Are you a planner? Or do you like to fly by the seat of your pants? In my 20 years of teaching, I’ve seen all kinds of planning personalities, and I’ve learned a lot about what works for me and what doesn’t. Most people will tell you that I’m a planner extraordinaire. During our end of the year luncheon I won the “Future Planner” award for being planned out 5 years in advance. Yeah, that’s me. For new teachers, or teachers looking for a new way to approach planning, I thought I’d share my process and some tools I use to get my planning finished and ready to go for the next school year. Here are my personal must-do’s for lesson planning:
- Figure out how many actual days you have to teach
- Map out A/B days for the year
- Choose what big pieces to teach
- Make sure standards are covered
- Plan each quarter- put big pieces in order (YAG)
- Plan each day
- Organize materials in binders
#1- Figuring out how many days you have to teach- This one is much easier if you’re not new to a district because you know all the little idiosyncrasies of your school’s schedule and calendar. For example, I know I have to subtract days for MAP testing, the middle school picnic, Veteran’s Day assembly, nine weeks exams, etc. In every district you should subtract days for state testing, benchmarking, etc.
#2- Map out A/B days for the year- My school is on an A/B block schedule, so it’s important for me to go ahead and put those on each day so that I don’t accidentally plan something for A that I can’t do with B.
#3- Choose what big pieces to teach- For each of my grade levels, I always choose which novels, plays, memoirs, etc. we are going to cover. This next year my 8th graders will begin with an Annotation Academy, move to short stories, then To Kill a Mockingbird followed by Night, Merchant of Venice, and literature circles. 9th grade will do short stories and poetry, Of Mice and Men, The Crucible, a Gothic novel study, and The Glass Castle.
#4- Make sure standards are covered- I always mark the standards being covered as I’m planning on my unit plan (see below). This was even more important this year because our K-8 ELAR standards have been revised, and I’m still familiarizing myself with them.
#5- Plan each quarter, put big pieces in order- YAG- My school requires each class to have a Year at a Glance (YAG) so that administrators and parents have a broad overview of what is happening in each class for the year. Here is a copy of the YAG template I use:
#6- Plan each day- After I’ve got the number of days, what I’m teaching, in what order, and my A/B days marked, I can start filling in what we will actually do each day. This will be my first year using the Daily Lesson Plans page. I’m hoping that it helps me be more specific about what is happening each day. I’ve always used the type of teacher planner where you have a little square in which to write for each day. This expanded version I created helps because I have more room to write, and it has what assessment we are working towards, what copies and supplies I need, etc. You can get a copy of this Daily Lesson Plans Template Freebie here. It also has a spot for the standards taught each day and for writing down notes- Did the lesson go to plan? Are there things I needed that I didn’t have? Do I need to modify it? Does it need more/less time? I always need to remember these things, but I didn’t have a place to actually keep them for reference. I’m hoping this helps me when planning for future years.
#7- Organize materials in binders- When I have the unit and daily plans filled out, I then make a binder for each quarter. This binder will have all the master copies I need in the order in which I will need them. This way I can take the binder to the copy room and make a week’s copies at once. We can also turn in copy requests if we can wait for a two-day turnaround, and I’m able to fill out those requests quickly because I have everything in one place.
And that’s all she wrote! I try to do this at the end of the school year so that I can gather or create materials I will need for the next year over the summer. I have anxiety issues, so I think all this planning gives me a sense of control. We all know that the best laid plans don’t always come to fruition, but at least I have a road map that gets me from one end of the school year to another. Let me know if you have questions or ideas. Happy planning!
You can also find my editable teacher planners in my store. Each one has pages and pages of things a teacher needs- planning pages (portrait and landscape), monthly calendar, gradebook pages, binder cover, etc. Check them out in my store!