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NYC Helpline: How To: Develop as a Professional

Planning With Focus
Theresa London Cooper

Thorough planning has always provided me with a tremendous amount of security as a classroom teacher and professional developer. As a new teacher, extensive planning allowed me to focus on working with my students knowing that I prepared many worthwhile activities.

As a seasoned teacher, it allowed me the time I needed to reflect on my practice.

One of the valuable lessons I learned was the importance of aligning relevant student data and student learning. How do you plan to address your students’ strengths, challenges and interests? Do you have a reliable and practical system of collecting data on your students that informs your planning and improves student achievement?

There are many ways to plan. It takes time to decide what works best for you. I’ll share two approaches I have tried over the years. Set aside three to four hours to plan for the week. Refine your lessons and record your students’ progress as the week progresses. Think about what they have mastered and what you will need to re-teach. At the end of the week, use your notes to help plan for the following week.

Page numbers and objectives were not enough for me. I followed a lesson-planning outline. There are many of these, but the one I used included the following elements: objective, motivation, materials, vocabulary, procedures, follow-up and homework. Initially, I used a notebook and the aforementioned outline for each lesson. During my later years of planning, I used the computer to record and plan my lessons. The cut and paste options made it easy to refine my lessons. What a sense of self-assurance it gave me.

Another approach I tried, but didn’t quite fit my style was planning during my preparation periods. On Monday I planned reading lesson, on Tuesday math lessons, on Wednesday social studies and science lessons Thursday writing and language arts lessons, and Friday I completed whatever was left.

Sometimes, I wasn’t able to plan each day, but the more I planned in school the less I had to take home. On some days I checked homework in school rather than taking it home. I tried the little boxes in the planning books, but there wasn’t enough space for me to write all the important elements of my lessons. Although my initial approach was time consuming, I internalized the importance of planning for student achievement and felt more comfortable with the approach.

I found the “day-to-day” did not work for me because it was too nerve-racking. Although I spend time revising my plans, carrying lessons over from one week to the next week, adjusting my plans for unannounced assembly programs or special guests, I always possessed a confidence because I was prepared for the week. If I were too tired one night, I wouldn’t worry because my plans were done. The day-to-day approach didn’t provide that level of assurance.

How do you focus your planning for student achievement?

E-mail Theresa.

For more on planning, see How to End the Year While Planning for Next Year by Allison Demas


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