An important question: how do you plan?

I don’t think I’ve seen this asked before, and … well, I need to crowdsource something.

Tonight, on twitter, I asked:

For the past few weeks, I feel like my teaching hasn’t been that good. It’s okay, but not near the level of goodness I know I could achieve. My big limiting factor is time and energy — I’m overextended with commitments. But I also think I could be doing better if my planning process were better. If it were more efficient, and I reoriented the way I thought of how I plan…

So I’m wondering from y’all, on a regular basis for a normal class

… and before you answer, this is a judgment free zone! If you wing it and don’t plan most days, just say that! I just want to get a sense of what people do to see if I can’t steal some great ideas and be a more effective planner … and I guess I’m also just plain plum curious!

(1) How do you plan? Like… um… what’s your process (if you have a formal one), or what do you do (if you just sort of do something)?

(Things like: what sort of things do you think about when you’re planning? Do you pre-script questions? Do you pick specific problems? Do you design some conceptual walk-through for the kids? Do you always build in formative feedback? Do you always try to switch what kids do 2 or 3 times a class? Do you start with a unit or week-long plan and then go down to the individual class level, or vice versa?, etc.)

(2) What does your completed plan look like? Is it written on paper, or a SmartBoard file, or a computer file, or in your head, or something else — and what sorts of things are on it? Questions? Objectives? Problems?

(3) How much time does it take you (again, for a normal class, on a normal day) to make a plan for a single day’s class?

(4) Other stuff that didn’t get caught in the net of the first three questions, but you wanted to say?

Throw your answers in the comments! Help me out!

 

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50 thoughts on “An important question: how do you plan?

  1. I’ve found one way of reducing my planning time is to use problem or project based learning. Given very interesting problems (or projects) to work on, you can both engage students, develop rich mathematical experiences, and reduce your planning time. The “drawback” is that you don’t get to sit down during class; you are too busy circulating and helping students (when needed, or providing emotional support when they are struggling but working hard).

    I find it less important to worry about building the ideal explanation. A slightly less ideal explanation, with appropriate scaffolding, can be highly engaging for your more stronger students, and can give you some more time to work with your struggling students in a more personalized setting (where regardless of how good your first explanation is, they rarely “get it” without some support).

  2. (1) Open Planbook software, type in a few topics for upcoming week. Spend about 2 hours for every hour in class. Get overwhelmed. Scramble around and come into school crazy early to be ready. I need to trim back on the overwhelming phase.

    I pick specific questions because I’ve found that making them up on the fly often goes bad. I make something too difficult, or too easy.

    I plan an entire unit by choosing the test date and working backwards. My team and I choose the order of the topics, then fill them in on the calendar. We do detailed plans each week. And by we, I mean me.

    (2) My completed plan is most effective when I make my own version of the student Interactive Notebook the kids will create. That is, I make the notes or examples I want them to have then write a plan off that. I need to write that up to show y’all. I have this composition book, a rough list of topics, and this idea that kids need a variety of color, activities, and levels of questions. I make a mockup of what I want them to get. Then I write the lesson plans for the administrators. Oh, my Promethean (or SMART, whatever) file is a mockup of the mocked up notebook, so everyone can see it at once. It’s a bitch to get 30 kids around a 5×9 comp book.

    (3) 1 90-minute block takes upwards of 3 hours to plan. That’s too much.

  3. We are provided with a fairly detailed curriculum web in my district. So, I already have an idea of the pacing and scope/sequence in my course from the start. Then I often am able to revise lessons from last year, or from another teacher. Plus all of our textbooks are available digitally.
    However, it’s my first year, and our scope/sequence is constantly being revised and amended to adapt to new standards, etc so I find I have to carefully go through lessons to determine suitability, where to supplement, what to take out, etc.
    So that’s a long way of saying I probably spend between 1-3 hours per class per day – this includes grading, etc as well as planning though. I tend to do one looonnnggg planning day, and try to get out of there at a reasonable time the rest of the week.

  4. I say I spend an average of 4 hours a week on planning. It depends on the concepts we’re working on.

    I tend to have two “planbooks” one that I turn in to my principal every week with objective, procedure, assessment and then a more detailed one that I use everyday with essential questions, challenges that previous classes have had, notes about timing, materials needed, common questions that the kids have, any problems from the text that give people grief.

    Whenever I plan I start with a blank template and I don’t look at what I did last year until the very very end. I look at my texts, look at all my supplemental stuff, look at my curriculum maps, spend some time researching, and pull everything together.

    Each week I try to have at least one day where things are more hands-on or artsy, one day that’s more logical reasoning and discussion/reflection, one quiz a week, and one mental math challenge a week. I teach middle school math ( and religion and literature) Our periods are only 50 minutes and there’s a LOT to pack in so a lot of time I also put time estimates/goals in my plans

  5. I am overwhelmed by the amount of work everyone above says that they do. Maybe I’m underestimating my time here, but I don’t think I spend all that much time planning. Certainly not anywhere near as much as all of you do!

