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K-12 Challenges and Recommendations

There are going to be some limitations, scaffolding, and/or adjustments that will need to be made based on age group/maturity level and access to online resources.  This page is designed to give a teacher in each age group suggestions for integrating forms of 20 Time in the classroom.



Lower Elementary (K-3)

The most obvious challenge lower elementary teachers will face is a lack of support- both parental and school aides.  K-3 students have a lot of ideas and are arguably the most creative students our schools have because we haven't squeezed their creativity out of them with tests, instructions, and regulations.  What we lack is someone to be there to articulate and work on their brilliant ideas.  One teacher cannot fulfill the needs of 25-30 students simultaneously.  One suggestion is to team up with a classroom in the upper grades to work on the project together or to help the younger students carryout their grand plans.  We have buddy systems for PE and reading, why not 20 Time?

Another challenge for K-3 teachers is the maturity level of the class.  Most teachers have had the challenge of a bad class at least one year.  Sometimes it is one student, sometimes it is a group of students.  The dynamics of the class personality will guide the perimeters of 20 Time.  You may have to reign in and provide many more guidelines for a class one year but then the next year give them full independence.

One additional challenge K-3 teachers may face is logistics.  My daughter's school has no doors in the classrooms.  If a class is going to work on 20 Time, it will inevitably get loud and that is frowned upon by nearby teachers.  Options are to rally the principal into giving a 20 Time portable for classes to reserve.  Another idea, weather permitting, is to go outside for 20 Time.  The ultimate solution is to convince the entire school to spend the same time each week working on 2o Time, this way every class can be noisy.

Many elementary school teachers work on teams.  Will your team want to do the project together or can you do it alone?  This question is best answered by examining the personalities you work with.

How about supplies?  Elementary schools have a slight edge over the secondary grades because parents expect the list of supplies at the beginning of the year.  Why not add supplies for a 20 Time cart to be pulled out during 20 Time: play-dough paint, beads, glue, glitter, model supplies, Chromebook.  Yes technology!  Why not ask?  Many of us would donate a small device to our own child's classroom in a heartbeat if this is what it would be used for, right?

Do you give students topics or let them have free reign?  Some teachers will jump right in- give the students complete autonomy and trouble-shoot from there.  "I wonder..." questions work really well in this case.  I wonder what the difference is between a frog and a toad?  I wonder why puddles disappear?  I wonder why the sky is blue?  An "I wonder..." question will provide focus for a student as he/she travels on the journey.  It is also a great "Field Journal" title to the page for the day.  Some teachers like to tie their topics to something the class or the school is working on.  For instance, if a school is working on bullying, a teacher may ask each student to contribute something about it to a class or school website.  It all goes back to the strength of your class personality this year.  What can they do?

K-3: Little or No Access to Devices?

Not really a problem.  It only takes one iPad to record a student's premier "How-to" video and collate them on a class showcase website.  Elementary school teacher Natalie Parsons asks "What about a project about a particular topic?", i.e. rain- one group to research, one group to create a Q and A, one group to create a skit, and one group to create an art project.  How about allowing students to create a Leonardo da Vinci-style field journal to record his/her notes in each 20 Time- no tech needed there.  A fabulous idea is to create a model of a town.  Each student can explore what he/she is interested in and add to the model: gardening, architecture, cars, road design, animals/insects, people, clothing, shops, etc.  Create a class magazine, old-school-style with pictures and handwritten stories about passions and interests; and if you have an iPad, maybe students can take turns "reporting" their stories for a class newscast.

Will students have more experience in digital technologies with devices?  Yes.  Student technology showcases are full of 1st grade classrooms collaborating on an iBook in 1:1 iPad classrooms.  However, don't let the lack of technology be an excuse.

Upper Elementary

The biggest challenge for upper elementary classes is time.  It is hard to teach what we have to teach before testing in the spring.  However, if we think about our year a bit, we might find some good times to try a little 20 Time.  September is hard- lots of RTI leveling and overall maneuvering.  October through December is pretty ideal though.  January-April is difficult with testing but May and June might work out really well!

Another challenge that upper elementary faces are split combos, which equates to splitting time for RTI for multiple grades.  It is difficult to carve out time when schedules are set in stone.  This is where we can get creative about what we are doing for 20 Time.  Why not just make the end of unit project be a 20 Time Project with a "Here is what you have to prove you know, you decide how to prove it." phrase.

