An article by Richard James Rogers (Author of The Quick Guide to Classroom Management and The Power of Praise: Empowering Students Through Positive Feedback).
My PGCE course was a long, dark road of pain. Not only was I new to teaching, and finding it difficult to teach in a way that was engaging and rightly-paced, but the paperwork was tremendous.
Back then, I was required to write out each lesson plan on an A4 piece of paper and have it checked by the main class teacher. I also had to submit the work to my PGCE mentor.
The process was laborious but it did get me thinking about:
- How to start my lessons quickly and appropriately.
- Where students should sit at each point in the lesson and what equipment they would need.
- How to work through the syllabus at an acceptable pace.
- How to end each lesson with a stimulating summary.
Nowadays, however, my lesson planning is done in a one-week-per-two-pages diary [this is the planner I use], and supported by departmental curriculum maps (which outline the topics to be covered for the whole year) and Schemes of Work.
It’s less work, and more ‘long-term’ in focus.
Planning is a skill that outstanding teachers have mastered. In this article, I want to share my advice on how to best plan our:
- Homework schedule
- Free time
Outstanding teaching is supported by outstanding planning – and this goes beyond the simple planning of one’s lessons.
Let’s now go through each item in the above list together.
Experience has taught me that time spent planning lessons always reaps rewards. It requires one to spend a good hour or two of non-contact time doing the following:
- Looking over the week ahead and scheduling the topics that will be covered on each day
- Thinking about when homework will be set, when it will be collected in and when it will be marked
- Accounting for meetings, events and any planned (or possible) disruption to one’s timetable
- Planning our resource-preparation time
Here’s a video I made about efficient lesson-planning, and in that you will see the lesson planner that I use:
For me, I use part of my Sunday morning each week to plan the week ahead. It always pays dividends in terms of:
- Reduced stress during the week
- Better lessons
Do we really need to assign so much homework?: If we’re not taking the time to sit with our students to provide high quality feedback, then is that homework assignment we’ve set really that useful?
We need to think carefully about the quantity of marking we are creating for ourselves, and whether or not this is an effective way to enhance the learning of our students.
I believe strongly in the power of planning our marking. Every week I need to know:
- When I will set homework, tests and assignments
- When I’ll collect in homework, tests and assignments
- When I’ll mark it all
- How I’ll mark it (in-class strategies, such as a peer and self-assessment, can save us a ton of time)
This is another Sunday morning task of mine – I plan my week’s worth of marking.
Events and free time
As well as planning my work, I also know how important it is to plan my free time.
Knowing that I have a badminton session on a Sunday afternoon, for instance, gives me the motivation to get my work done promptly. Scheduling a Friday night of relaxation gives me a reward for my hard-work during the week.
I believe that productivity has to permeate and infuse into every cell of our bodies. Productivity must be a way of life – not simply a good habit to deploy at work.
By planning everything, we are more likely to implement the things that move us forwards.
In the early part of my career my poor time-management and planning skills left me wasting my weekend time, wasting my mornings and creating undue stress for myself.
Never again. I deserve better. My students deserve better.