Thursday, August 15, 2013

Teacher Week '13: Organizing for Instruction

I'm so excited about today and tomorrow's topics for Teacher Week '13 because they are two areas that I feel are crucial for teachers to have under control, especially in the beginning of the year. I know "organizing" isn't everyone's idea of fun...but it just so happens to be mine!  My husband thinks I'm crazy but it actually relaxes me to organize things which must be why teaching is the profession for me because there is always more to do.

When it comes to planning instruction it can be overwhelming to think of each task that must be completed. I've spent hours researching and writing lesson plans and just when I think I'm done I realize now I have to go create this activity or organize this station. I admit sometimes my plans are quite lofty and I have to scale them back to reality. But with each year of teaching, I've had more units already planned and ready to use. It definitely helps when you have a few years under your belt and can rely on things you've already spent hours creating. I also find that there is always some new idea I want to try, so then I'm back to the drawing board. That's the fun in teaching anyways!

Last year I came up with a great system to help maximize my time before or after school and during planning. Each year I've been better and better about utilizing my time wisely so when I get home I can focus on family things and not be stressed about cutting out that roll of laminating film. I do better with a plan and realize this system may not work for everyone. I'm also a list person. Our plans were due on Friday last year so I would divide up the planning a little bit everyday so I didn't have to stay late Friday writing plans for the next week. It really helped me focus on each standard and gave me time to create or find things I may need for the next week. Starting on Monday with Grading & Filing, I've divided my major planning tasks into five days. Here's a little printable I made to keep myself on track. As I think of things I need to remember for each task, I'll write them down under the day.

Of course these are just guidelines and there is always more to do, especially those little tasks that pop up during the day and need to be taken care of. However, at least this way of thinking made sure that I didn't wait until Friday to start planning for the next week. It's all about staying ahead of the game. I like to Grade & File on Mondays because then I have all the assessments from the previous week and can use them to guide my instruction and small groups for the current week. And I'm not going to lie...a lot of time I end up grading on the weekends (in my comfy clothes) to get my differentiated groups straight for the week. I didn't designate a day to plan for small group reading and math instruction because I feel this is an ongoing task and I sort of do it daily. Once the kids go home for the day I look back at my small group notes from that day and quickly prepare for the next day. I find it difficult to plan out small groups too far in advance because they are always changing.

Another quick tip  when it comes to organizing instruction - and this doesn't sound like it has anything to do with instruction at all but...get the children to straighten up the room throughout the day and at the end. I can't tell you how much time I've wasted cleaning up after children when I could have been planning for instruction. Your time is already limited before school and during school, so why waste precious time after school doing something you can easily pass on to your students. Sounds simple, but makes such a big difference.

Those are my tips for planning instruction. Can't wait to share some behavior management ideas tomorrow!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Teacher Week '13: Let's Talk About Me Monday

I'm linking up with one of my favorite blogs, Blog Hoppin' for their Teacher Week '13. Even though there is still a lot up in the air about where I will be teaching next year, I truly feel it will all work out for the best. So I'm pushing forward and keeping my head in the game by posting this little "Meet the Teacher."

Stay tuned for more Teacher Week '13 updates!