Planning Process

Discussion in 'Secondary Education' started by Peregrin5, Jul 2, 2012.

  1. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    Jul 2, 2012

    NOTE: Sorry for the huge wall of text, I just created.

    I've been told that 70% of all the work you do is done in your first 2 years of teaching.

    I'm embracing that by planning every thing this year during the summer, at least broadly so I don't have to worry too much about what I'm doing throughout the year, and I don't have to latch onto one of the cooperating teachers copying all of their worksheets and curriculum a day behind and mooching too much.

    I just wanted to kind of outline my planning process and get some tips or suggestions, or just general comments on it.

    1. So I started out by looking at the state standards, which has actually been kind of confusing, because I haven't heard whether or not we're going to the Next Gen standards, or staying with the old standards. I basically chopped up the standards into a vague list of what they mean...

    i.e. "The velocity of an object is the rate of change of its position. As a basis for understanding this concept, students know that average speed is the total distance traveled divided by the total time elapsed and that the speed of an object along the path traveled may vary." is shortened to down to:

    Motion
    - speed/average speed

    2. I am now in the process of determining all of my learning objectives for the year. Basically a vague list of what I want my students to DO in my lessons.

    I am actually using Mind Map software for this, which is nice, because I created a web based on topic, and each branch of the topic is an objective, and I am able to link objectives, and topics together using the software to give me a really graphical version of it.

    I know teachers who do this by hand and use lots of highlighters or coloring utensils, but I have horrible hand writing and zero art skills.

    I use Freemind, which is really nice intuitive software: http://freemind.sourceforge.net/wiki/index.php/Main_Page

    3. After this, I think I will start planning the actual units. I had created this generalized unit planner: https://docs.google.com/open?id=0B7fdLKjXoelyaDZ2RzZGdDJ5NVE

    It includes all the usual spots for the title, standards, lesson objectives, etc., but the main parts I want to focus on is getting a "Why" activity for each unit, and this is something that is difficult. It has to be an engaging activity that leaves zero room for doubt as to why learning this topic is important.

    The biggest complaint I have from students, is the question (and yes this question is a complaint) "Why do we have to learn this?"

    Rather than having to come up with imaginative answers every time that question crops up, I'd rather just shove it in their face at the beginning of the unit so throughout the unit if they ask me again, the conversation should go like this:

    Student: "Why are we learning this again?"

    Me: "Remember when we did ______________ last week?"

    Student: "Oh. Yeah..."

    Me: "Yup. That's why."

    I've also been told that the major reason students do not put effort into learning things, is because it's simply not relevant to them. Hopefully this will provide them that relevance, and if things are really going well, they will be intrinsically motivated to learn this topic because of that why activity.

    Such an important activity is naturally not easy to come by or devise, and as of yet, I am still having issues coming up with one, rather than enough for every unit.

    Then I just have a bunch of boxes for planned "lectures"/activities, labs, demos, and projects.

    Generally speaking, every lecture (which are usually very short 10-15 minute note-taking/discussion sessions) is paired with a demo. The demo has to be more than a "this is an example of a blah blah blah". They must be surprising and unexpected. I call it the "Quirk Factor", and every lesson should have it, and should even be integrated into my classroom management.

    I am quirky by nature, but the quirk factor requires more planning to maximize the "whoa" potential. It pretty much has to be a small production. Hard to explain, and I don't have a concrete grasp on it yet, and probably won't until after a few years, but I have the general feeling of where I need to be.

    Labs and activities have to be frequent. Projects less frequent, and some units may not even have them, though assessments are regular.

    The second page of the unit planner allows me to place the lessons, labs, etc. in sequential order, to kind of get a feel of what comes after what.

    I am having a lot of trouble at stage three though, because I have to have a general and broad idea of what types of labs and activities I want my students to do, and this requires a lot of research and searching for things, or making my own worksheets. Then I also have to determine what materials I need.

    I think this is the most work intensive stage.

    4. Then I have to create the daily lesson plans, and I think I'm going to be doing that using a google form I've made: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/viewform?formkey=dDFwSXNTdzR4SzVRN2Zsak9DZURKbXc6MQ

    The lessons planned won't be pretty, since it will just all be in an excel sheet, but it is the documentation required to ensure that my lessons are meeting standards, and I have rationale for why I am doing all the things I am.

