It’s true, the best laid plans of mice and teachers often go awry. But in teaching, shoddy plans darn well guarantee disaster. The end of the year comes, and there is so much left to do and so little time to do it! New teachers, especially, trust me: you do not want to be that teacher who is frantically trying to fit two science units, a math unit, and, you know, the Pilgrims into the last three weeks of school.
In each of my 180 school days, I have about 4 hours of real instructional time. That’s it. It’s about 80% of what I think we really need. But it’s what I’ve got. So how do I get the most out of it?
My strategy is to plan at three levels: the curriculum plan for the whole year, long-range plans for every six weeks, and weekly lesson plans. (All of these documents were made with Pages and uploaded to Google docs. So you can download them and use Pages to edit them, or you can print them from Google docs. But you can’t edit them in Google docs. Sorry.)
First, I sketch out the major units I’m going to teach in each subject area and how many weeks they’ll last. Math isn’t on my plan because it’s pre-determined by the district math pacing guide.
One of my mentors, Christine Norrman, showed me how to do these. I like having all my long-range plans for the year in a single document. After I finish my Curriculum Plan, I drop in the start and end of each unit. Then, I take the first six weeks of school and fill in more details. On the template, you’ll see what the plans look like after I’ve filled in the first few weeks of math. Like Christine, I do enough planning to carry me from vacation to vacation. So I plan through Columbus Day, then through Thanksgiving. Over Thanksgiving, I plan through December, then to February, etc. Six weeks give or take is enough time to feel like I have a long-range view of my classroom, but not so long that my plans need drastic revisions when I change course (as I always do — remember that bit about mice and teachers).
Here’s where I plot how I’m going to spend our time during every school day. I put as much into the weekly plans as I need to remember what I want to accomplish, instructional methods I want to use, small groups I want to pull, etc. I do keep separate plans for guided reading groups, because it’s too much to fit into one document. But for everything else, I just write very brief notes. Here’s an example, randomly selected from all the plans I wrote last year.
I write my plans on Thursday or Friday, and I print them on Monday for the week. I don’t write weekly plans more than a week or two at a time, because then I’d have to do too much revising. Even two weeks is pushing it. By the middle of the first week, I’ve got my red pen out, and I’m scribbling changes as I go.
Once I finish writing my plans, I email them to other teachers who work with my students, including special education teachers, student support facilitators, our speech and language specialist, etc. That way, everyone who supports our students can connect their lessons to what’s going on in my classroom. And, everyone knows when assessments are happening and when students might need special accommodations.
And with that, I’m going to start my Curriculum Plan for the new school year! I’m back to second grade this year, and I’ve got to start saying my mantra, “They are only 7 years old… they are not third graders…” I have to get back into my second grade frame of mind!