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How to Plan Your School Days

06.01.14 | Classroom Tips | 7 Comments

You’ve discovered that life as a teacher means being constantly on the go. As an elementary teacher, I have several subjects to cover and little time in which to plan. Here are tips for planning your school days without giving up time for fun.

1. Locate district resources. The school district you work for probably has curriculum guides for you to use as a reference. Additionally, your district might have lesson plan suggestions.

2. Use the Backward Design method. Referring to the standards that your students are expected to meet, create an assessment that measures student mastery of the expected objectives. Knowing the end you have in mind will assist you in coming up with lessons that lead your students to that goal.

3. Get a little help from your friends. Many seasoned teachers love advising newer teachers. Find someone in your grade level or in the same subject area, and ask for their opinions on lesson plans. Hopefully, you have others who can share in the responsibility of planning.

4. Search the web. I remember one of my college instructors quoting the adage “Don’t reinvent the wheel” when referring to planning lessons. With all the technology available, great plans might be at the tips of your fingers. All you have to do is search for them. There are great sites that teachers rely on for lesson plan ideas, such as Teachers Pay Teachers and Pinterest.

5. Save your work. You may be teaching the same grade or subject area for a few years. Keep the lesson plans you use and any worksheets organized in a file cabinet or computer folder so that you can find them easily.

6. Plan away from home. I find it beneficial to take my bag of lesson plans and papers to grade to a coffee shop to minimize distractions. I can focus without being distracted by a house that needs to be cleaned.

7. Give yourself a time limit. Let’s face it, teachers could spend all evening writing lesson plans and grading papers, but that won’t make you the best teacher. Make sure to give yourself some time to relax. Tomorrow will be here before you know it.

This article originally appeared in the October/November 2013 issue of Educational Horizons.


About Melissa Lancaster

Melissa Lancaster is a National Board Certified Teacher who has taught elementary children in Missouri for 10 years. She is currently teaching 4th grade in Independence, Mo.

Comments on How to Plan Your School Days

  1. Debyon- Brown- Osbourne says:

    I really like your tips and find them to be true. I can really attest to no. 7 which is- Give yourself a time limit. Let’s face it, teachers could spend all evening writing lesson plans and grading papers, but that won’t make you the best teacher. Make sure to give yourself some time to relax. Tomorrow will be here before you know it. As at times lesson plan sometimes go into your family time and yet still when you go to deliver the lesson it can be a complete failure.

    • Kelly Collins says:

      Hi Debyon-Brown-Osbourne,

      I agree with your post about number 7. I feel that many teachers spend way too much time on grading papers and making lesson plans. They need to realize that these endless hours won’t make them teacher of the year, they need rest and fun for themselves. Students need a teacher that is full of energy and shows that they want to be at school everyday. I found these tips very helpful in staying organized and taking a deep breath. They made me realize that in order to be a successful teacher I need to keep my priorities straight and not overwhelm myself.

  2. Caitlin Hodne says:

    Backwards Design has been crucial for my students’ success. Knowing what I want them to accomplish before instruction is crucial. I love that you brought up this strategy! I also agree that you mention getting help from colleagues. I would probably live at school if it weren’t for all of the sharing my team has done this year.
    Thanks for the great post!

  3. Kelly Collins says:

    Hi Melissa,

    This post is extremely helpful. There is so much to teaching that many people don’t realize. A few things being that we have standards to meet, administrators to please, children that need our undivided attention, and our own life of course. The tips that you provided I am going to take great consideration in utilizing for keeping myself on top of my work life and my social life.
    The tip that relates to me the most is to plan away from home. I find that when I am at home I have too many things running through my head that I get extremely distracted and begin to get frustrated with myself for not completing my work on time. By going somewhere else to work on my school plans I believe it will allow me the time to stay focused on the reason I am there. I won’t want to be at a coffee shop all night long, so I will be motivated to finish my assignments/grading/planning and get out of there.
    Thank you for this post! I plan on using it daily!

  4. Elizabeth Albert says:

    What a great post! I am beginning year fifteen this year and I still have not figured out how to work only my contractual hours. Teaching is an “ALL IN” lifestyle and I truly love it. I completely agree with classroom tip number 3; Get a little help from your friends. We team in my grade level, so my teammate and I share the planning responsibilities down to the ordering of classwork/homework. We trust each other and have confidence in the professional decisions we make. Also, it allows me to dig deep into the content area I love teaching the most,math,while she follows her passion which is science. Thanks again for the great post.

  5. Rasheeta Jennings says:

    I agree with you on all of the tips. They were very helpful for me as a third year teacher.I really like tip #2 because I have to do that know with Pre K assessments. It is really helpful to know the goal in order to plan the lessons.

  6. Lynell Strickland says:

    I agree with the classroom tips. I practice them everyday because I have wonderful co-workers who shared them with me two years ago. Especially tip number 6 about stepping away from the classroom and minimizing distractions.

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