It's no secret that planning as a teacher can take up a whole lot of time! Many educators try to avoid planning on weekends, but it can be hard to get everything done during the week. Here are some tips to help you plan more efficiently and reduce the amount of time you spend planning each week!
Use Your Planning Time for Planning
One of the best ways to reduce your planning time is to use your planning time for planning. That may sound obvious, but it's amazing how many teachers spend their planning periods chatting with coworkers or working on other tasks. If you use your planning time wisely, you can get a lot of work done and have more free time outside of school.
To make sure I'm making the best use of my planning periods, I plan what I'm going to accomplish ahead of time. For example, this year I have one hour of planning time on Mondays. On that day, I try to plan the entire next week. Whatever I don't get done, I will “catch up” and finish during my thirty-minute planning period on Tuesday. Then, on my Wednesday planning period, I will write my weekly parent newsletter.
Now, of course, that plan doesn't cover all of my important weekly tasks like grading, making copies, etc. However, planning for the week ahead and maintaining strong communication with students' parents are my “big rocks.” They are the things that I need to stay on top of to feel productive and ready for the next week. I complete all of my other to-dos in the window that I'm at school before and after work.
Plan Units Ahead of Time
Another great way to save time planning is to plan units ahead of time. This means that I have the bare bones for a unit, at minimum, drafted up so that I know what lessons, activities, projects and assessments will be happening for that subject, during that unit.
That makes weekly planning a breeze because you aren't so much planning as a teacher during that time, you're more scheduling in the lessons, activities, projects, and assessments that you've already mapped out while planning your unit.
Plan Rich Projects for Your Class
This tip is probably my favourite because it is also a great teaching strategy. Planning bigger projects for your class results in deep, rich learning for your students. Most of my projects last a week (or two), and some even span multiple subjects. Once the project is mapped out, it makes for easy weekly planning!
Sharing resources and unit plans with grade partners is a great way to cut down on work. Unit planning and gathering can be the most time-consuming in the planning process. By sharing this job, your weekly planning can go even faster. This is another reason why I'm a big fan of TpT. Although it is part of my business, I do rely on it to save me time when planning. My favourite thing is to grab unit plans or bundles during a TpT sale, at a discount. The way I see it, the money I spend on high-quality resources gives me so much time back.
Plan One Subject at a Time
Years ago, I used to plan one day in it's entirety before moving on to the rest. I would plan Monday to completion before moving on to Tuesday, etc. I've since found that planning on subject in its entirety, for the whole week, is the most effective way to finish planning. That way, when I get in the headspace to plan for that subject, I can stay in that headspace. It's helpful because often I teach similar ways for similar subjects. For example, in Math I usually always do a mini-lesson, then a Math rotation, then a second mini-lesson, followed by the last Math rotation. Since I similarly plan for Math, I find that planning all of my Math blocks at once, is the fastest way to go!
Plan Digitally to Save Time
Lastly, digital planning as a teacher is a huge time saver because you can create templates that you can use over and over. In the Math block example I discussed above, I have a template for Math that's already set up with the Mini-Lesson and Math Rotation headers. All I need to do is fill in that week's lesson content and activities. Not to mention that you can copy and paste lessons to move them to the next day when you don't get through as much as you anticipated!
Planning as a teacher doesn't have to mean planning on the weekends. There are a few key things that you can do to cut down your planning time, like planning units ahead of time, planning rich projects for your class, and sharing resources. Another great tip is to plan one subject at a time so that you can stay in the headspace for that subject. And lastly, planning digitally can save you a ton of time!
A Freebie to Save Even More Time Planning
Did you enjoy these tips for planning as a teacher? If so, you'll probably love this ultimate planning freebie that includes a year plan template, unit plan template, and weekly plan template in Google Docs. Click here to grab your freebie!
Do you have any tips for planning as a teacher to avoid planning on weekends? I'd love to hear them! Comment below or come chat with me on Instagram @learngrowblossom. Happy planning!