    I sit down with the other 7th grade teacher 2x each week, for an hour, to plan out our upcoming week, and to go over any activities that we need to review. We have a curriculum in place, created by another teacher who is not at the school this year, which we are following and tweaking when necessary. I spend about an hour each week doing the same for my 8th grade classes. Having this curriculum in place is awesome. Obviously, if I were building a curriculum from scratch, I’d need to spend a lot more time on it.

    On a daily basis, I look over stuff before my first class (about 15 min. if it’s period one, longer for later periods if I have a prep beforehand) to make sure I know what I’m going to do, but I don’t script anything or prepare specific questions. I try to let my students do most of the talking, so the less I script, the better I can be at responding to what they need. I have between one and two 50-minute prep periods daily that are spent planning, grading, or sometimes wasting time :). Many days these are co-opted by meetings. I usually leave school by 4:00-4:30 and I rarely take work home with me.

  6. I’ve been meaning to reflect and file this away on my own blog for a while, and this finally pushed me over the edge.

    Here’s a record of how I currently plan, and how I ended up here: http://rationalexpressions.blogspot.com/2012/02/how-i-plan-triage.html

    Basically, I think that the most important thing I’ve learned about planning is that it needs to be efficient. So I’ve tried to isolate the parts of planning that have the biggest impact on my teaching, and I make sure to do those (pretty much) every day. For me, the most important parts of a lesson plan are when I reflect on the “hard parts” of a lesson, and then brainstorm a reaction to those hard parts, often in the form of “good questions,” and often in the form of an activity or a problem set or something.

    It takes me about 30-40 minutes per class to do this. If I try to put together an activity or a problem set, then it takes longer. But planning in this way is still worthwhile even if I can’t put anything together for a class on that particular day.

  7. One more thought on how long it takes me to plan. It takes me about 30 minutes per class to plan because that’s how much time I have to plan. If I had 20 minutes, that would be doable too. Even 10 minutes would be fine — my lessons wouldn’t be as good, but I would still reflect on the hard parts of the day’s lesson, and then photocopy some worksheet or something and then wing the rest of it in class.

  8. I have to go in order, so I will. :)
    1) Basically I sit down on Friday during my free period and hammer out a timeline. This lesson Monday, next one Tuesday, review Wednesday, test Thursday, etc. It’s in a plain old paper lesson plan book. I usually spend an hour or so doing this. Going into the weekend I’ll take home whatever I need to do for Monday exactly. If it’s a test review or a lab or something I’ll get that finished. The rest of the weekend is mine. Between taking care of things like laundry and groceries and making time for my family and friends, I have decided this year that the weekend should be mostly mine. Throughout the week I’ll figure out the rest.
    2) Completed plans are basic for me. I’m at a low tech school… There’s no guarantee all my students will even have a calculator at their disposal. I have no projector and the only way I can even show a short clip in my afternoon classroom is to have the class huddle around my desk. Doesn’t work. My completed plans are pretty much my lesson plan book with the lesson name and assignment, and I study the rest of the lesson on my own then go and do my song and dance. Not fancy.
    3) One lesson will take me anywhere from five minutes to 35. Given technology, even a projector, I could do more and I would spend a lot more time making presentations and including resources I could use. I don’t have the supplies nor the extra cash to go buy supplies to do most of the fancy stuff I see anywhere else. it sucks.
    4) I’m not lazy. I just had to find a balance between killing myself making something out of nothing and not spending any time with my fiancée. In the end, I know my students learn and they enjoy my class, even the small, simple activities I can pull off.

  9. I do a lot of planning while I’m working out. Going for a run or using the rowing machine gives me the opportunity to just think about what it is I want students to learn. Especially at the beginning of a unit I really consider the connections to other mathematics, both in terms of pre-requisite knowledge and enrichment activities. After I feel that I’ve considered the broad ideas, I outline specific learning goals. Then I’ll look online for lessons or interesting problems that I could use or tweak.

    Finally, I design the daily lessons. I’ve spent a significant amount of time thinking about the material, so my lessons are just sketches of what we’ll do each day, usually written in an e-mail to any push-in teachers and the rest of the grade level (to foster cross-curricular connections).

    In terms of daily planning, I try to follow a familiar routine each day so that students have a general structure to follow. For me that means a quick warm-up, HW collection (I grade) or review (they grade), activities for the day, and a closing. I have an idea of how long I want everything to take, but I am not dogmatic about it. If a fruitful discussion appears, I will follow it. (If that’s not possible, I will plan it into a lesson in the near future.) The one part of class I carefully safeguard is the closing. One, I find that it helps students solidify what they’ve learned. And two, it helps them calmly & comfortably move to the next class (especially in middle school).

  10. My first semester, it took me 7 hours of work every day for every prep I taught . I kid you not. Granted, that included photocopying and grading, but that certainly didn’t feel sustainable.

