Monday, April 3, 2017

Long Range Planning 101

Teaching is a beast. People don't realize how many moving parts there are within a day...month..year! A grading period goes by in a flash and there are so many things to teach. Planning is crucial. I'll be honest I have flown by the seat of my pants some days, but when it comes down to it 99% of the time you need to be prepared, and my kind of preparation is down to the color coded sticky notes, but I digress ;) No matter your OCD'ness prep is key to making sure you can tailor your lessons and teaching for what the kids need. This brings me to long range planning for an entire grading period. Our grading periods are "9 weeks" long. That being in quotations because some have been up to 10-12 weeks long. Over the years I have learned that there is a balance of being behind, being on track, being ahead, and being too far ahead. I prefer the being ahead approach. You are not scrambling like eggs but you are not so far ahead you can't adjust as needed to fit your classes needs.
I have been blessed to be able to work for some amazing admin who allow us time to do all of the above; plan.
I have approached long range planning as a teacher and now as an Instructional Coach. I have seen great success with both sides. The process is basically the same except now I am not actually going back to the classroom with my kids and putting it into practice, but guiding other teachers to do so.

About 2-3 weeks before the end of the current grading period we get half day subs to cover for our grade level teachers. We pair them up with another team to share the day: 2/5 grades, K/3 grades, 1,4 grades. 2nd grade would plan the first half of the day with the substitutes covering their classes and then 5th grade would plan in the afternoon.
Long range planning 2-3 weeks before the new grading period helps us make sure we know where we are headed as well as leaving plenty of time to get resources, copies, assessments made etc.

-District planning guides- we are provided by our district a scope and sequence to guide us with a suggested timing for each unit, vocabulary, essential questions, suggested resources, and TEKS outline. Our teachers love having this to guide them but also still gives some freedom with their teaching. 

-TEKS- these are integrated within our unit plans to look at when planing and creating assessments.
-Resources- anything that might align with our future teaching for the nine weeks (activities, books, etc)
-A good attitude & sense of humor- all work and no play make me a dull girl (The Shining anyone?) ha! We have a lot to get done in a short amount of time but I like to throw in some laughter and jokes as well! It's too easy to get weighed down with the amount of teaching and preparation that goes into just one nine weeks that can stress teachers out.

-Food- um this goes without saying right? I haven't always been good at providing this consistently but teachers love food. Just saying ;) 

Over the years I have tweaked how we document our planning to keep track and make things easier for everyone. 
When I was first grade team leader I created this little document: (sorry if it appears a little blurry)
Since we were self contained we had each subject area listed. Of course if you were blocked you would just put the subjects you teach.

Now that I am an IC and plan with all grade levels I tweaked the planning document. 
This is an example of 1st grades. Again, self contained so we put every content on it. I make sure to include any important days within the nine weeks. Under each week I wanted them to be able to track grades they need to give to make sure they are prepared for them and have a vision of what they are assessing. 2-5 does not look this intense of course because they are blocked. As you can tell it is also color coded. I am in no way OCD. HA!  At the beginning of the year I would type this as the teams planned and then sent it to them. However, it took me until the 3rd nine weeks to make it a google doc (duh haha) so they can follow along in real time and type in themselves if I ever had to step out, leave, etc. I am all about teaching a man to fish. I try hard not to be an enabler. After we plan I do also print them for each teammate on large cardstock in color so they can have it physically with them throughout the nine weeks. 

For the most part we get through the mapping out stage within that half day planning. There normally are some odd and ends we have to finish up separately or at the next "normal" day planning on their planning times throughout the week.  

Weekly planning?
Our sacred planning day typically across the district is Tuesday. However, anyone that has been teaching knows it takes more than one 45 minute block to plan effectively for the next week. We also try to stay a week and half ahead so we aren't planning the very next week during that Tuesday session. Plans have to be typed, resources gathered, copies made if needed,etc and 4 days is not enough time typically to do all of that for the very next week. So if we are about 2 weeks ahead we have plenty of time to make adjustments for our kids if needed and tweak our teaching schedule as well.

How do your teams plan? Is it effective? Teaching can not be living the island life. We need each other for support. If something is not working it is not too late to change it. What's the worst that can happen? You try things and see what works for you and your colleagues. Not everyone will always 100% agree perfectly, but you can compromise and do what is best for the KIDS. Effective planning makes for better communication and ultimately affects the kids, so do right by them by planning FOR them.
I hope this quick overview helped you in some way! Please feel free to leave any questions! Keep up to date through my FB (The Blessed OCDiva) and Instagram (@theblessedocdiva)

Have a BLESSED week! 
"When you go through deep waters I will be with you."
Isaiah 43:2
This is His promise, and one I can rest in.