How Do I Organize My Riggs Day?

Teaching the Riggs Institute’s comprehensive, coherent language arts program requires a significant time commitment. When Riggs teachers first learn that they will be devoting about 2.5 hours a day to the teaching of language arts, they sometimes (often) panic. Yikes! How can they teach Riggs for 2.5 hours a day? And where will they get 2.5 hours per day? And so on.

The answer is simple: It depends.

Although first-grade Riggs students begin by using much of their daily Riggs time to practice letter-formation and to master basic spelling patterns, this changes quickly. Within a few weeks they are reading and writing words and then sentences, and much of the time that was once used for letter-formation practice is now being used to practice the writing and reading of whole words and sentences, and so on.

When sentence writing begins, Riggs students begin to read and write lots and lots of sentences about other core subject areas (science, math, history, etc.). This type of meaningful work keeps students interested and challenged, and it allows teachers to individualize student practice sessions to maximize learning.

As simple grammar concepts are introduced, students again practice what they are learning in across-the-curriculum assignments, which helps them master core subject matter at an accelerated pace. Using only paper, pencil, and their minds, Riggs students master new skills, acquire new knowledge, and create amazing reference tools (graphic organizers) for classroom review and independent practice. Language Arts time is far more than just Language Arts time in the hands of a Riggs teacher. But the way to make that happen is to do first things first.

Notice that the charts on pages 50-52 of the Writing and Spelling Road to Reading and Thinking (Level 1) show what is to be taught during Level I (usually first grade) teaching activities. These pages present an overview of how the learning strands are integrated as cognition and mastery develops, and they will help you to see how the practice of sub-skills will continue to be part of your practice day as higher-order skills are introduced. As you study the top row of the chart on page 51, notice how the daily minutes allotted to each sub-skill area vary. While you will have to find the organization that works best for you, here is an example of how Riggs teachers often organize their 150 daily minutes in order to teach the sequenced concepts and skills in Level 1 to children in the first grade (older student generally learn much more quickly).

Weeks 1 & 2

Weeks 3 & 4

Weeks 5-12

  • Penmanship & Phonetics 30
  • Spelling-Vocabulary 30
  • Fluency Practice 15
  • Making and Using Charts 30
  • Reading to Students 15
  • Penmanship & Phonetics 30

Weeks 13-32

  • Handwriting & Phonetics 15
  • Spelling-Vocabulary 30
  • Making & Using Charts 20
  • Reading to Students 15
  • Students Reading 25
  • Grammar & Composition 30
  • Fluency Practice 15

Again, teaching this language arts program at the pace suggested by the Riggs Institute (one lesson per day for grade 1 students) requires 2.5 hours per day--150 minutes--for the practicing of skills in across-the-curriculum assignments. The minutes do not need to be--nor should they be--consecutive minutes (scatter them through your day), and the minutes can often be counted toward other subject areas. Since students can--and should--be asked to write their daily sentences about geography, history, and other subject matters as they practice and apply their spelling, writing, and reading skills, this program can be fully integrated with other lessons.

How about you? How do you organize your Riggs day?


One of the common misconceptions of today's society is the idea of a "quick fix". Living with such wonderful technology at our fingertips instantly develops an attitude lacking the old adage of "slow and steady" wins the race. Anything that is worth while will take time and practice - a lot of it. My first grade students can get 100% of their spelling test yet struggle writing the same words in context in creative writing. There is no short cut to mastery of these important concepts. Daily practice pays off. Especially children in kindergarten and first grade need a lot of exposure in many different avenues to practice, practice, practice! You can teach a concept to a child and the child will understand it for the moment, but without practice, the concepts don't become automatic which is the goal.

Submitted by Paula Soderstrom (not verified) on Wed, 03/26/2014 - 19:45

So true, Ms. Soderstrom: scholars must practice, practice, practice. As you said, there is no shortcut to mastery. Frederick Douglass addressed this topic in his wonderful talk on self-made men when he said: "I am certain that there is nothing good, great or desirable which man can possess in this world, that does not come by some kind of labor of physical or mental, moral or spiritual. A man, at times, gets something for nothing, but it will, in his hands, amount to nothing. What is true in the world of matter, is equally true in the world of the mind. Without culture there can be no growth; without exertion, no acquisition; without friction, no polish; without labor, no knowledge; without action, no progress and without conflict, no victory. A man that lies down a fool at night, hoping that he will waken wise in the morning, will rise up in the morning as he laid down in the evening. …

From these remarks it will be evident that, allowing only ordinary ability and opportunity, we may explain success mainly by one word and that word is WORK! WORK!! WORK!!! WORK!!!! Not transient and fitful effort, but patient, enduring, honest, unremitting and indefatigable work into which the whole heart is put, and which, in both temporal and spiritual affairs, is the true miracle worker. Everyone may avail himself of this marvelous power, if he will. There is no royal road to perfection."

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