    By my second semester, I found more of a routine. On the weekend, I’d spend ~10 hours per prep doing the following: a) figuring out my objectives and exit ticket for each day of the following week, b) figuring out and writing any quizzes or other formative assessments/exit tickets I’d give, c) pulling any problems I anticipated using for do nows, examples, worksheets, homework, etc., d) sketching the “narrative” of each lesson in terms of the key questions I would ask or problems I would present to get from point A to point B, and e) creating the content of any documents I needed (this assumes, of course, that I didn’t need to reteach myself the content, which often happened). During the week, I made it a point never to take grading home and never let grading sit overnight, and the night before each lesson, I would do any document-formatting necessary and print and photocopy, because there was no way I had any brainspace to do real planning by the time I got home. I never had to turn in lesson plans, but I found it super helpful to give my students a weekly overview each Monday morning; it helped them track their assignments and study for assessments in advance, and also reinforced the illusion that I knew what I was doing (and my first year I desperately needed that illusion).

    Part of this was because I am a planner at heart– I enjoy it and I think I’m better at it than I am at executing on plans– and the idea of going into class without a plan terrified me (it didn’t have to be a script, but I definitely needed a plan).

    I think life would have been significantly easier after the first year had I taught the same preps again, and had I not had to add additional school-based responsibilities that detracted from my planning time. Unfortunately, I never got more efficient than this, which is probably part of the reason I ultimately burnt out and left the classroom.

  11. 1. No greatly formal process. I start by looking at my planbook from last year if its an old prep and I look in my electronic folders for materials that I might have saved. I sometimes look at the saved SMART notebook file from the year before if it’s available (not always – different classrooms w/out smartboard).
    When I make a plan the “details” are almost all in my head. I have quotes around details, because it’s generally a fuzzy plan, I like to keep the plans loose to allow for interesting detours if they show up. Formal formative feedback is not every block, but probably every other. Over the 80 min block there are generally 4 or 5 different “sections”. Anything section > 30 min has not been a success for the students and me.
    I start with a unit plan to see how many days are “allotted” for that unit by my department’s curriculum map. I don’t have to stay day-to-day with the other faculty members, but the units have to finish around the same time.

    2. Completed (written) plan is bare. Very brief synopsis in the planbook (exponentials – solving eq. introduce logs). Although I’d say that 1 out of every 3 days I do prepare a skelton smart notebook file to keep track of where I’ll be at the end of the block. Although I’m trying to stay away from skeleton / fill-in-the-blank type notes, and pre-made smart notebook files can encourage this problem.

    3. For time considerations, I’d say it’s 1.5 hours planning for every hour of class time for a new class. For an old class, generally 0.5 to 1 hour for every hour of class in class prep.

    4. Since I’ve started teaching (8 years ago), I’ve made an effort to keep teaching a balanced part of my life. I think coaching sports has been a big help because it keeps me on an even keel. Time is limited so that teaching has had to take a step back from time to time to my other priorities (family, coaching, exercise, relaxation, and sleep). I’m sure I’m still in the top 20% for planning time of the teachers at my school, but I’m certainly not in the top 5%. I feel that having a “life” has made me a much more creative and innovative teacher. The limited resources have provided me with a chance to grow as an educator.

  12. Oh and I’m with Breedeen (The Space Between the Numbers), I leave school at 4:00 with no work to bring home. I don’t know how I get it done, but I work my butt off at school to keep it that way.

    And to parrot dwees, project based learning is the king of class prep. After the planning is done (a BIG block of time before the project starts), the actual class periods fly by. Although pbl is very difficult to fit in most classes; I’m lucky enough to have one class that it works nicely in.

    Thanks Sam, I’m enjoying reading the responses by the other teachers.

  13. Pre-calc is an experiment I’m making up as I go and hasn’t settled down to a routine yet. Calculus is pretty regular, though.

    Summer prior: Went through the text (CPM) and determined standards and exemplar problems I would use both to specify and assess those standards. Most standards mapped to a specific sub-section of the book (e.g. chapter 2.4) but a few aren’t in the book and a few others span multiple sub-sections. Then for each standard came up with 2-6 objectives and an exit-ticket question to check it. Then for each objective, determined what the students would do for classwork/groupwork and whether any kind of short lecture was needed to get them going. Most objectives correspond to one lesson from the text, and many of those I like, so for most objectives, the classwork plan is just to do the groupwork problems from the text. For some objectives though I’ve added or substituted other things, like activities from other AP Calc teachers, or worksheets from your site. (We recently did implicit differentiation, graphically! … and for average value of a function I just told them about evil Sam Shah who likes to trap goldfish under saran wrap. Hope you don’t mind.) I ended up with about 100 objectives covering about 20 standards for the year. So we’ll be on each objective for 1 or 2 or 3 days depending on its difficulty and our productivity.

