Sunday 5 October 2014

Making Planning Work For You

There has been some discussion recently on Twitter about planning. It seems that trainee teachers are expected to plan to the nth degree which in my view is unnecessary and actually demoralising for the poor students that have to do it. Universities clearly want their students to consider every possible angle of every lesson. This is unrealistic and does not prepare student teachers for the their first teaching post. If it did, no qualified teachers would last more than a year as they would have been swamped in planning and probably gone insane.

Having said this, of course I do think that planning is a vital part of the teaching process. I just think that with a little thought, it can be made less of a burden and actually become a useful part of the creative process.

First of all, planning must come from assessment and these assessments must be accurate. This assessment could be in the form of marking and/or assessed pieces of work. I am often wary of commercially produced schemes of work that are set out lesson by lesson, unit by unit. The problem with teaching directly from such a scheme is that you might be teaching things that your children can already do.My advice with schemes like these is to pick and choose the bits that fit in with what you have assessed that your children need to learn.

Secondly, once your assessments have identified which areas you need to teach next, the next step should be to consider what will be the outcomes of your planning. Never start with activities. The outcomes should be the first thought then decide on which activities will best lead to those outcomes being achieved.

Thirdly, the amount of written planning should be decided by you in that it should be the minimum that you need to write down in order to deliver effective lessons. In the schools I have worked in, there has been a great disparity in the amount of planning required. The amount usually being decided by the head teacher. The best system for me is the one detailed below as it allows you to stagger planning and also have a better view of where you are going with a series of lessons. It also allows for a little more freedom.

Maths and English
Planned in two week blocks. With three basic columns - outcomes, objectives and activities. The outcomes for the two weeks are identified from previous assessments. The objectives are how the outcomes are broken down into manageable lesson-sized chinks. Finally the activities for each day are recorded in small boxes with as much detail as the individual teacher requires. If you stagger the Maths and English planning then each week(end) you only need to plan one or the other.

Foundation Subjects
One sheet per half-term which again details required outcomes, objectives and activities.

For all subjects, the planning acts as both medium and short term planning. Evaluations can be written on the back or create a box for them.

I hope this post is helpful as although planning is a vital part of what we do as teachers, it should not take more time than it takes the children to do the activities.

1 comment:

  1. I recognise your point well. One of the things I would say about trainees using those excessive forms is that actually it can get in the way of their effective planning, too.
    I would much rather see a simplified form with clear guidance of elements that should be 'embedded' at each stage. So, for example, when a teacher arrived in her final practice with me and was struggling with time-keeping and stretching the more able, then it made sense for her to focus on these elements in her planning; accordingly, I directed her to change her attention from filling all the boxes to developing those elements. But I did so with the advice that should her university complain that she direct them to me. Otherwise, the fear is that someone will look only at the empty boxes and not at the improving content of the full ones.

    Rather like dodgy Ofsted inspections!