July 9, 2013

Summer Challenge 2013: Goal #4

This summer, we are being intentional about spending just a little bit of time doing some things that can make a big impact on our classroom. Join us as we try to create a stress-free school year! Did you miss the first part of this series? Check it out Let's Get Started and Goal #1Goal #2, Goal #3.

Well, I hope you all have spent some lazy days out in the sun over the past few weeks or your getting ready to do just that!

It’s time to take a teeny tiny break from our summer fun and do something that will go a LONG way to creating a smooth year for you this fall.

Here’s our goal for today:

Plan out your entire year for each subject you teach.

Yes, this challenge sounds a little bit less ‘mini’ and bordering on the verge of ‘impossible,’ but I am here to tell you it CAN be done!

This is a basic, rough calendar of when you will teach certain units. While we need to be sensitive to things that come up (scheduling changes, individual student needs, etc), we still need to loosely stay on track with what we are teaching. Otherwise, we run the risk of spending too much time on units during the first half of the year and having to rush through the second half. In an ideal world, we’d have the perfect amount of time to teach each and every fact. In an almost ideal (and slightly more realistic) world, we can expect to be crunched for time here and there. In that case, I’d prefer to drop or rush through a few of the more insignificant facts in each unit, rather than having to skip or rush through an entire unit at the end of the year.

Alright, Step 1: go get your curriculum, scope and sequence and all those wonderful things we brought home during the last day of school.

Don’t worry, I’ll wait.


Got ‘em?


Let’s get started.

Step 1 (oh wait, I think this is technically Step 2): Print out a blank calendar for the upcoming school year. You can draw one out or use a copy of the school calendar if that’s more your style. This is our rough draft for planning out our year. You may also want to make one copy for each subject you teach so you  have room to scratch off and draw arrows as we plan.

Step 3: Write in what days the kids are out of school or any other scheduling issues you KNOW will be occurring on certain days. (Don’t forget standardized tests, field trips that are already planned, etc.)

Step 4: Count out the number of weeks until you have to start reviewing for your end-of-grade testing. Or until whatever ending you have to your school year.

Step 5: Take it one subject at a time. Look at your districts curriculum guide (or Scope & Sequence). Make a list on a piece of paper of all the units you will be teaching in that subject in a year’s time and assign a number of days or weeks to it. You can do this based on what your district advises or based on what your years of experience have taught you. Make sure that the number of weeks you’re teaching adds up to the number of weeks you have until your review time starts. For example: Don’t plan 3 weeks per unit if you have 15 units. That’s 45 weeks and most of us don’t have that long to teach in a regular school year.

Step 6: Taking your blank calendar (the one you wrote the days off on), start at the beginning of the school year and assign blocks of time for each unit. Keep in mind that you might not start teaching a unit the very first day of school. Here’s what mine might have looked like for a few of the classes I taught:

Social Studies: Roughly 3 weeks per unit (some were longer, some where shorter). I’d write the start date for the unit and the end date. I’d always incorporate 1-2 days of review and a day of testing.

Spelling: This generally went in one week increments, so I just wrote what topic we were focusing on during that week.

Reading: Depending on the curriculum, these were either Guided Reading passages (which generally lasted a week) or novel reading (which could be a 3-4 week process depending on the book). Again, I just indicated the topics being covered during that unit and what the start/ending dates would be.

Step 7: Save your rough draft and repeat the steps for each additional subject you teach.

Step 8: Print off a new, completely blank calendar (or if you are like me, create one on the computer so you have an electronic version of it). Copy each subject’s schedule on it, preferably in different colors. You can use different color pens or highlighters to designate each subject. This is your plan for the entire year. You did it!

My Best Tip: Plan an extra ‘blank day’ into the end of every unit. If we had a sudden schedule change, needed extra review time, or a snow day (yay!) occurred, I didn’t freak out. Instead, I just moved everything back a day and used up my ‘blank day.’ If we didn’t have snow (boo!) or need that day for anything else, we either had an extra review day (if needed) or the next unit would start a day early. These ‘blank days’ came in VERY handy during the year and saved me from stressing out when I got that call at 5am to say that school had been cancelled. After all, that call should not encourage stress, but rather a joy-induced pajama dance on your bed, should it not? ;)

Remember: This plan is FLEXIBLE! It’s just a way of helping us stay on track.

Also remember: it may be FLEXIBLE, but the end of the year is not. That final test or the last day of school is going to come whether you are ready for it or not, so do you very best to pace yourself throughout the year.

I know the hard work you put in today will reap a harvest of stress-free days when school starts back in session.

Join me next week as we figure out how we can make our lesson planning more efficient by using a tool you *might* have heard me talk about just a *little* bit…. Pinterest!

Until then, go back to your family and RELAX! You’ve worked hard today!
Don't worry! You still have time to jump in with both feet! Here are the links to the mini-challenges we've accomplished over the last few weeks:

Just joining us for the Summer Challenge? 

Don't worry! You still have time to jump in with both feet! Here are the links to the mini-challenges we've accomplished over the last few weeks:

Following along with the Summer Challenge? Grab my button here:

Your Teacher's Aide
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  1. Hello,
    I'm starting my second year trying to save alot of stress so I am glad I found this post. i am trying to access the previous goals but I keep getting error messages? Thank you :-)

  2. Hi Nora!
    Thanks for letting me know about the links- I've fixed them, so they should work for you now :)
    - Kaitlin

  3. I do this using a large desk calendar, which I always get free when I visit a teacher-store the first week of August. I use 3X3 sticky notes to highlight what I am going to teach each month and put these on the Sunday squares. I color-coordinate more specific ideas on colored sticky note strips. For example, vocabulary lessons on pink strips, reading lessons on blue strips, etc. These strips go on individual days. This way I can easily lift and shift as needed. My daily plans are typed and are accessible on my classroom website for parents and students. I love your idea of keeping a 'free' day between big units: great idea!


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