    Every two-three weeks: I take a few hours to look at an upcoming unit I’m concerned about. For example, to reorganize related rates to take advantage of Kate and Bowman’s stuff. This involves rewriting and/or re-sequencing the objectives and associated activities.

    Every week: write (or cobble from other sources) a quiz covering the most recent standard and two prior ones.

    Each afternoon: check the exit tickets, decide if we need more practice or whether we move to the next objective, go over the planned activity for the next day to make I’m set up to deliver smoothly, organize the batting order for HW presentations, etc. Takes about 15 minutes. Reset the standard and objective du jour on the board, update the homework etc.

    This year is a joy compared to last year, when I hadn’t done the prior summer work and had to decide each night what I was going to look for from them AND how I was going to get it. Now it’s just a nightly update/revise based on any better ideas that have come along.

    • I am teaching a Calculus class for the first time this year. It’s not an AP-specific class, so I hope to have more freedom and less stress. I absolutely LOVE your ideas on teaching. Do you have any of your objectives, exit-tickets or quizzes that you would be willing to share? I have been gathering ideas from different blogs and such, and yours is what fits best with my teaching style and philosophy. I would greatly appreciate any comments, suggestions or hints you have to offer. You are officially, my un-official mentor!

      • That’s super nice of you. Everything of mine that’s worth sharing is on this blog, sadly, but now it’s all tagged! http://samjshah.com/tag/calculus/

        The best person for inspiration/ideas for calculus, I’ve found, is Bowman Dickson (www.bowmandickson.com)… His stuff is The Best EVAR and I just get constantly invigorated by the way he thinks/approaches school/learning/teaching/everything.

  14. (1) With my colleagues who also teach the same course, let’s say honors algebra 2, we meet and map out roughly the year, then what content we need to have covered by the semester, and unfortunately by state testing. We have about a month after our state testing to fume about how backwards it feels to have to rush to fit it all in and then have time for…(concepts that we teach that aren’t state standards?).
    This year has been a zoo since we’re doing SBG. It has created a time suck. So we mapped out what the concepts would be for the entire year and we’re doling out homefun calendars in about two week chunks. I meet with my terrific colleague every week for about two hours. We divvy up the tasks of making calendars and concept quizzes and any other worksheets for practice. Our planning time is still not enough. Right now the logistics of the concepts being covered drives our meetings. We rely on our big binders from years past and the notes we’ve kept for “next year.” In our department most of us have two different subjects and we switch about every 4 or 5 years.

    (2) My plan book looks like a big 3 inch binder for each semester. I have most unit calendars electronically. I still do not have what I want either. The perfect lesson plan book is the holy grail of teaching. I bought PlanBook, like Megan alluded to above but just haven’t found the time to transfer things over, especially since it didn’t offer the view I needed. It may know.

    (3) If it’s a class I’ve taught, I might spend 20 minutes or so refreshing myself for the nuances of the lesson, creating something new, or finding something better. If it’s new, double that, at least. AP Calculus was a different beast. It owned my every waking moment.
    I always think I can make every class better, so it’s difficult to know when to stop prepping.

    (4) My prep is rarely for prepping. I wish it were. It’s for putting out all the drama of kids
    failing, phone calls home, extracurricular tasks, writing letters of rec, responding to email, and all the myriad other details that most of us never thought teaching included when we entered the profession. If I update grades once every day, then they want it once every hour. You know what I mean. Like Dan, above, I try to leave school stuff at school. Early in my career I did not and I was losing myself. Now I force myself to leave since I have a family at home that needs me. I get to school around 6am and leave by about 3pm most days. That’s a full enough day. If it doesn’t get done, it doesn’t get done. But…having a new teacher see a veteran teacher prep can be misleading since so many choices are made on the fly that are a result of fine-tuned experience.
    BTW, dwees above mentioned projects. I pine for implementing them, with SBG. But that’s a whole new dimension. To paraphrase what @brokenairplane has said on Twitter, fixing education is like working on a car while it’s moving.

    Awesome questions, Sam. Love reading all the responses.

  15. Hey Sam,

    I average about 2 to 3 hours after school each day planning, and I use my prep time during school to grade, meet with students and parents, etc. On the weekends I typically do about 4 hours of work for the entire weekend. When I plan on the weekends, I spend a lot of time researching lesson ideas I already have in my head OR solving actual math problems from external sources (ie. IB problems or something else) in order to gauge the actual complexity I need to shoot for during the lesson and the skills that need to be covered. When I plan during the week, I am just creating problems and formatting worksheets, usually in a vaccuum and from scratch. Very occasionally I’d find something online, in a book, or from a colleague that I like so much that I’d take it and use without modifying, but more often I need to tailor materials for my students and add supplemental worksheets to help scaffold a bit more clearly. Over time, obviously my arsenal of worksheets accumulates and every year I get to reuse more stuff from the previous years, with only small modifications (or sometimes none at all). The day before a lesson, I always make the answer keys to all the worksheets, in order to anticipate difficulties, catch typos, and to think through again how the lesson will look in action.

