Session 1: Looking at the big picture!


Planning involves more than what you are responsible for teaching. In order to plan effectively, you must find out about all the other things that affect your school year, such as:

  • School and District Calendar of events, including holidays, tests, and conferences
  • Curricula
  • Standards and Assessments
  • Students’ Special Needs
  • School Programs (ESL, Special Services - anything that involves pulling your students out of your classroom or bringing in other adults to provide services for students)

Does your school or district have a special curriculum or program for you to follow? Will your students be taking a standardized test? What are the standards (local, state, and/or national) that apply to your curriculum?

After you know what must be packed into the school year, begin breaking down your curriculum into smaller topics, or units. Divide these into smaller time frames, for example, marking periods or months. Within each smaller unit, begin to brainstorm lessons that will include varied activities to reach all of your students’ ways of learning. Include extra time for assessment, bad weather days, and unexpected occurrences. Only then can you begin to think about planning for the shorter term of weeks or days.

There are many ways to plan lessons. Some schools and districts require a particular format, while others allow the teacher to use what is most comfortable. If you can, try many formats until you find one that fits. Keeping plans on your word processor will allow you to edit and update your plans as you go along.

If you are lucky, your school will have built in common planning time for you and a colleague. When people meet together, either as peers, grade partners, mentor and intern, or friends, they can bounce ideas between one another. Collaboration with colleagues enriches our professional experience. It provides us with a forum in which we may informally exchange ideas; we may explore new methods, resources, and/or classroom management strategies. In addition, networking with fellow practitioners at school and district meetings, professional conferences, or on teacher Internet sites, enables us to expand our repertoire through sharing, discussion and debate. The sum of the parts is definitely greater than the whole.


Book: Read in the New Teachers Handbook pages 4-9.

Video: Successful Teaching Practices in Action for Elementary School Teachers, View Parts One and Two of "Strategic Lesson Planning" on the CD ROM,


"Collaborative Team Planning" on the CD ROM, Successful Teaching Practices in Action for Secondary School Teachers.

In addition, read the articles below.

How to Create a Professional Learning Community in Your School

New Teachers Learn about Teaching through Collaboration

How to Be Prepared for Anything,.htm

How to Get (and Stay) Organized,.htm


Reflect on a time you failed to plan. Describe the circumstances and results. If you could do it again, what would you do differently? What are the resources you need to make your planning effective? How can collaborating with another person improve your planning?