How many of you plan week-by-week or even day-by-day? Meaning, you really don't know what you will be doing until you sit down and think about your plans for that week? I will tell you right now, that is not the way to do it.
Here are 6 ways to make lesson planning easier.
Stop last-minute planning.
Create a pacing guide for the entire year
Plan UNITS that last a month or more.
Ask admin for time to plan.
Keep lesson plans short and sweet.
Take notes of what worked and didn't AFTER a lesson.
Stop Last-Minute Planning
Truthfully, I doubt many of you are like this if you are on a blog learning about lesson planning, BUT being last minute will just stress you out even more. You really have to know where you headed for the year, BEFORE the year starts. Now, this may be nearly impossible for some of you as you may not get hired until the year starts (more on that later)! But, try to utilize all materials at your disposal and give yourself a good DAY to plan for the school year.
Create a Pacing Guide for the Entire Year
When I changed grade levels 9 years ago, from 5th to 6th, I was clueless. My predecessor was super old-school and left me nothing useful. I could not go into the school year blindly, so I created a pacing guide.
What is a pacing guide? Essentially, it's a super basic plan of the ENTIRE school year. My district requires us to have one, which we create ourselves. You shouldn't have to make this from scratch (even though I did). See what you district already has.
Here is what my official district one looks like for 7th. We are required to update each year.
Also, Google pacing guides! So many teachers have done the work for you already. TpT has them, too. You shouldn't necessarily feel the need to follow them religiously, but they can give you an idea of where to start. I have a 6th grade one here and a 7th grade one here.
You could buy entire units, too. I ended up making my district buy me all of the Units of Study by Lucy Calkins and it helped a ton. My first year in 6th, I followed it pretty religiously, but have morphed it over time. There are lots of curriculums that already exist, so use them! But make sure you make it your own, too!
Here are some curriculums I already have for you:
6th: Click here!
7th: Click here!
Units of Study focus: Click here!
P.S. Making this guide should not take more than a full school day. More on that later, also.
Plan UNITS that Last a Month or More
The next step is to plan units...the entire unit. You may want to even do this before the pacing guide...because you may not be sure how long each unit will be.
My Instagram Reel goes into detail about that below.
Here is a bit of a sample from a teacher I coached. This is one unit. It took her about an hour or two. Now, when she gets to that unit, she can just use that to guide her more detailed plans. She can eliminate as needed. She can make her slides, handouts, or whatever, the week before.
Also, planning all your units ahead of time, avoids that end of year scramble to cover all the things. If you know already ahead of time, this won't happen. You should look at each lesson as a day and map it out so you know things won't get left out.
***BLOG EXCLUSIVE FREEBIE*** Get this basic template here to start planning your first unit!
Ask Admin for Time to Plan
I am so over making teachers use their own time to make their lessons. In order for us to make GOOD lessons, we need time to plan them! So...ask your admin for time! What I mean by that is, tell them you want a sub for the day to unit plan. You may be pleasantly surprised. I've asked and my admin gave me NO problems with it. I was able to sit alone, by myself, and PLAN. It was glorious.
Now, you may not be that lucky. And I've been afraid to ask in the past, so truthfully, I've taken sick days to plan. It does stink, though, because, as a mom, I've had to take a lot of sick days for my son...so I HATE taking MORE days. But, it is what it is...I refuse to spend my time at home planning anymore. I don't get paid for that! Time is money!
Keep Lesson Plans Short and Sweet
Yea, so those long-winded lesson plans in college you wrote? Useless. Ok, not TOTALLY useless, but cut those down A LOT. Truthfully, I do a TON of copying and pasting. Shhhh. Same standards, same goals. I just fill in the little details. Write what will help you. Here is a sample week of mine:
Take Notes AFTER a Lesson
I've been trying to go back into my lesson plans to mark what worked and didn't work. This is so helpful. So many times, I will look at my short and sweet lessons and say, "huh"? I won't remember what worked or didn't. At the end of the week, I go back and just put little notes...what worksheets I changed, what pages in a book I read, what I should change next time. It really helps a ton instead of repeating failed lessons.
We don't get enough time to lesson plan. It's that simple. It certainly gets easier if you teach the same grade over and over, year after year, but we don't all have that luxury. Don't make more work for yourself.
If you need more help, check out my other blog post about planning over the summer.
Also, let me coach you! Ask your admin for PD from me!