    I do agree with the project suggestion — when you do projects, because you can interleave instruction by making up examples on the spot, it saves you a lot of planning time. If you allow more student-centered projects, you are more reactive in real time to student needs and the project sort of “runs itself”and takes away the need to plan down to every last detail / format perfect worksheets.

    In terms of format, I used to write out entire unit plans and lesson plans with Lesson Aim and stuff. Now I just make the actual worksheets and gather necessary supplies, because the other parts come more organically during the lesson. Even during the lesson I regularly change things up, and I like to have already made copies of several options of activities to do, in case I change my mind during the lesson. For me, that means always being a few steps ahead in planning and (yes) sometimes having discarded worksheets.

    xoxx

  16. This is my 12th year in teaching here is what I do. This year I use planbookedu.com it stores my lessonplans online. I try to have a rough idea for two weeks. I have my notes all set from previous years. I keep all the things I have done in order in a course in a binder (even though I have digital versions) now every lesson can not be award wining, especially in Michigan, however, having an idea where you want to be works. So in ending I have a rough idea but I kind of shoot from the hip and freestyle.

  17. Planning is my nemesis, as it has always taken way too much of my time, and I have never been very good at keeping track of it. My priorities usually align somewhat like this:
    #1: make sure that class time is filled with interesting, engaging and rigorous activities/lessons
    #2: create answer keys for last nights assignment
    #3: grade
    #4: include at least one type of assessment in every class (formative or summative, what have you)
    #5: make sure that today’s problems are appropriate and error free
    #6: report grades in computer system and update class webpage
    #7: organize today’s lesson plans so that I can reuse them again
    #8: reflect upon yesterday’s lessons (and organize those too, preferably in the same place as today’s)

    Honestly, I’m lucky if I got through #1 on any given day. It’s a long day if I got all the way to #6, and I cannot say I ever got to #8. I KNOW someone is going to say that #7 should just get moved higher up on the list, but seriously, when I’m in the zone, the other things just keep pushing it down the list (especially #1)

    There have been rare occasions, when I’m going to be visited by someone I wish to impress, that I have pushed to get all the way through these abstract priorities. On those days, I have spent upwards of 12 hours beyond class time. BUT, those days, in class, are stellar. I don’t need better evidence: better planning makes better lessons. I just keep trying.

  18. A very analog process:

    A print out calendar of the whole semester: http://infinitesums.com/commentary/2011/8/1/workflow-roadmaps.html

    Then two notebooks: 1 for detailed plan notes, 1 for sketching out the problem sets, activities, tests that are called for by the plan notes.

    Step 1: visualize the week ahead on the calendar writing in a broad idea of what I want to cover. Helps me space test dates and make sure I get all the testing in before progress reports and report cards.

    Step 2: flip through a textbook, diddle around online for a refresher on the topics I’m going to cover. Open up notebook 1 and write down specific ideas for each day of the week. These are slightly to very detailed if I’m hit with a lot of inspiration or have an important point I want to remember or very broad if I don’t have a lot of gold for that lesson or I’m short on time. Basic structure in this notebook is “talk about x, hand out problem set on x, or demonstrate x, let them create a poster about x.” Any particularly brilliant activity that involves some more advanced planning would be noted in here too. Clever YouTubes that are related will get a mention.

    Step 3: take out notebook 2 and scan my lessons for items that I’ll need. So if I’m planning on giving a test that week, I make a note to write that test and I will write the test in this notebook before typing it up. If I want to hand write problems for use in class I’ll jot them in here. Or I make a note to scan in stuff from the book or whatever. Very key when I want to do a poster day and need to remember to have problems ready plus gather the poster materials. Any real intense activity I’ll jot down items needed.

    Step 4: type up my lessons into my district’s format in the online system based on notebook 1. Depending on when I need activities or tests or problems, I will start typing up or prepping things I sketched out in notebook 2. If I don’t need something right away, I will type it up later during my off period or at home one night.

    Sketching on the calendar takes 20-30 minutes. Writing out the plans could take an hour, depends on how much of a refresher I need on the topic or if it’s something I’m trying to do different/better than before. Typing up things I need is a couple hours throughout the week. I usually do the calendar portion on Saturday and all the formal writing/typing on Sunday afternoon. During the week I will refer to notebook 1 if I forget what’s going on that day. Wednesday is my night off, I don’t type up or grade anything on Wednesday night or even remotely think about school. I make copies of test and problem sets that cover multiple topics. 8 times out of 10 I will write a short 5 problem set on the board and have the students copy. I don’t believe in ridiculously long assignments for my academic classes.

    You wind up running through the lesson in your head several times and have a good feel for the flow of the week. So on any given school day I am not scrambling for material or worried I will forget something. I have a strong memory of what should happen when.

