking a little at a time is a lifelong lesson. It is effective in all aspects of life and little bits at a time of anything make for a “better memory” of the whole picture. It also helps combat procrastination. Those late night crams for tests – who needs it??

    Thanks for the wonderful article!

  2. This article ‘s premise works for everyone. The repetition follows a routine which can be applied to any skill or habit that one wishes to incorporate in their everyday life.

    Teaching in a preschool special needs classroom our routine has embedded objectives throughout a session. For example, the class begins with fine motor activities and name identification/letters in name recognition/writing their name etc.. As a child is able to complete a skill (i.e. writing his/her first name) the next step skill is introduced (i.e. writing last name).

    Thank you for such a great article which can be applied inside and outside of the classroom!

  3. Kay Wallin

    I just did a homophone lesson with 4th graders a couple of weeks ago. We played a game where the students chose a word then gave the homophone and the spelling of both words. The kids really seemed to enjoy it.

  4. Sandra

    This is such a great article! I especially like the quote of the day!

    At our school (pre-k and kinder only) our principal gives us a “fun fact” every morning at assembly. These are outrageous things such as “baby bunnies are called kittens” or “snails can live up to 100 years old” or “bees have hair on their eyes” The kids think these things are great! Instead of letting kids research the fact, they are welcomed to write down their own fun facts and turn into the principal for a shot at fame!

    My morning routine is a little different as it is aimed at 4 year olds. We do the calendar (date, day, month, year, etc) count to 100 (by 1s, 5s, and 10s) and and review the letters of the alphabet we have learned to date (letter, picture, sound).

  5. The daily homophones list is good repetitive practice for my 8yr old. She loves to be challenged and to stump me on the answers–now I have a cheat sheet. :-)