What works best for upper elementary?  Turning our grade-level projects into 20 Time.  Why not give 1 hour a week to work on a Mission project, Egyptian City, U.S.A Landmarks Presentation, or science project instead of having students do them primarily at home?  6th grade teacher, Melissa Keith, has teamed up with her 1st grade buddy class to create Google Presentations about favorite ecosystems!  Not only are they addressing key content standards but they are also hitting on those 4Cs of Common Core: Collaboration, Communication, Critical Thinking, and Creativity.

Math?  Yes.  Common Core asks students to explain how they got the answer, not just give the answer.  Rather than quiz students with traditional quizzes, can we ask them to choose how they will show us they understand?   

4-6: Little or No Access to Devices?

Not a problem.   Irvine teacher, Chantal Barney says it is easy to do 20 Time without access to technology.  Students can create with art, demonstrate with manipulatives, and present with imagination.  Access to just one iPad can give students an opportunity to record themselves reading or film video and upload to a class website.


Middle School

Unanimously, the number one challenge that faces teachers in middle school is the "goof-off" factor.  Middle school teacher John Stevens explains, "...the majority of students put their nose to the grindstone right away, letting me really focus on the 6-7 who were reaching for a topic."  It is always the few who ruin it for the majority, right?  By actively isolating and talking to the few as soon as you identify them, there should not be a large disruption.  Joy Kirr uses a time-tracking sheet developed by a fellow 20-Timer.  The tracking sheet forces the students to plan for and use their time wisely.  An implementation guide that is meticulously studied by the teacher at the beginning of the project should save a lot of "goofing-off" throughout the duration of the project.

One aspect of 20-Time that makes teachers uncomfortable is whether they can prove they are teaching the standards.  If I implement 20 Time, how will my students perform on our state's tests?  All 20-Time teachers will tell you that your students will be even better prepared for standardized testing (especially CCSS) than ever.  Students are using information from all subject areas, creating works with all types of writing, and presenting like crazy--all while working collaboratively yet autonomously.  As Stevens points out, the products of 20 Time, whether it is a blog, website, video, or new skill are impossible to argue against when one looks at the talent that went into the product.

Middle School: Little or No Access to Devices?


The library is going to be the best solution.  If you can get regular time in your school's library or computer lab, your students will have what they need.  They can research using library resources.  The publishing can get done in computer labs.  However, you can also assign the research the night before and have them work with the research in class the next day.  If you allow devices or want to try allowing devices only on 20-Time days, many students will have everything they need from the phones in their pockets.

High School

High school is a tricky enigma.  High school students have the ability to work autonomously and productively, however they are also the most lethargic and apathetic students at this age.  Our challenge is extending their motivation over a significant amount of time and pushing them to think beyond what they've already done.  In many cases, students will get really excited about writing a post about a topic or achieving a certain milestone only realizing afterward the task took 10 minutes of the 54 minute 20 Time.  Our goal, as guides, is to teach them how to push themselves beyond what they think they are capable- ask them to always be looking ahead, even when they accomplish a goal.  They need to start asking themselves, "What's next?"

There are a few things we can do to prevent "the minimum" in high school.  One is to spend some serious time with their Implementation Guides and suggest their goals be bigger than they think they have time for.  Another suggestion is to give them a pre-filled implementation guide with teacher-directed topics to be worked on each week for their 20 Time topic.  A strategy that works well is to make the "What's next?" phrase a mantra that you use consistently in class.

High School: Little or No Access to Devices?

Not having access to online resources is hard at any level but it is possible to have 20 Time without them.  You'll want to schedule key 20 Time days in your school's computer lab (i.e. getting ready for The Pitch or maybe some blog design days).  Students who have access at home can bring their research with them to class each 20 Time day and work with it in class.  One favorite idea is to show students a copy of Leonardo Da Vinci's notebooks.  He hand-sketched and annotated all of his ideas in notebooks while designing proto-types.  Students might have fun emulating da Vinci's style in their own 20 Time notebooks.

Thank You!

Thank you to the following teachers who took time out of their very busy schedule to sit and talk to me about the content on this page.
Natalie Parsons, 1st Grade Teacher Irvine, CA
Chantal Barney, 3rd Grade Teacher Irvine, CA
Melissa Keith, 6th Grade Teacher, Mission Viejo, CA
Joy Kirr, 7th Grade Teacher Greater Chicago Area, IL
John Stevens, 8th Grade Teacher, Cathedral City, CA
Troy Cockrum, 7-8 Grade Teacher Indianapolis, IN
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