Getting through the curriculum and providing children with the little steps needed to make successful progress is, lets face it, an almost, if not, impossible task. When there’s many other things that crop up throughout the year – charity events, sports days, school trips, productions etc – fitting everything in from the curriculum is a nightmare task and making sure every child understands it all, well… that’s just difficult. However, giving a little bit of time each day to the small steps is an effective way of making sure progress is met. 20 minutes of ‘Target Time’.
Now, before I get started, I want to say that this was not my idea and I won’t take credit for thinking it up. This was something I saw in my final university placement and it worked brilliantly. Since, I’ve adopted it and adapted it to fit the needs for my own class.
Target time is the first thing we do in a morning and usually lasts 20 minutes, though, like most of my teaching, this is a guideline only and some days we find we only need a few minutes… or the whole morning. Within this 20 minutes we push the little things that help make up more effective bigger things. Here’s an example; in the first half-term we blitzed through the word types (adjectives, adverbs, nouns, verbs etc), improved vocabulary by looking at ‘wow words’, learned about figurative language (yes, I used that term) and began looking at some of Alan Peat’s complex sentence structures.
What we’ve found is that all of the children’s writing has improved because they understand why and when we use certain pieces of punctuation or words. The majority of the class has already moved at least one sub-level in their writing over the first term and a sizable amount have moved 2 sub-levels.
Target time doesn’t have to be used with just literacy either. I’ve decided that we’ll be splitting target time to work on the ‘3 core areas’ of maths, writing and reading (not that I agree these are the ‘essential’ three but that’s another story). Term one was dedicated to writing and we saw improvements. Next up will be reading, with a reciprocal approach, and then maths in the final term.
The great thing about Target Time is that it’s content is within the curriculum and it specifically targets all of those little things that you can’t really teach in a cross-curriculum manner. I can’t imagine how I would go about teaching word classes when teaching a topic on Egyptians (other than tedious links using Egyptian words…), for example. The children have responded well to this little bit of time too and know that this is the time we put aside for very detailed focus which can then be used across all of our other work.
As a note: I urge you to go and buy the Alan Peat sentence books. They’re easy to teach and, after a little bit of target-time teaching, the children become autonomous when using them.