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Fail to Plan...Plan to Fail

I hate to say it, but you need to start getting organized for next year, now, not in August.  You should be able to walk out of your classroom at the end of the school year and feel prepared for next year, rather than overwhelmed.

Map out your available times throughout the day and figure out what you can get done during each time slot.  If you know you can type your newsletter up during lunch & recess, then write it down.  If you know it will take you all day on Friday to make your copies whenever you have a free moment...write it down.  If you make a plan and stick to it, you will accomplish more at school and have less to worry about at home.

Now for the "big" planning...First up, is creating a list of what works and what doesn't.  Just the other day I found a mistake on a word work paper and jotted it down so that I remember to make the correction for next year.  I recommend printing off these sheets and keeping them with your grade book.
For now, take the first step and print these sheets and make sure to write down anything you think of right away.  There is one for each major subject area and a blank one at the end that you can write in your own if there is one I missed.

The columns are for:
Lesson: the unit and specific lesson so that you remember
Mistakes: anything you need to fix
Eliminate:  things you want to eliminate for next time
Special Notes: manipulatives you need, things to add, etc.

Don't feel the need to make notes for every lesson, just the ones that you need to change.

I do not want you to think that you need to have a "cookie cutter" method of teaching.  I know our kiddos aren't robots, but your same basic schedule happens throughout the year, and if you can streamline it, you can save yourself hours of unorganized chaos.  If you always teach polar bears and penguins in January, why not write it down?  It's one less thing you have to lay awake at night trying to remember.  Here is a PowerPoint document that you can use to help get you started.

Job #1
Determine how each subject will be structured.
Do you focus on one week at a time or one unit?  It's ok to have a mixture of the two, but know ahead of time how you want them structured.

Overall I think of my year based on weeks.  In general, each year is 36 weeks.  (We count minutes, not days in school in Oklahoma so I don't quite reach 36, but it gives me a general idea to shoot for.)

I broke down and started using my filing cabinet this year because of our unreliable computer system.  We don't have Windows operating system or Office products, so none of my documents will open correctly at school unless I save them as a PDF onto a USB and then take them to the printer and print the entire document.  Or try to get one of our school computers that is actually hooked up to the printer to work.  It's very frustrating when you only need one page printed.

 Each week has a file folder in it for core subjects, guided math, math center, guided reading, and reading centers.  The majority of our centers are hands on games and puzzles, however sometimes you just need a quick review of a certain skill.  I mapped out subjects so that I knew which week we would be covering each standard so that the materials we have are organized accordingly.  If I am just introducing a topic, I make sure to have a paper a few weeks later (rather than that initial week) so that it is independent work, and not something I will need to help them with.

I also created a file for each month for our "sub tub."  We have very few substitute teachers available and they are typically unable to follow "real" lesson plans.  By organizing all of the papers and graphic organizers, I can easily grab a substitute file for the month we are in and head to the copier.  There is nothing worse than trying to hold a two year old with the stomach virus on your lap and try to print from the slowest computer in the world at 6 am.

Science and social studies are a bit tricky.  Based on our required minutes of reading and math, there isn't much time left over for science or social studies.  They way I have worked around this is by teaching science three days/week for 4 weeks and then social studies three days/week for 4 weeks.  We follow this pattern each marking period so that we can at least discuss everything we are supposed to cover.  Our science and social studies standards are rather extreme and difficult to incorporate into our fictional reading units.  I find it much easier to cover them separately.

Here are samples of my content area overviews for next year:

Job #2
Choose your easiest subject area, for example if you follow a set curriculum, write it down first.  You will feel a sense of accomplishment for getting one whole subject area mapped out. Just, write down the basic gist of either each week or each unit.  Remember, this is a list, not lesson plans.  

Continuing making lists for each week/subject area for each unit.  Be prepared to cross things out and move them around when you actually see them on paper.  

When you are trying to create your units/weeks ask yourself what you actually want your students to learn.  What are the essential questions that need to be answered for each unit/week?
Job #3
Now that each subject area is mapped out with the units for the year, tackle one subject area at a time and start writing down the lessons.
Job #4
Here is the calendar that I complete for each year.  I have used this method for the last 5 years, and it is a lifesaver.  I made the first month for you and you can copy and paste it as needed.  As you can see below, I black out the days we are off school, but I still leave my plans on there because next year, Labor Day may not fall in Week 3 and conferences may not fall in Week 5.  When there is a week where we have time off, I simply plan around those days and pick and choose which lessons to cover.  I would rather over-plan, than under-plan.
Job #5
Think of each unit or week as a whole and determine the materials you need.  There is a sheet in the packet at the top of this post to keep track of both materials and books.  Write them down as you go so that you don't forget anything.  You can always go back and add to it as you work out the details of each lesson.

Job #6
Tackle the lessons.  Why not type up your lessons?  It doesn't mean you are forced into them and can't change them if you find something better.  Don't forget to continue to add to your books and materials lists.  I type up each lesson in Word based on my weeks.  Then, when I type my lessons each week, I can just copy and paste them into my plans.  I refuse to hand-write my plans.  I know some people enjoy doing this, but I don't have the time for it.  Especially, because I write each step of my lessons and do not simply write "Review 2D Shapes" or "Penguin Time Worksheet" I always modify the lessons as needed, but the general idea is written out.
Job #7
Organize the stuff.  I have cubes in my room where I sort out my center games for each week.  If it is Week 1 - I grab tub 1, Week 3 - I grab tub 3.  Those sight words that you have to sort through each week to find the ones you need...can now be kept in the proper week's tub.  Those pom-pom balls that you only use for that one craft project each year, can go in the proper week's tub.

I also label all of my masters in my filing cabinet with these slips.  I print them on colored paper and chop them so that I have 6 copy slips.  I attach them to the papers I need to copy with a paperclip so that I don't have to remember what color construction paper to use, or if it is supposed to be double sided or single sided.  Everything is done ahead of time.

You may get your new class and need to adjust your plans, but for can rest easy because the hard part is done.  Every year, I try to get a little more organized than the year before, but why not try to make this year, your best one yet?


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