  19. Also, aside from making sure I’ve got a relevant picture open or need to remember to have my onscreen TI open or other random visual, I don’t do the intense smartboard/flipchart thing. It’s glorified PowerPoint which I find dull. I freewheel it at the board and from time to time will save hand written problems to save time later in the day or if they need to be displayed again the next day. In theory you do flip charts to save them for next year, but I find you’ll never experiment if you don’t start from scratch every time.

  20. 1. I use a pacing guide that is broken into units to keep me somewhat on track throughout the year. I think about what we did yesterday and how I can connect that to the new topic for today. I look at what I did last year. I look online through google searches and my favorite resources: twitter, ilovemath.org, and other people’s virtual filing cabinets. My favorite things to do this year is sorting so I try to think of how I can incorporate that. In my small classes, I think of how I could get them to work at the board, on whiteboards, or in pairs. In my bigger classes, I think of how I could I get them to work in pairs or in groups of 4. I do try to switch activities often in each class period but I try to do that in the easiest way possible for me. I make some kind of guided notes every single day. Even if we do an activity, I want them to have some kind of written notes to look back at. This usually means I create a Word doc and a matching PPT for every lesson. I also create a bell ringer and an exit slip every day. If they sucked on the exit slip the day before, I put the same type of problems on the bell ringer for the next day to remediate. I mainly use KUTA software for homework and for example problems in my lessons, except when I need more application/word problems because KUTA is very procedural. For Geometry, I try to think of hands on ideas: can we build it, fold it, draw it, cut it out, etc. I use a lot of straws, card stock, yarn, popsicle sticks, etc etc.

    2. In my written plan book, I write Bell Ringer at the top and Exit Slip and the HW assignment at the bottom. In the middle I write the objective and if I have activities, I will write them too. If we are just taking notes, then it’s just the objective written down. We don’t have to turn in plans but they expect to see our plan book open and written in whenever they pop in for informal observations. For my personal use, I use the guided notes I create for the students as my guide. If there is a question I want to ask, it’s in the notes and then students write down the answer. If there is something I want them to remember, I will put it in there with blanks for the important words. Students guess and try to fill in the words and I let them guess until it’s correct, which sometimes takes a lot of prompting. In Alg I and Geo, I try to make sure I have answers to any of the problems we are working but if I don’t, I can usually still solve them or figure out where students messed up in my head. For Alg II, I try to have a complete answer key with problems worked out because it’s harder for me to answer their questions without it. We work a lot more independently in Alg II so a lot of times I let them work it all the way out, then I put my answer on the doc camera and then they find and correct their own errors which usually helps them answer their own questions. Every once in a while, if I have really good questions to ask, I will write them down on scrap paper and keep them up front with me. But mostly everything is built into the guided notes and powerpoint. I keep electronic files on a portable external hard drive and I also make copies of everything I create and keep it in a binder.

    3. I usually spend 2-3 hours every night planning for Alg I, Geo, and Alg II preps. I guess that works out to about 1 hour per prep. I have other preps like ACT Test Prep, Foundational Topics in Geometry, and Achievement period but they are not core subjects and so I don’t spend nearly the same amount of time on those, plus my instructional coach helps me with that. Anyway, I’ve noticed that if I spend a lot of time planning a really good lesson for Alg I, for example, then my Geo and Alg II lessons are not nearly as good. This rotates all the time so that I have really good, good, and not so good lessons in every course. But as I teach those preps more and more,I get to reuse my really good lessons and spend more time redoing the good and not so good lessons. My plan period during school is usually used for making copies, grading, updating grades, club/organization duties, making answer keys, or answering feedback journals. I decided in my first year of teaching that planning during the day would just not work for me so I use that to make my day run smoother and then I am able to devote more of my time and concentration each night to good planning without being rushed. I don’t really start planning until 9:00 which means I’m up to at least 12:30-1:00. I work better late at night and usually I’m home by 9:00 every night, even if I go do something. I like going to basketball games and I go to church so I do still feel human. I do nothing on Friday nights. On Saturdays, I catch up on blogs and emails, grade, or other school related things so I don’t feel lazy but I don’t do any actual planning. Saturdays are my day and I do whatever I want. lol I start again on Sunday nights, usually around 7 and try to sketch out the week in my head or at least look and see what order I did things in from last year. I usually am watching tv, on facebook, or reading blogs while I’m planning. I take breaks and read or play Temple Run or Family Feud to make myself feel better so again, I still feel human. I also run on about 4-5 hours of sleep through the week but I take naps almost every day and sleep in on Saturdays so I guess it balances out. Also, I have no husband or kids, I live 5 minutes away from my school, and I am a homebody so I am pretty content with my routine. I’ve taught 3 of the 5 math courses at my school and since it’s so small I know I will eventually have taught everything and then planning will get easier.

    4. One of my goals for the summer is to organize everything from this year for next year and make a unit plan with lesson plans for each day in it. I’d like to do that so that I have something formal if needed and so that I can do a better job with pacing. Hopefully I will be able to see at a glance which lessons need to be redone or thrown out and how many really good lessons I already have for each unit. I’m trying to baby step into backwards design but it’s hard. Hopefully this summer I can also beef up my assessments which will in turn mean I need to modify my pacing.

