Time Management in Literacy Instruction

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  • 0:01 Planning Literary Instruction
  • 0:42 Sequencing
  • 3:00 Grouping
  • 5:05 Scheduling
  • 7:00 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Rita Kerrigan

Rita has taught elementary and middle school and has a master's degree in reading education.

In this lesson, you'll explore time management in literacy instruction and learn techniques to follow a sequential order for teaching literacy skills. You'll also discover how to logically group students to create an effective literacy curriculum that works within a given time frame.

Planning Literary Instruction

Do you remember learning to read in the primary grades? Were you aware of all the trouble your teacher went to in order to plan authentic literacy instruction? As a student, you were probably not privy to all of the work your instructor did behind the scenes, but as a teacher, you will most likely know that the planning process for literacy instruction can be really complex. Since a large chunk of a teacher's day revolves around literacy instruction, it is very important to carefully structure curriculum and teaching methods in a way that helps you manage time in the classroom. In this lesson, we're going to explore techniques that will help you with time management, including sequencing, grouping and scheduling.


When teaching children to read, what should be taught first? Phonics? Comprehension? The answer is neither. These skills should actually be taught alongside each other, not necessarily at the same exact time, but students should be getting instruction in both areas of literacy continuously. Likewise, in each category, skills do not have to be taught in a specific order to all students across the country. An order should exist, but the sequence at one school can vary from another school. Sequence refers to the order in which the skills should be taught.

In the recent past, it was thought that there should be a general order for the instruction of phonemic sounds that all students should follow. The National Reading Panel published a report that sequence mattered when it came to teaching phonics. After this report was published, Congress tried to impose a national literary sequence on all American schools. Their plan would only allow phonemic awareness instruction until kids could fully segment words. Then teachers could teach phonics. But fluency instruction could not happen until the word sounding was finished. Eventually, kids would begin receive comprehension instruction. However, Congress had a difficult time coming up with the exact sequence that should be taught. The reason why this may have been so hard for them is because the National Reading Panel stated that sequence matters when it comes to teaching phonics, but did not find that one sequence was better than another. Thus, as long as a sequence exists within a classroom or a school, it can vary from other schools and still be just as effective. For example, one teacher or school may find that teaching vowel sounds first works best for her students. But another might find that teaching sounds in alphabetical order is more effective.

Sequencing is important to consider when looking at time management because the order in which skills are taught has a direct effect on what lessons are taught and what needs to come before and after the lessons, to be sure that the skills are addressed appropriately. Individual teachers should develop a sequence for teaching skills that meets his or her individual goals and stick to that sequence throughout the year. But also, be flexible in case the sequential order is not working and needs to be rearranged.


There are various ways that students can be grouped in a literacy classroom. In most classrooms, there are students of all different abilities grouped together. The teacher needs to find a way to meet the needs of all the learners and small groups are an effective way to do this. The teacher should use guided reading groups, which are small groups of students that are reading on similar reading levels that receive instruction from the teacher. The teacher meets with each group and the lessons are planned specifically for that group, using books that are appropriate for them.

Another way to group students is in literature circles. Literature circles are similar to guided reading groups because students are placed with peers that are reading on similar levels. However, instead of the teacher leading these groups, the students are responsible for making the group run smoothly.

Peer tutoring is another way to group students. A child of higher ability is placed with someone of a lower ability and helps him or her to understand concepts and skills. This is helpful for both the students because the lower student receives help and the higher student has to come up with ways to help, which helps him or her to grow both academically and socially.

A final method of grouping is cooperative learning. In this method, students may be grouped by level, interest, or another category. They may all be on the same level or may be from various levels. Regardless of the parameters for grouping, it is an effective method because the students come up with solutions together and work on cooperation as well.

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