    I probably will do this step as I go during the year, and it won't be something I do this summer.

    5. After that, all I have to do is carry out the lessons.

    So, what do you guys do? Any things you would change about my process?
     
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  3. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Jul 3, 2012

    Wow. You're doing a whole lot more than I do.

    To be honest, with only 2 months of summer, I would start at step 4 and work backwards. Get your lessons planned. Decide how you're going to explain things. Get the vocabulary down. Find a way to divide the material into class-sized blocks, and a way to explain it all.

    Map out your lessons, allow time for tests (I test every 2 weeks) and compare that with your school calendar, so that you know that you'll be able to actually finish the syllabus. Don't underestimate the importance of finishing the material--it's a big part of what you're getting paid to do.

    Once you have the individual lessons planned, and you have your timing down, then you can go back and fill in the blanks.

    My concern is this: lesson planning can take up a LOT of time your first few years. It's so much easier to find a Youtube video or some other "hook" during the school year than it is to remedy the problem of "too much material, too little time."

    So I would concentrate on the barebones lessons and the timing, and then go back for the other stuff you mentioned. Very often you'll find a current event story, or a video, or some other link to "why??". Or something will occur to you as you drive, or in the shower, once you're immersed in day-to-day teaching.

    But get the lessons planned, and your timing down, before you go back for the rest.

    To use your velocity example,

    The velocity of an object is the rate of change of its position. As a basis for understanding this concept, students know that average speed is the total distance traveled divided by the total time elapsed and that the speed of an object along the path traveled may vary." is shortened to down to:

    Motion
    - speed/average speed


    I would add to that. They'll need to know the term "velocity", not just "motion." Velocity is the quotient of WHERE you've gone divided by HOW LONG it took you to get there. So it's always expressed as quotient. They've all seen the term "mph"-- Miles per hour. ("Per" means "divided by.) But if someone took 2 hours to travel 100 miles, does it mean they went 50 mph the whole time?? Of course not. Maybe they went 80 for a while, were pulled over for 10 minutes, and did 20 the rest of the time.

    Then my plan would include other examples, including times when it' not MILES per HOUR, but perhaps feet per second or cm per day. For this particular topic, I would wait a month and pull some numbers from the upcoming Summer Olympics to use as examples. . You can talk about distance runners who maintain a pretty steady pace throughout most of the race, then really pour it on for the last lap.Or NASCAR. Or the Kentucky Derby

    See what I mean though?? Get the basic explanation down, and let the rest simmer--- you'll come up with the real life examples when you least expect it.



    And, for the record, sometimes the reason is "You'll have to trust me on this one. You'll need this skill for something else that's coming up next week or next year. I can give you a better idea after you have this skill."

    So I'm not sure I buy into your premise. Sometimes kids learn material that they don't see a point in. But they learn it anyway, either because they want the grades or out of simple respect for me. I think that's the crux of the issue. Whe "WHY...." whining is seldom about the material, it's a whine about the class. I think that building a good relationship with your kids will cut back on that a LOT!!

    I've had kids who hated the material I taught, but who said my class was still their favorite class, and asked me to write their college letters of recomendation. So I honestly think we're talking about two different things: planning lessons and building a positive classroom culture.
     
  4. KateL

    KateL Habitué

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    Jul 3, 2012

    I start the same way you do, with going through the standards. Then I divide them into units and figure out what I want the students to know and be able to do at the end of each unit. Next, I figure out what labs and activities support these goals, and then I map them to the calendar. I usually do my "lesson plans" week-to-week during the school year, at least in terms of what the warm-up will be and making sure my PowerPoints are set.

    I think that you're expecting too much for every lesson to "maximize the whoa potential." Some topics just aren't that exciting. Besides, everything gets passe after awhile, and the students will stop responding to your whoa moments. Definitely use different strategies during the week, and include as many labs as you can, but every lesson doesn't have to be over the top.

    One thing I don't see you mention are tests and other assessments. Do you write your own tests, or does the school give them to you? If you write your own, you might want to start writing them before you do your lesson plans, to make sure that your lessons support what you will be testing the students on.
     
