The Year at a Glance: Easy Lesson Planning Now for a Smooth Year Later
For some, thinking about a year’s worth of lesson planning can seem overwhelming. When you do not know what you will cook for dinner tomorrow, planning what you will teach eight and a half months into the school year may seem comical.
Those who plan their entire school year before it even starts, though, will have a better grasp on the pace of the year. Not only that, more organized teachers have more organized students, and organization can make a big difference when it comes to academic progress. You do not have to be intimidated if you have never planned an entire year at once; it is easier than you think. Just take these steps one at a time and you will be ready for graduation before the first day of school rolls around!
How to Plan Your Lessons in Advance
Note Your Material
What material do you actually have to cover in your class? Depending on where and who you teach, your administration may answer this question for you. If you have more freedom in your classes, you should stop a moment to take stock of what you want to cover by the end of the semester or school year. By taking a bird’s eye overview of your material, you will already have the end of the academic year in sight before you even start.
Note Your Time
How much time do you have before the end of school? The number of months, weeks or days you have to cover your material will determine how quickly you need to go through it. Start by getting out your calendar and measure your year in months, weeks, or another unit if that suits you better, and determine just how much time you have to cover what you noted in step one.
Note Logical Divisions
Going back to your material, look for logical breaks in the list of what you plan to teach. These breaks may be chapters, units, themes or level of difficulty. For example, if you were teaching grammar, you might divide your material into simple tenses, progressive tenses, perfect tenses and perfect progressive tenses. If you are teaching more than one subject to the same group of students, try taking one subject at a time rather than looking for continuity across the curriculum.
Plug In Your Content
Now is when you start to put your material on the calendar. Start penciling in units or logical groupings for each subject into each month or week. You do not have to go into minute detail at this point. You are just getting a rough idea of what material will fall on what page of the calendar. As you do this, also write in special scheduling items like holidays, standardized testing and special parties and events. You can feel free to use ink for these entries.
Pencil in Exams
Now that you have an idea of the weeks and months certain units fall into, pencil in a day for assessment at the end of the content block. Right before each of those days, pencil in a review period. These review days are important first for getting your students ready for their assessments but also for building in time to catch up in case your lessons get slightly off schedule. Along with your tests, mark when you want students to turn in big assignments or projects. Make sure you are not expecting more than one big project from your student on any given day. This will keep their stress levels low and your grading pile small. You might also want to anticipate other out of the ordinary events like field trips or holiday parties. Even if you are not exactly sure when they will happen, you should still allot time for them on your calendar. You can always shift things around later, but it is far more difficult to make time for them out of nothing once you are in a teaching crunch.
Do Simple Division
Your calendar is starting to fill in but you still have your lessons to mark. Simply count up the number of days that are still open on your calendar and divide your material equally among those days, month by month or chunk by chunk. This will be your ideal schedule. If you can keep to this plan, you will have plenty of time to present your material to your students and still have days for fun. Plus, all your official days are already scheduled, so you will not be taken off guard when it is time for testing or other events.
Most of your yearlong plan is now complete. You will still need to create specific lesson plans for each day, if you are not revamping and revising a plan you used last year, but that is one of the fun parts of teaching. Let your creativity shine here, and take a moment to be sure you are teaching to all the learning styles. Also, do not feel pressured to have your entire detailed lesson plans complete and articulated at this point. You can take one day at a time, one week at a time, or several pages on the calendar at a time as you do your detailed plans. Different teachers will have different preferences. What is most important is that you know what lessons will happen on what days. As long as you do not procrastinate in planning as you go, you should have stress free preparation for classes.
No one ever said teaching was easy, and even if they did, they would have been lying. You will not have a year without work and planning, making adjustments and having your flexibility challenged. What you will have is a year that is coherent, smooth and articulated, even if it is only in your own mind. Your students will note the difference in your teaching and classroom management when you have all your plans in place, even if they do not know what it is they are noticing. They will be less stressed, and so will you!
If you are a top down processor, planning an entire year at the start of school may come naturally, but even if you are naturally bottom up, you can do it.
When you do, you may just find that planning the entire year at a glance is your new favorite way to get ready for the start of school each fall.
Susan likes to enjoy every day to its fullest whether she is freelance writing, teaching homeschoolers, or developing her special talent of instigation. When she is not imagining sand castles or catching others off balance, she cooks, sings, reads and takes walks in the sunshine. She earned an M.A. from the University of Delaware in Linguistics and an M.A. from Trinity School for Ministry in Youth Ministry. She currently lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with her wonderful husband and her three cheepy cockatiels.
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