The part of our job we kind of love but often feels like a chore. A chance to get creative but can leave you drowning in curriculum jargon.
There’s no getting away from it regardless of how long you’ve been teaching or how many years of resources you have access to. Planning is important to ensure that we get full coverage of the curriculum, have a meaningful sequence of activities for our learners and know what deliberate acts of teaching to use within a given lesson to optimise learning. Not to mention, it gives us confidence, particularly if we are teaching a topic for the first time.
So, how can I plan my lessons quickly?
Here are 7 quick tips to speed up your planning:
1. Make the switch to digital
I know some of us love our paper planners to death but often we have to record the same information on an online document as well. Also, as schedules inevitably change with the sudden events of a fire drill, last-minute assembly, or these days, a Covid-related interruption, so must our planning. It’s far quicker to copy over lesson plans to another date on an online document. Easy time saver. Plus, it doesn’t leave the trail of destruction of arrows and half-rubbed out WALTs.
2. Lay the groundwork
Even if it isn’t the most detailed document, get your long term planning done. You can do this at the end of the previous term, a day during the school holidays or in the first week back. If you have your learning objectives ready and a rough plan of which week to cover each of them, when you come to do your weekly planning, you’re never stuck without a starting point. Don’t worry, you can always reshuffle your schedule if your students need more or less time on a topic!
3. Systems systems systems
Systems beat motivation. Motivation comes and goes each day but your work always needs to get done. Establish a time each week when you have the energy and resources you need at hand to plan. It may be that you work best in short bursts or that you need a long uninterrupted period of time. Find what works for you and make it a fixed part of your weekly schedule.
4. Stop faffing
People are good at faffing around. There would be countless occasions when I sat down to start planning and 20 mins later still be adding columns, adjusting font sizes and table colours. By the time you’ve got your cup of tea, checked a few emails and opened up the docs you need, an hour long planning session is reduced down to very little. Come in with a game plan; know which subject you’re going to start with and see each task through to completion rather than jumping from task to task.
5. Organisation is king
Set up a logical system for storing your files so you can quickly find the documents, slides and other resources you need. Have blank templates ready to go before your planning session so you can simply open and start typing away. I know this may sound obvious but if there’s something that you know has to be on all of your planning documents, make sure it’s on your template. Need to reference a curriculum document or student action plan? Keep an embedded link on your planning document so it is always there.
6. Share the load
Don’t start from scratch if you have access to older planning documents. Yes, they might need refreshing but the bulk of them should be reusable. Also, if you don’t already have a system in place, chat to your colleagues and find a way to share out the planning workload. Could one of you plan a week of Poetry lessons while the other plans Information Reports? Boom. Hours saved. We all have different students we’re trying to engage but at the end of the day, we do all need to cover the curriculum so our plans can’t be drastically different between classes.
7. Keep it to the point
Unless you’re new to teaching or are teaching a brand new topic or year level, your plans do not need to include extensive detail about what you’re going to say and do in a lesson. Bullet-point the sequence of activities you want to cover and your deliberate acts of teaching. Think of it as your cue cards for a speech - if you know what you’re doing, you don’t need every word there; just the prompt words to keep you on track.
We want planning to be an exciting process which makes us feel inspired about what we’re going to teach next. By setting yourself up with good systems and processes, you’ll take away that dread of “Not another admin task” and focus on what it’s really for; to aid you to teach an effective lesson which is grounded in the curriculum and instils new knowledge and an enjoyment of learning in your students.