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Every Minute Matters [Grades K-5]

Every Minute Matters [Grades K-5]
40+ Activities for Literacy-Rich Classroom Transitions


July 2020 | 152 pages | Corwin

Make the most of every instructional minute with engaging literacy activities

Time—or lack thereof—may be the most precious commodity in the classroom. From covering all the necessary curriculum and imparting life skills to attending meetings and answering emails, educators are faced with real challenges when there never seems to be enough time to do it all. Although teachers don’t have the power to create more minutes in the school day, they do have the power to be effective and efficient with the time given.

Molly Ness asks teachers first to examine their use of time in the classroom in order to make more space for literacy. She then introduces 40 innovative activities designed to replace seatwork. These literacy-rich alternatives for classroom transitions are presented alongside

  • Research on instructional time in K–5 classrooms
  • Strategies for how to maximize every minute of instruction
  • Suggestions for improving efficiency to expand independent reading and writing time
  • Reflective practices to help teachers examine how they use the time they have

The instructional day is ripe for redesign with a thoughtful and authentic time audit. Every Minute Matters guides educators through that process by outlining literacy-rich activities to optimize transitional times and minimize lost instructional minutes.

Guide to Literacy-Rich Experiences
Introduction: So Much to Do, So Little Time
Activity Walkthrough
PART ONE: Thinking Through Instructional Time
Time Audits: Why and How

Maximize Your Routines and Transition Times

Think Flexibly

PART TWO: Literacy-Rich Experiences at Your Fingertips
Rotate Your Writing

Reader’s Notebook Tours

Library Love

Be a Book Matchmaker

“I Wonder” Writing

Beach Ball Bonanza

Laughing Through Rereadings

Read, Record, Reflect

Book Tasting

Go Fish


Lining Up With Literacy

I Spy

Category Chain

Ghost Writing

Build a Word

Classroom Charades


Would You Rather?

Hink Pinks

Human Hungry Hippos

Spelling Connect Four

Vocabulary Vase

Book Pass

Parking Lot

Sink or Spell



Letter Formation

Sight Word Search

Letter Tile Table

Tower Tumble


A to Z About

Sticky Sort

Reading Graffiti

Jot Lot



Character Cards


Character Chats

Blackout Poetry


“‘Bell-to-bell teaching’ can be full of variety and delight, and Molly Ness offers teachers of all grade levels a huge assist here with her trove of concrete, wide-ranging activities to enhance and lighten the hard work of any class. My favorites are the Reading Graffiti and Sticky Sort, and her conversational style leaves even a seasoned teacher reminded of old favorites like ‘Hink Pinks’ and recommitted to use every moment we have with our young ones. I will be recommending this book widely.”

Gretchen Bernabei

“Have you been looking for sensible ways to enrich and energize your transition times? Stop searching and simply turn these pages! In Every Minute Matters, Molly Ness has carefully curated a menu of literacy-linked ideas that will engage learners and maximize instructional time. Once you start using Ness’s ideas, your students will surely be asking for more.”

Maria Walther

“Molly Ness is a fierce advocate for literacy, dedicated to amplifying and improving the learning lives of children everywhere. In Every Minute Matters, Ness continues this vital mission. I greatly appreciate that this smart, practical resource is centered on a common challenge: it often feels like there’s never enough time. The included explanation of ‘time audits’ helps readers prepare to rethink current practices and uncover hidden minutes. Ness then provides forty practical learning routines to make each ‘found’ minute matter. Perhaps what I most appreciate is the joy and playfulness inherent in each research-supported suggestion! The flexible instructional practices detailed throughout the book are a powerful antidote to worksheets and workbooks. Additionally, in the Minute Mentor feature, Ness points readers in the direction of where they can find more, read more, learn more, and do more. I am confident this multifaceted resource will be well-loved by hardworking educators as they rethink and reimagine the infinite opportunities for meaningful, integrated literacy learning that could be tucked into every day.”

Pamela Koutrakos

“Molly Ness has written a book that belongs in every teacher’s hands. Through both cited and her own research, she reminds us of the importance of instructional minutes. Maybe even more important, she challenges readers to consider how they spend their time, and she provides authentic, relevant, and fun activities that are so much more than time fillers. Every activity has a specific purpose and explanation, and she has designed them to fit into and enhance the structure of our students’ learning lives. This book is not only valuable and practical for enhancing instruction, it will bring fun and joy into classrooms!”

Melanie Meehan

Every Minute Matters is loaded with practical activities that teachers can use to insert meaningful literacy instruction into those precious minutes otherwise lost to transitions. But this is so much more than an activity book. It’s a guide to reflecting upon how we use our students’ most precious resource: time.”

Lauren Prosoff

Every Minute Matters is a tremendous resource for educators looking to enhance their literacy curriculum and provide purposeful instruction. Dr. Molly Ness has expertly curated an engaging catalog of games and activities to support the development of a child’s reading, writing, speaking, and listening skills. I’ve already found a few favorites my students love!”

Gary Wellbrock, PhD
PS347 The American Sign Language and English Lower School

Sample Materials & Chapters


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ISBN: 9781071818275

ISBN: 9781544382449

This title is also available on SAGE Knowledge, the ultimate social sciences online library. If your library doesn’t have access, ask your librarian to start a trial.