Friday, July 24, 2015

How to {{MAXIMIZE}} your Planning Period

Look. If you're not a teacher, you won't get this.

If you are a teacher, there is no need to explain the sacredness {is that even a word?!} of a teacher's planning period.

I've worked in the "real world" and I've worked in the classroom. Two *TOTALLY* different jungles (on many, many levels).

When you get your next year's schedule, you look at *three* things: (1) Lunch time, (2) the time blocked off to teach your curriculum and (3) your planning period.

I've worked in 3 different districts. I've had planning periods in the morning, the afternoon and as short as 45 minutes and as long as an hour and a half (seriously. first thing in the morning. 1 1/2 was *truly* glorious. that school, we stayed til 5:00...and that's a totally different blog post).

I've also had required *weekly* meetings during my planning periods in one district, and in another, total freedom to run an errand outside of school if needed.

No matter what my planning period has looked like in the past, I've used the minutes I've been given to ssstttreeeetttcchhhhh and sqqqqquuueezzzeee every last ounce of time I could so that I could leave as soon as I was allowed to after school. (Yes, I'm that teacher).

Now, I'm not saying you can't have any fun, or go pee or drink a Diet Coke and eat a brownie during your planning period.

Some days, you just gotta eat a whole bag of Starbursts jellybeans with your team mates while "discussing school matters" during your sacred, golden, heavenly moments  with adults behind closed doors. {Not that I've ever done this...or...anything. *Ahem*}

...buuuutttt anyways...Most days, I maximized my planning time to the best of my ability. Yes, I took home many papers to grade (just ask my dear husband), but I wanted to make sure I used the time I was given to get done *as much* as I possibly could to plan and prepare for the following week.

Here's how I did it...

Have a Curriculum Map
The best way to ensure that your planning time is spent actually planning for the next week is by setting a pacing guide for the year before school starts.

Some districts require you to do this, some don't.

Some districts have these already made for you, some don't.

If you already have a curriculum map, then you are set!

If you have never created a curriculum map, I highly advise it.

There is no right or wrong way to create a curriculum map (unless the "higher-ups" say there is, then you nod your head, say, "Yes, sir!" and do it how they want you to). Some are super detailed and others just list skills and CCSS covered each week of the school year.

Sunny Days in Second Grade has an *awesome post* about creating a curriculum map and she even has a template for you to use! {Leave her love if you use it! It's great!}

Here are some other examples I have found. Do what works best for you and helps you to know which direction you are going each week.
curriculum map
1st grade pacing map example

And here's another {{FREE}} Curriculum Map freebie from A Modern Teacher on TpT.

If you'd like something super basic, here is my 1st 9 Weeks At a Glance Post-It planner page. You can get all 4-9 weeks {FOR FREE} in my TpT store.

Once you know what you are planning for the next week, it's just as much work (if not more) gathering the resources and materials you need for your lesson planning. 

If I needed to make a parent phone call or write a parent note, I'd do that first thing before starting on any of my planning. Don't let parent communication slip because you feel overwhelmed. 

If you have meetings each week, use this planning guide so that you can plan out each day of your planning period with Post-It notes

Each day of the week, I determined what I would be planning for and doing each day.  

For example, most Mondays were shot. It was the start of the week and for whatever reason, my planning periods are always taken no matter what district I was in. Also, my team would discuss what was coming up for the week and sometimes we'd tweak the curriculum map if needed. 

Therefore, on Tuesdays, I set aside this day to type out my lesson plans. That's all I did on Tuesday.

On Wednesdays, I made copies that I needed for the next week and stored them in labeled file folders and in a wire wrack on my small group desk to grab and go when I needed them for the next week on a particular day.

Thursdays I would get the trade books or other materials I'd need for the next week. If I needed certain anchor charts made, posters blown up or activities made for literacy centers, I'd work on this.

Fridays were catch-up days. If I had a meeting one of the other days, I'd just push everything back a day. 

Ok. I'm just going to say this. Blame it on me if people start calling you the "school hermit". 

Buuuuuttttttttt..... Shut the door. 

There. I said it for you. 

Drop your kids off at specials, run to the bathroom before the school nurse has to call your mom to bring you an extra pair of undies, grab a drink (like, from the Coke machine-kinda-drink) and head back to your room and Shut. The. Door. 

Do what needs to be done so that you can leave on time, or if you want to chat after school with your friends, you can do that with a clear "planning conscience". 

I never worried about closing my door. It's just what I did. I wasn't unsocial. I was just productive. 

As stated above, some days you just need to sit. And chat and eat and spill your guts with your friends. Been there, done that too many times to count. 

Don't let the time get away from you.

Unless dictated by the district (been there, done that, bought the shirt), your planning period is for you and your sanity to get things done.

Say "No!" to:

  • wasted time
  • disorganization
  • no plan
  • unnecessary gab sessions that leave you farther behind for the week
What is your favorite planning or organization tip for other teachers?


  1. Love your posts, Lindsay--they are so fun to read and I'm not even a teacher! Miss you!--Lacy Lou

  2. These are great tips!!! Very well said! Sometimes I struggle because our grade level assistant lives in my room, and it's hard to totally just ignore her. I will keep all this in mind! Love your blog and reading about the children's lit you love! If I have time, I will join in the linky!
    Once Upon a Classroom: A Teacher's Tales

    1. Thank you, Marie! It's hard to juggle all the things we have to do during that small amount of time we are allotted. But sometimes, you just gotta do what you gotta do! :) Have a great school year! :)