A couple years ago I covered my planning methods. I figured I would cover it again for the benefit of my now larger audience and as an examination of how well the system works for me. I also bring it up to dispel the myth that I spend a million hours on my ideas. I really don't.

It took two years to develop this method. My first two years of teaching were totally terrible organization wise. I had a notebook I'd write in every so often but never consistently, my official written lesson plans were of the "Section 6.5, Worksheet 6.5A" variety, and I was scrambling every night to figure out the next day. I could never remember my plan for Friday by the time Friday came around.

Step 1, One Hour

Every new semester I print out calendars and tape them together. I mark every special day: grade due dates, holidays, early dismissals, state testing days, etc. This is the big picture stage. What are my goals for the week? Should we recount anything from last week? Did last week's test indicate something we should talk about on Monday? How much longer until report card cut offs?

Rather than comb through a textbook, I've been doing SBG long enough that I work off topic lists. I think about what we just finished and glance ahead to the next two or three topics on the list. These often get riddled with notes as the year goes along. I've never taught a course in the same order twice.

This stage is for the high level questions. I jot down the topics I want to cover and use this to pace assessment. I try to make sure assessments are less than two weeks apart.

I don't sketch out more than two weeks. Too much happens during a week to be more certain than that. I also keep old ones (tea stains and all) to verify pacing. Did this take 2 days or a week last year? Should it be longer? That kind of thing.

Step 2, Two to Three Hours

Now to the gritty details. I keep two notebooks. One of them is my official plan book. I make notes about what each day will look like. Will they get a problem set? Are we doing an activity? What are the steps I have to cover? Should I write up instructions? Is there a test this week? What's on it? All the little stuff goes here. Administrative details get a nod too. If it's time for a notebook check, I write it down. This is the key to my retention. Writing down every day commits it to memory much better. The first couple years I started doing this I would have the notebook out for reference during the week. These days I've gotten so good at committing the plan to memory that the notebook is rarely needed.

The second notebook is for to do items. I make note of tests that need to be written, problem sets I need, or activity supplies I should get.

This portion is usually the longest part. I fiddle with Desmos to check the logic of something. I flip through my photos to check results. If there's a tech angle I'll try out the workflow to make sure it's not too fussy. I procrastinate or take a break an eat. There's a lot of inefficiency, but a lot of what works here for me is the pauses. Inverse Trig War? I was driving around in the car when i came up with that. 3D coordinate cubes? I was procrastinating big time on a Sunday afternoon. Give your subconscious a chance to digest the task at hand I say.

Step 3, Thirty Minutes

With the big picture sorted, the details written, and the to do list made, it's time for the formal part. We have a system for formal entry of lesson plans. I write up objectives all smart sounding, make note of any language/vocabulary focuses, and write a short version of the agenda. The three or four hours I spent thinking makes this part the fastest.

The to do list is for the rest of the week. It might take another three hours over a few days to accomplish everything. I reserve 8pm - 10pm on weeknights to work on this if necessary. Wednesday and Friday nights are personally mandated nights off.

I think a trap people new to teaching might fall into is starting at the formal level. They open whatever district submission method is required of them and they stare. And they freak out. I did this. Textbook to the left of me, computer to the right and a cloud of self-doubt preventing me from typing. You don't start with the polished lesson. You need time to think.

AuthorJonathan Claydon