  21. I do all my serious planning in school, mostly during my morning prep (90 minutes 2-3 times a week) although like everyone I’m always thinking of ideas in the shower, as I fall asleep, reading blogs etc.

    I crave organization and structure so all of my classes have a dropbox folder. Within that folder are folders for each chapter/topic and the folders are filled with all the materials I use. This makes materials easy to find during class and also makes things seriously easy when I teach the same prep more than one year.

    I use planbookedu.com and blank days are filled with: “objective, do now, discuss HW, ____, journal, HW” because that is the structure that nearly every day follows. I write objectives after the lesson (backwards, I know). My new goal for this semester is for the do now to be a quiz (3 quick questions on a powerpoint) or MCAS practice (questions pulled from past state tests on a powerpoint). The blank space in the middle is filled with explorations, discussions, development of rules and practice from the book. Some days there is a lot of exploring and projects, other days have a lot of book work (but one student complains every time that happens so she’s good motivation to keep things fresh). I love having 90 minute blocks since I have the opportunity to be multi-modal every class, but also because I can have a long stretch of uninterrupted planning time.

  22. I often plan in the middle of the night when I can’t sleep (but I wouldn’t recommend that). I just lay in bed and think which I’m sure is inversely correlated with me falling back asleep.

    Tina recommended Planbookedu to me which I now am addicted to as I hope that it means that next year I won’t have to plan anything at all (ha).

    What works best for me is to have 1 day a week when I stay very late at school (Thursday) and 1 night a week where I work late at home (Sunday). On Thursdays, I prep the materials I’ll need for the following week (homework, choose which problems to use,, xerox stuff, organize my room, etc). On Sundays, I do the actual thinking of how I’ll pull off that lesson which I vaguely sketched out. I do the problems which I plan to use in class, think about scaffolding, a good warm up to lead into it, a good exit quiz.

    On Mon-Wed. during prep I do mostly fluff work…create the power point for tomorrow’s warm up, grade quizzes, etc. But the actual prep happens on Thursday afternoons at school (this usually takes 2+ hours) and most thinking happens Sunday evenings at home (around 3 hours). This helps me to NOT think to much about it on the remaining afternoons/evenings.

  23. I use a word-document with a table which has headings such as Topic, time, goals, activities.
    Once the first three are filled in, I have my parameters set and am ready to go on to planning activities. I find it especially important to plan goals, as in specific behavior goals such as “students will be able to explain why the rules of exponents are the way they are”, once I have these goals I usually also have good ideas for how to reach them.

    In the “activities section”, I start with a “do now” part – which can be a small quiz, or just an exercise based on the previous lesson that ties well into the current lesson.
    Then there is a “development” section – honestly, I’ve stolen all of this from “Every Minute Counts”. In the development section I plan the progression of the lesson – usually based on exercises or investigations of increasing complexity with some direct instruction sprinkled in between/afterwards. I have recently taken to highlighting (in MsWord) the pieces of text/formulas I want to have written on the board, and this helps keep me organized during the lesson.

    The finished plan is on paper – and mostly the lessons are on whiteboard. We do have interactive whiteboards in every class, but I’ve yet to discover the benefit for math teaching.

    The amount of time this takes varies on if I include an investigation or not: if I do, then it could take about 60 minutes or so, much of it spent making the figures in geogebra and formatting the investigation. If I stick to book exercises, the whole plan is done under 20 minutes. If I make my own exercises, then let’s say 40 minutes.
    Thing is, I have about 16 hours of teaching per week, which is not a lot but every lesson is unique (no two groups take the same course) so each requires its own plan. I do take work home, but not very much anymore, and mostly marking (mostly never-ending psychology essay marking) rather than planning.

    I’m experimenting with a flipped classroom approach right now, and suddenly my planning is flipped as well: mostly I plan student homeworks (design homeworks on thatquiz, find good youtube vids), rather than lesson activities. In class, they work on exercises in the book or investigations or old exam exercises.

  24. I also spend a ridiculous amount of time planning (all Saturday and Sunday and I get to school at 6:30 and don’t leave until between 6:30 and 8 at night. Always at least twelve hours, sometimes more) but I have nine preps, so I feel the time I spend is justified. One thing that has helped me cut down on planning time but still have lessons I’m proud of is designing a warm-up for each of my classes each day that is an introduction to what we’re going to do in class that day, and is also silly or relevant to the students’ lives. I almost always put the names of my students in it and it is usually over material they are about to learn but haven’t yet learned so it always leads to a good bridge into the lesson. The students enjoy working through and discussing problems that are about them and are relevant to their lives and these problems take 10 minutes or so to get through and discuss. I feel like we’re using class time well and the kids are enjoying themselves so I don’t feel so bad when we have to move into a standard, less thrilling activity because I ran out of planning time. I feel like I did my part to hook students into the material. It only takes me between 5 and 15 minutes to create these problems. An example of one problem that worked really well was when I introduced linear inequalities in two dimensions. The problem was: suppose the whole world ran a race. That’s 7 billion people all running in one gigantic marathon. Suppose the fastest person in the world can run 20m/s and he’s also given a 5 meter head start. Graph the race. Yes, it’s contrived, but it captured my students’ imagination and it was really easy to show them that we would just graph the line y=20x+5 and shade below it. It also took me less than 5 minutes to write.