  5. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    Jul 3, 2012

    Very true. I probably can't be "whoa" all the time. xD Interspersing it randomly will probably increase the effect of when I do do it.

    That's a good question about the tests. I don't know if my school will require me to use a specific test. There are district tests, but I also like to provide my own assessments.

    I give quizzes every week on Friday based on the Kick-off questions for each day, and certain lessons end with exit tickets where they write a complete sentence and draw a diagram of what they've learned and stick it on a poster.

    I am definitely planning on doing unit assessments at the end of each unit, but as to whether they will be in the form of written tests, or authentic assessments (i.e. projects, portfolios, etc), I am not sure yet. I will probably do a bit of both.
     
  6. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    You're probably exactly right. That's a lot of information to process in one post (though I did write a lot too xP) so I'll mull over that a bit.

    And you're definitely correct about that some kids learn simply because they're going for the grade or they respect me as a teacher. I'm just trying to work on something my previous principal asked me to work on which is making the content relevant to the students. She seemed to believe that that's why certain students simply just don't care. I agree that when they ask "WHYYY?" it's simply whining, and I shouldn't give into it. There's probably no way to make some of them love the content, but I'm hoping to at least have some type of rationale to point to, so they quit their whining quickly. xD

    But I think once its clear to some students why they should learn something, it will at least go a little way towards their motivation. At best, it may inspire some students to learn the topic, at worst, it will waste some class time (I don't intend for these to be very long either btw), but may save me some class time spent dealing with the whiny "Why?" question.
     
  7. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Oh, I agree that you should make it relevant as often as possible.

    It just wouldn't be my first priority going into my first year of teaching. I would work FIRST on getting all my lessons together, at least in basic form, then go back and insert the 'fun" stuff.
     
  8. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    Jul 3, 2012

    Most certainly! Thanks!
     
  9. Catcherman22

    Catcherman22 Companion

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    Jul 3, 2012

    This is great advice.

    I'm similar to Alice (after all, I did "steal" the test every two weeks idea from her last year). I see what I need to teach (I teach math by the way), put it into order, and then make sure I can get through everything in a semester (we teach at a 4x4 schedule, so classes are only a semester. Once I do that, I figure out the bare bones for the lessons, and thats it for the summer.

    I don't usually add in jokes, activities, etc until I get a feel for the class. I've had classes where I can laugh and joke with and I've had classes where they couldn't handle the jokes, so it was more structured. I usually plan two weeks in advance during the school year.
     
  10. Aussiegirl

    Aussiegirl Habitué

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    Jul 4, 2012

    Do any of you out there teach LA? It seems straightforward to build the units from the standards when you are teaching a linear subject such as history, math, or science. How about LA where we are teaching writing and reading? Do you plan a unit around each standard and proceed that way or do you mix and match? If you are 7-9th grades, how much time do you spend on the basic review of sentences, parts of speech, punctuation, etc.?
     
  11. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    Jul 4, 2012

    Why do we have to learn this? Because the more you learn, the more options you have in life.

    Truthfully, my personal thought is that kids who ask this question are either struggling with the content or bored. Knowing your content well is critical...making it relevant, understandable and interesting to students can be a challenge...especially if kids are giving you 'attitude'or if behavior management is a concern. I know you had quite a few questions and concerns in this area over the past year...you may want to balance your time this summer between planning content and thinking about your classroom management practices...oh, and get some summer fun in too!:D

    I admire your motivation and thoroughness in your planning project...it seems incredibly time consuming and tedious, however. You might find that simply mapping out your year could be more helpful. Look for connections between units...what order makes sense? Keep flexibility in mind as you may find that you need to spend more time on some concepts and less on others depending on students' readiness and background knowledge as well as 'bumps' in your plan created by school schedules, assemblies, etc...some days, weeks, it's hard to get a lot done just depending on what's going on in school.
     
  12. Aussiegirl

    Aussiegirl Habitué

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    Jul 4, 2012

    :yeahthat:
     
  13. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    You forgot to mention snow days... I LIVE for Snow days!!!! They're like a present you weren't expecting. You can be as productive or lazy as you choose.

    Sure, they kill your week's planning. But they're SO worth it. :)

    (Sorry OP. Unless you're in Northern CA, I'm guessing they're not a real issue.)
     
