Starting the school year right Part 3: Create the plan

If you don't know where you're going, how will you know when you get there? Planning is vital to good teaching. If you are a teacher that cannot seem to get it all done, you probably don't have a year long plan. Planning is not just daily, you have to start with long term planning.

Why do we plan?

With my business background, I learned that we needed a strategic plan (3-5 years or longer), a tactical plan (a year or less), and a short term plan (the month.) Then, those of us in departments would take the goals for the month and translate it into what we would do daily. I am a HUGE believer in effective planning. Schools should plan, departments should plan, and classrooms should plan. They should fit together. Those who plan up front sometimes look like they are coasting during the year. Actually, my daily and weekly planning requires much less cogitation because I know where I need to be by looking at my longer range plans!

3 – Create the plan

  • Plan for the year – I have a month per page calendar that I duplicate for each class. Prior to the school year starting, I create my “plan.” I look at SAT dates, major school events, holidays, etc. and plan where I think I should be at that time. I look at last year's plan and actual lessons. This is done in pencil and I keep it by my desk as I plan each week.

    This plan serves as a litmus test to show if I am on track. If you don't know where you're going, you'll never get there.

  • Plan the tool integration – If students do not know how to blog or wiki or podcast, I integrate that on a phased basis, and never all at once. It is like building a pyramid. You build the base and then add more. Once they've mastered something, we'll use it as a part of their weekly assignments.

    Many issues arise when you start blogging or wikis or podcasts. You need to space them out to give yourself time to make sure all of their usernames work, etc. If you don't do this, you'll scare and confuse them very early.

  • Plan the rewards – It is important to have something to look forward to. I make sure that I have at least one exciting thing per semester that the kids will look forward to. I also plan ahead for speakers, demonstrations, and trips.
  • Plan the paperwork – I look at each class between day one and the next teacher work day. I have a hanging folder for each chapter of each book I teach. In that hanging folder I have all of the handouts and information that is needed for that chapter. (I keep answer keys at my desk.) I find out how many students I have for that class and make sure that I have enough of each handout that I think will be used until the next teacher workday.

    When I am ready to start a new chapter, I put the old hanging folder back in the class drawer and pull out the next chapter. I keep the current hanging folder for each class in a bin at the front of the classroom. Each class has a color and is color coded so it is easy for me.

    If I get behind, I at least do this on Friday for the next week. You do not want to mess up your flow during the week because you didn't make your copies. (Other teachers may groan when they see you hogging the copier but they'll get used to it.)

  • Plan for projects – I “begin with the end in mind” and look at the portfolios that are due at the end of the semester/ end of the year. I look at each piece of the portfolio and put it at the appropriate place during the year. I make sure to tell students when this is something for their portfolio project.

    I also plan time to work on major projects. I work with the English department to teach MLA format to 8th graders when they have a major paper due. I work with the English department for the 9th graders to create a PowerPoint from their papers. I plan time for term paper work for juniors and seniors. I plan a project that can be finished early during Junior Senior week. I plan the SAT prep program when there is an SAT that doesn't conflict with sports events. These things don't just happen. I sit down with other teachers and MAKE them happen.

  • Plan for sanity – I now when I will be averaging grades and when students will need to be making up work. I plan for a project the last two days of each grading period to give us flex time to make up work. I run a tight ship with an aggressive curriculum, but I've got to live in this profession, so I have to learn to pace myself.

I posted this Monday post on Sunday, I'm not sure if came through your rss reader early or on time. I will be out for a few days and will see you back here on Thursday!

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Vicki Davis

Vicki Davis is a full-time classroom teacher and IT Director in Georgia, USA. She is Mom of three, wife of one, and loves talking about the wise, transformational use of technology for teaching and doing good in the world. She hosts the 10 Minute Teacher Podcast which interviews teachers around the world about remarkable classroom practices to inspire and help teachers. Vicki focuses on what unites us -- a quest for truly remarkable life-changing teaching and learning. The goal of her work is to provide actionable, encouraging, relevant ideas for teachers that are grounded in the truth and shared with love. Vicki has been teaching since 2002 and blogging since 2005. Vicki has spoken around the world to inspire and help teachers reach their students. She is passionate about helping every child find purpose, passion, and meaning in life with a lifelong commitment to the joy and responsibility of learning. If you talk to Vicki for very long, she will encourage you to "Relate to Educate" or "innovate like a turtle" or to be "a remarkable teacher." She loves to talk to teachers who love their students and are trying to do their best. Twitter is her favorite place to share and she loves to make homemade sourdough bread and cinnamon rolls and enjoys running half marathons with her sisters. You can usually find her laughing with her students or digging into a book.

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MrsC July 26, 2006 - 4:14 am

I do the whole year calendar in pencil as well. I like the point that you make about not overwhelming the students. I have done that in the past. I am such a big picture person, and I forget that the students don’t REALLY want to know what we are doing for the entire semester on the first day.

Dee July 26, 2006 - 9:01 pm

This is great! While I am not a classroom teacher I will be sharing this with teachers when I do my blogging presentation. I have organization “issues” myself and this is so clear and easy to understand. In a recent meeting about staff development I discussed using blogs for mentoring new teachers – this is a perfect example of that. Thanks for the wonderful information!

kogent July 28, 2006 - 7:38 am

was trying to add your blog feed by the xml has an error in it. it looks like you copied and pasted form MS Office or something similar. While it looks pretty it breaks xml feeds. I expect in by morning you might get a lot of traffic as your blog was spotlighted on TechCrunch (about DOPA), so I thought you might want to try to fix the broken feed.

Vicki A. Davis July 28, 2006 - 11:28 am

Thanks kogent! I did indeed slip and use office for one post and it knocked my feed down. It is fixed and you should be able to add it by now. Thanks! I’ll go look on techcrunch! (For some reason bloglines didn’t show any problems, but the original feed on feedburner did. Hmmm.)

audrey July 30, 2006 - 2:09 pm


Thanks for consistently great posts… as always you bring a clean, clear, positive message. A lucky part of teaching is that September is always a fresh start. That is, of course, also it’s challenge. Every year, it’s back to square one with a new crew. it’s important to be mindful of the culture and the routines we create in our classrooms. I guess August is a good time to begin refining and refinding that long term plan again.

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Vicki Davis writes The Cool Cat Teacher Blog for classroom teachers everywhere