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Should Kids Spend More Time in School?


Arts & Humanities
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Grades 2-up

News Content

Many people -- including President Obama -- are pushing for longer school days or school years.

Anticipation Guide

Write the following question on a board or chart: Should kids spend more time in school? Let students share their first responses. Write students responses on the board or chart.

News Words

Next, introduce these words that appear in the News Word Box on the students printable page: successful, compete, achievement, afford, taxpayer, and schedule. Discuss the meanings of any of those words that might be unfamiliar. Then ask students to use one of those words to complete each of these sentences:

  • My aunt received a special medal from the city for her ____ as a police officer. (achievement)
  • The two rival teams will ____ in an exciting playoff game this week. (compete)
  • As a _____, I feel I am entitled to voice my opinion at town hall meetings. (taxpayer)
  • Microsofts Bill Gates is an excellent example of a _____ businessperson. (successful)
  • Vivian had to _____ her next dentist appointment for first thing in the morning even though she is not a morning person." (schedule)
  • This year, we cannot _____ to give as many holiday gifts as we have given in the past. (afford)

    Read the News

    Click for a printable version of this weeks news story Should Kids Spend More Time in School?.

    Reading the News

    You might use a variety of approaches to reading the news:

    Read aloud the news story to students as they follow along.

    Students might first read the news story to themselves; then you might call on individual students to read sections of the news aloud for the class.

    Photocopy the news story onto a transparency and project it onto a screen. (Or use your classroom computer's projector to project the story.) Read the story aloud as a class, or ask students to take turns reading it.

    Arrange students into small groups. Each student in the group will read a paragraph of the story. As that student reads, others might underline important information or write notes in the margin of the story. After each student finishes reading, others in the group might say something -- a comment, a question, a clarification -- about the text.

    More Facts to Share

    You might share these additional facts with students after they have read this weeks news story.

  • President Obama and his education secretary, Arne Duncan, support longer school days or school years as a way to boost student achievement. Now I know longer school days and school years are not wildly popular ideas, not with Malia and Sasha, not in my family, and probably not in yours," the president said in giving his support to the plan. But the challenges of a new century demand more time in the classroom." The president wants schools to add time to classes, to stay open late, and to let kids in on weekends so they have a safe place to go.
  • In July, a month before his death, Massachusetts Sen. Edward Kennedy and five other senators introduced the TIME (Time for Innovation Matters) Act, which would offer six-year grants to high-poverty schools (where at least 50 percent of students are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch) to add 300 hours to teach the basic curriculum. The bills is inspired by the results of a program that began five years ago in Massachusetts, whereby 300 hours -- the equivalent of about two and a half months of extra instruction -- were added to the schedules in 10 schools. Students received extra reading, writing, and math time. After one year, it was noted that students who had lagged behind raised their state math test scores by 7 percent, science scores by 5 percent, and English scores by 11 percent. We are finding significant increases across the board in proficiency rates," said Jennifer Davis, a former U.S. Department of Education official who devised the initiative through the nonprofit Massachusetts 2020. Its promising enough that Massachusetts 2020 has contracted to expand the program into urban, high-risk schools in four other states: two schools in Alabama, three in Hawaii, five in Rhode Island, and more than 20 in Colorado.
  • Does more time in school always equate to better scores? The answer is likely yes, but it depends. Some nations require more hours in school than the U.S., but their scores are lower, Elena Silva of Education Sector, a Washington-based think tank, told the McClatchy News Service. Others spend less time but have higher scores. It's not just about time; it's about how that time is used," she said.
  • Kids in the U.S. spend more hours in school (1,146 instructional hours per year) than do kids in the Asian countries that persistently outscore the U.S. on math and science tests -- Singapore (903), Taiwan (1,050), Japan (1,005) and Hong Kong (1,013). That is despite the fact that Taiwan, Japan, and Hong Kong have longer school years (190 to 201 days) than does the U.S. (180 days).
  • Researcher Tom Loveless of the Brookings Institution looked at math scores in countries that added math instruction time. Scores rose significantly, especially in countries that added minutes to the day rather than days to the year. Ten minutes sounds trivial to a school day, but don't forget these math periods in the U.S. average 45 minutes," Loveless said. Percentage-wise, that's a pretty healthy increase."
  • Since making the school day longer is very expensive for school districts, many states only want to add hours at schools with a significant number of students who clearly lag behind. Summer is a crucial time for kids, especially poorer kids, because poverty is linked to problems that interfere with learning, such as hunger and less involvement by their parents. Disadvantaged kids, on the whole, make no progress in the summer; some studies suggest they actually fall back. On the other hand, kids whose parents read to them, have strong language skills, and go to great lengths to give them learning opportunities such as computers, summer camp, vacations, music lessons, or playing on sports teams, do not fall back as much.

    Use the News

    Print out this weeks Use the News printable activity page for students. Or use the questions on that page to check student comprehension.

    Use the News: Answer Key
    Comprehension Check

    1. O, 2. F, 3. F, 4. O, 5. F, 6. O, 7. O, 8. F.
    Language Practice: Find the Mistake
    1. need should be needs (alternate response: day should be days;) 2. cant should be cant; 3. there should be their; 4. does should be do; 5. countrys should be countries.
    Main Idea
    Many people think its time that kids spend more time in school.


    Use the Comprehension Check (above) as an assessment. Or have students work on their own (in their journals) or in their small groups to respond to the Think About the News question on the printable news story page. Before writing, you might add students responses to the news-story thinking question to their earlier responses (collected in the Anticipation Guide activity at the top of this lesson). Students might use some of those ideas in their journal writing.

    Lesson Plan Source

    Education World

    National Standards

    LANGUAGE ARTS: English
    GRADES K - 12
    NL-ENG.K-12.1 Reading for Perspective
    NL-ENG.K-12.2 Reading for Understanding
    NL-ENG.K-12.3 Evaluation Strategies
    NL-ENG.K-12.4 Communication Skills
    NL-ENG.K-12.5 Communication Strategies
    NL-ENG.K-12.12 Applying Language Skills

    See recent news stories in Education Worlds News Story of the Week Archive.

    Article by Gary Hopkins
    Education World®
    Copyright © 2009 Education World