When you plan instruction thoughtfully, you will enjoy teaching more. At the beginning of the year, find your starting point. Then plan in broad strokes (long-range planning) and small strokes (daily lessons).
Ms. Sneed Learns to Plan Instruction
As a first year teacher, Ms. Sneed didn’t know where to begin. When her principal announced that student starting points were due in two weeks, she panicked. Fortunately, her mentor, Mrs. Brown, offered to help.
Plan Instruction Around Standards and Student Starting Points
When they sat down for their weekly meeting, three stacks of paper sat in front of Mrs. Brown. “Let’s get started,” she said. “To plan instruction, you need to consider your standards, your students, and your annual assessments.”
She slid the first stack of papers to Ms. Sneed. “The standards provide a road map that describes where you’re going and what you’ll need to do along the way. Every time we sit down to plan, we’ll refer to these standards. Keep them out. You will refer to them often.”
She slid the second stack of papers over. “Student assessment data help you figure out where to begin and how quickly to travel. In the next few weeks, you’ll administer several assessments. These will help us determine your classroom starting points.”
Finally, Mrs. Brown slid the third stack to Ms. Sneed. “These are the dates of our standardized assessments. We will work backward from these dates to determine what we need to teach when.
“I know it’s a lot to take in,” said Mrs. Brown. “But we’ll work together – and bit by bit, it will all fall together.
“Keep this in mind. We’ll use broad strokes to create long-range plans. From there, we’ll use small strokes to complete unit and lesson plans. Both are important.
“Read over this information tonight. Tomorrow we’ll work on long-range plans.”
Plan Instruction in Broad Strokes for Long-range Lesson Plans
The next day, Mrs. Brown showed her mentee how to make a year-long plan that includes all standards. They strategically organized units so they scaffolded from simplest to most complex. “Consider prerequisite skills that may need to be added to your list of things to teach,” Mrs. Brown said as she penciled in a unit on states of matter.
Over the next week, Mrs. Brown and Ms. Sneed met every afternoon. They created a grid that showed when they planned to teach each standard for reading, writing, language, math, science, and social studies. In addition, they looked for ways to integrate opportunities for speaking and listening. “This is our rough draft,” said Mrs. Brown. “It will change with our students’ needs. Not everything will go as planned. That’s why we used a pencil.” She chuckled. “Because I plan to do a lot of erasing. If you want to go digital, create long-range plans with Google Sites.
“Alrighty,” said Mrs. Brown. “Next stop, unit planning. I’d like you to read this article before we begin.”
Plan Instruction in Small Strokes for Complete Unit Plans
The next time they met, Mrs. Brown sat in front of her computer. “It’s unreasonable to think that one teacher can create units of study for every standard in one year. We’ll work smart. On our grid, I’ve highlighted the units I already have. Those in green are good to go. Unfortunately, the units in yellow need to be tweaked to address our current standards.
“We will work from the beginning of the year to the end, planning as we go. Now,” Mrs. Brown looked over the top of her glasses, “I do not like to recreate the wheel. Remember what I told you about simplifying your teaching life? Before we create anything, we’ll see if it already exists somewhere. We’ll look in old textbooks, surf the Internet, and visit Teachers pay Teachers.”
As the year went on, Mrs. Brown and Ms. Sneed worked together to find, alter, and create units of study. Mrs. Brown showed Ms. Sneed how to deconstruct standards and plan instruction “For each lesson, lead students carefully through the learning progression: direct instruction or inquiry, guided practice, independent practice, and assessment. Again, pull from resources you already have, those posted on the Internet, Pinterest, Teachers pay Teachers, etc.
“In addition, let lessons do double duty whenever possible. I love it when lessons hit more than one standard.
“And remember,” continued Mrs. Brown, broad strokes establish the path; small strokes move us steadily toward the finish line. Before we go any farther, why don’t you watch this short video.”
Over the course of her career, Ms. Sneed realized that there were 6 steps to enjoy teaching. In order to survive, she had to organize, plan, and simplify. Then, to thrive, Ms. Sneed needed to learn, engage, and finally – dive in! Follow the Fabulous Teaching Adventures of Ms. Sneed and learn how you can enjoy teaching too.