  14. Aussiegirl

    Aussiegirl Habitué

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    Aliceacc - You hit the nail on the head with what you said about snow days!
     
  15. ku_alum

    ku_alum Aficionado

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    Jul 4, 2012

  16. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    Jul 4, 2012

    I feel the same way about my summers...But my productive time in the summer tends NOT to be lesson planning.
     
  17. teacherintexas

    teacherintexas Maven

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    Jul 4, 2012

    Are you the only teacher of your courses or do you have teammates? Does your district have a scope and sequence?
     
  18. dizzykates

    dizzykates Habitué

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    This.

    What you have described would only work if you you have no teammates or other district companions. I was the only reading teacher in my building, but I was still expected to teach the same things as others in the district by using certain curriculum. It saved me a lot of time, but also eliminated a lot of freedom and creativity... :( Your planning process seems very time consuming, but also complete. If most of that planning takes place in the first two years, what happens when your district adopts a new curriculum? Our 7th grade team currently teachers American history, but found out last year that they will be responsible for State history in a few years instead.
     
  19. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    Very good advice. I don't fully believe the whole "Don't smile until Christmas" thing should be taken literally, but the sentiment is very wise. Showing consistency and building trust over those first few months is far more important than coming off as a fun or "nice" teacher. I plan to be pretty strict those first few months, learning from my mistakes last year when I was too lenient and friendly.
     
  20. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    I am definitely working on classroom management as well, trying to get through the "First Days of School" by Harry Wong. I definitely had tons of opportunities to work on my classroom management in my internship as well, and while it still requires a lot of work, one of my resolutions was to begin thinking about really making my content effective and engaging as well, which was something I felt my students missed out on last year.

    As for it being tedious and time-consuming, yes it sometimes is, but apart from one professional development thing I'm doing this summer, I don't really have anything else to do to fight back the boredom. :lol: My BF is intent on working all summer, and won't take off work so the roadtrip I had planned is out the door, but I'm going to see if I can get one set up between me and one of my friends to the Bach Festival. =]

    At this stage in my planning process, most of what I am doing is simply unit mapping, and determining what I want my students to be able to do at the end of each unit. I am definitely putting a lot more weight on what I need to have covered by the end of the year. I figure I might as well plan a whole lot, and cut what I can't fit in during the year rather than plan too little. My biggest issue is planning labs, because those definitely need far-advance planning to get the materials, determine the best lab activities and discussions and follow-ups to get the point across, etc. and projects.
     
  21. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    xD I wish we had snow days. But yeah, not an issue in the Bay Area.
     
  22. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    Mostly just because it's more visual, and aesthetically pleasing to fill out. xD
     
  23. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    I do have another 8th grade teacher. From the information I got from the interview however, it seemed that teachers are more or less responsible for their own curriculum within the scope of a district pacing guide. So I will be told how long to spend on what, but how I should cover certain topics is left up to me.

    My student teaching placements have been on either side of the spectrum in this case. My first placement, the district was in complete control of the curriculum (though it was extremely boring, dry curriculum, based completely on bookwork), and the second placement, they handed me the keys to the classroom and pretty much told me to 'go wild'. (I actually worked mostly with my coop teacher here though, because I was too new to have my own curriculum, though I did design a few things. =])

    As for changing curriculum, this is actually a very imminent reality, as California will eventually move to the Next Generation Science standards probably within a few years, and that will change my curriculum around. Even simply moving to 7th or 6th grade science would change my curriculum around vastly.

    I just try not to let it bother me, because even if I change grades, I will always have that curriculum stored there on my Google Drive and would be able to use it in the future if I ever have to again, and would just add more to my repertoire.

    And while the current understanding of the body of science does change over time, it doesn't change THAT quickly, so if they change around the 8th grade curriculum, I can probably just cut and paste and drag things around and add new units as I see fit.
     
  24. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Jul 5, 2012

    My favorite "bump" is those first fire drills, particularly the one that inevitably occurs during my first math test of the year. It's pretty predictable-- we want to get through at least one six-day cycle before we start, to ensure that there are no glitches in the scheduling of those 2550 kids. And I test 2 weeks into the year. So I always pray for serious rain the day of my first test... it's so much easier than dealing with a suddenly shortened test!
     

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