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How to plan a week's worth of lessons in 2 hours or less!

Uncategorized Nov 30, 2020
How many times have you spent at least as long creating an amazing lesson plan, as it takes to actually teach the lesson? 
 
Most teachers have a minimum of 20 - 25 hours of teaching time per week to prepare for. The rest of the working week is not only for lesson prep, but also marking, admin work, meetings, parent communication, pastoral care, and much much more. So what we don’t want is our lesson prep taking nearly as long as the actual teaching time. 
 
Often, the way we lesson plan is 'a bit here and a bit there' - whenever we get the time (and it can sometimes be very last minute). The problem with constant task-switching is that we can lose a lot of time during the transition from task to task - anywhere between 5, to even 20 minutes. Every time you need to lesson plan, you need to find the teaching program, get your planner out, get set up, and get your head into the right frame of mind. 
 
So what if you could 'batch create' your lesson plans by setting aside 2 hours every week in order to plan your lessons for the whole week ahead? It is possible, and when you start doing this, your life is going to be made so much easier! 
 
Ok then, so let’s go through the steps that you need to take to create a week's worth of lesson plans in only 2 hours! 
  1. Step 1 is make sure that you have blocked out a 2 hour chunk of time into your calendar. Ideally, this will be scheduled at a time that you know your concentration and focus levels are at their highest. This can be different for everyone - for example, your brain might work it’s best first thing in the morning, so you could choose to get up early one day a week at do all of your lesson planning between 5-7am. Or, you might be able to work really well after everyone else has gone to bed. Or, maybe you are lucky and happen to have 2 periods of continuous DOTT time in your timetable, and you can find somewhere quiet in the school where you know you won’t be interrupted. The important thing is to make sure that there will be no distractions during this time (including your email and phone!). Further to this, make sure that you are treating this scheduled time as a very important commitment that you cannot break. Don’t let anything get in your way of making the most use of this time. 
  2. Have all of your teaching programs in front of you, whether it be in hard copy or on your computer (however you work best). Ideally your teaching programs will already contain the curriculum links, timing, learning intentions and success criteria, and some ideas of activities and resources. Creating teaching programs can be time-consuming, but they are a very wise investment of your time as it will make your lesson planning so much quicker and easier. However, don’t worry if it’s not as detailed as you would like right now, you can simply update it as you go, about a week ahead at a time. By the end of the term you will have a very detailed program that you can use next time. 
  3. The next thing that is ideal to already have in place, is a completed Term Planner (you can access one I have already created here). Use your teaching programs to plot out all of your lessons in the one A4 term calendar. This makes it easy to see what topic you are teaching when, and when assessments and other events will be. It gives the 'birds eye' view, so to speak. Have all of these in front of you as well. 
  4. Now, using either your electronic calendar or your hard-copy teacher planner (it’s up to your personal preference), plot out the general topics for all of your lessons for the week ahead according to your timetable (use only 2-3 key words max in the title). If you have completed the term planner then this is as easy as copying it across from this into your calendar, otherwise you can use your teaching program to help you with this. Make sure you consult your school calendar as well to account for any lessons you might miss due to assemblies, carnivals, excursions, pupil free days, etc. 
  5. Next, copy the learning intentions and success criteria from your teaching programs into each relevant lesson slot. If you don’t already have these written, this resource will help you work out how to do this. 
  6. Now, on a class-by-class basis, plan out the activities that will help your students to achieve the success criteria for each lesson of the week. The idea here is to carefully select activities that are matched to the success criteria, so that your students have explicit opportunities to address them. Examples of activities are ’think, pair, share’, class discussion/ Q&A session, brainstorming, mind-mapping, jigsaw activities, role plays, creating posters/ collages, structured overviews, written responses, student presentations, model-making, surveying, experiments, and so on. The options are endless. Here's an example from the Year 9 Geography curriculum: 
     
  7. Finally, based on the activities that you have selected, identify what resources you will need - such as a PowerPoint, reading material, worksheets, a video clip, a website, etc. 
  8. Another idea to make lesson planning even quicker, is to utilise project based learning. Whilst it might take a bit of time to set up, it is very student driven and requires very little lesson planning from you. Instead you would be using lesson time to provide scaffolding, support and guidance. 
  9. If you have identified resources that you still need to create or find, then schedule in some time in your calendar to do this. It’s important that you DON’T try to do this until you have planned out all of your lessons, otherwise the 2 hours could potentially drag out and you might not get all of your planning done in this time. 
  10. Resource creation and selection is another post in itself, however try to set yourself a time limit for this as well. I know that I have wasted so much time searching the internet for the perfect resource which only ended up taking 10mins in class to complete, so try to avoid doing this. If you are searching on the internet for a resource, have a super clear idea on what you are looking for and use specific key words in your search terms. However, consider if it might be quicker for you to create something - that way it will contain the specific content that you want to deliver and be customised for your students. But don’t be a perfectionist about it - done is better than perfect! Set up and utilise templates for your resources in Word, PowerPoint etc, so that it is quick to create something that looks good as well. 

And there you have it! Remember, the idea is that you have a good idea of what kind of activities/ resources you will need for each lesson. You don't have to have it all planned out minute-by-minute (often you will need to go off the plan and improvise anyway, depending on your students needs).  

This topic is something that we delve more into in Stage 3 and 4 of the Transformational Teachers Success Path, a membership for teachers who want to make a difference in the world. 
 
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Kelly :)  

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