My next read was Sara-Elizabeth Cottrell blog post that touches on exactly this point. There are two main parts of the lesson that are best for activities that require large amounts of focus: the beginning (primacy) and the end (recency). The two most important pieces are the input at the start of the lesson and the activity with what Cottrell calls “high response interaction” (aka interpersonal communication). These two pieces really needed to be the focus of each and every day and should take the most amount of time – about 20-22 minutes of the class. A short dip after the input creates a few minutes for an activity related to that input. With only 30 minutes, the brain break shouldn’t be more than a minute or two.
That’s a lot to take in and figure out. Thankfully, Sara-Elizabeth and Amy Leonard created easy-to-visualize lesson planners for 60 and 90-minute and 50 minute classes. I’ve adapted these to create a template that works for my 30 minute elementary classes:
Prime time 1: I shared what I did over my Spring Break using some pictures from my vacation. Once I shared the activities, I put the students’ activity on the board to model. Using the Olympic events (our current focus in 4th grade), I talked about the activities I watched (basketball and baseball) and the ones I participated in (lifting weights and bike riding). (~15 minutes)
Down time: Students circled the events in which they participated or watched during their Spring Break. (3-5 minutes)
Brain break: Statues (thank you Sara-Elizabeth!): Teacher calls out any word and students create a statue of that word. I used this as a way to do a little formative check as to what they remembered of current vocabulary (basketball, boxing, rowing, etc.) and past vocabulary (lion, frog, happy, etc.). (2 minutes)
Prime time 2: Students walked around asking each other what they did over their vacation in the TL, recording the information in their notebooks. (7-10 minutes)