  25. I realized I never answered the question myself…

    Since I’m teaching the same preps as previous years, I tend to re-use materials that I created last year — whether it be SmartBoards or worksheets. But my lesson plan is usually codified in SmartBoard form.

    When creating a SmartBoard, I try to think of my ideal outcome of the class (in terms of understanding), and I see if I can’t find a way to walk students through it aiming for real conceptual understanding — with some conceptual work, and some practice work (“check yo’self before you wreck yo’self!”). I try to go for various modes of teaching (some partner/group work, some individual practice work, some direct instruction) — but honestly this year I’ve gone in waves where I’m a “lecture” teacher and when we do more interactive stuffs. When creating the SmartBoard, I’m thinking through in my head what I’ll say, what questions I’ll ask, if I’ll have students talk in partners for this or that…

    But this year, when I’m basically revising SmartBoards from last year or the year before, I don’t have that tight thought process, and I’m finding everything I do is generally weaker. It’s because I didn’t go through that intense thought process. I hate the idea that I have to create things from scratch for them to be really strong (and not just good), but right now it seems like that’s the way I’ll have to go when I need really crazy strong lessons.

    Usually when I’m revising a lesson from the previous year, it can take anywhere from 30-60 minutes. But when I’m creating something new, it takes longer. (Like today, I planned a new calculus lesson for tomorrow, but that took me 120+ minutes.)

    Because I don’t like being restricted (I get through what I get through in each class, with a general hope of where I’m going to be at the end of a unit), I plan each night based on what we covered in class that day. Thus, I don’t have a “unit plan sheet” with what I’m doing each day and the homework problems for each night, all set up — like a few other teachers at my school do.

    I currently think I need a few things to organize myself… All materials (online and physical) organized by topic. I need a list of good conceptual problems/questions and good writing questions, organized by topic. I need good “essential understandings” for each topic. I need good hooks for reach topic. Once I have those, then I think creating new / fresh lessons/units won’t be so challenging. I’ll have all the resources — I just have to put them together in a way that makes sense for me and for my kids. And I can plan ahead, instead of one day at a time.

    But yeah, there’s my haphazard process.

  26. Do you mind if I make a few suggestions, for what it’s worth? Feel free to ignore any or all of the following:

    1. I would highly suggest using Plan Book software. For every lesson, I attach the files and weblinks I am using. I also copy the files and links to the repository, which is a big old listing of all of my files and web links with detailed searchable descriptions. You could easily include your conceptual questions in one of the extra lesson plan fields or in an attached file. It will make you an organized beast without a lot of heartache.

    2. Create a unit plan sheet/curriculum map for each chapter/unit. Even if you revise it on a daily basis, it is a lot easier to make slight “course corrections” then to have to create each lesson from scratch each night. Put another way, how can you possibly have time to go out with friends during the week when every night you have to plan tomorrow’s lesson?

    3. Don’t do all the heavy lifting for your students. It’s good for students to occasionally figure out how to learn on their own when the lesson is confusing or isn’t spoon-fed to them. Because they won’t always have as great a teacher as you and will consequently flounder in college whenever that happens.

    Best AP Calc teaching moment for me was when a late night family emergency caused me to forget that I hadn’t planned for a 90 minute block AP Calc class the next morning. Rather than freaking out, I told the students to spend the first twenty minutes of class reading and taking notes on today’s section of the chapter. While they did that and compared notes with their neighbors, I read the section and flagged a couple of the example problems and some of the practice problems. Twenty-five minutes later, I had the class get into a circle and rap about what they just read. It was a new experience for the students, but some gave it a try and I then walked through some examples, had a volunteer try a problem at the board and then had them try a few problems at their desks. Finally, I had them spend the rest of the 90 minute block doing the homework.

    A lot of good discussions and understandings from the students from that class and subsequently I made a habit of “doing nothing” planning-wise for the class about once every two weeks: I wouldn’t suggest doing it more often than once a week, however, as their ability to “self-teach” is dependent on all of the teaching you’ve provided up to that point.

    4. Put most of your planning time into the most difficult concepts, the ones students get wrong year after year. Not the ones that are the most fun for the students, but the ones that can knock a student into a failure spiral if they do poorly on it. For those concepts, you may end up spending two or three times your average planning time on a lesson, and that’s fine. If you spend roughly the same amount of time on each lesson, then you’re over-planning.

    Greatly appreciate you’re asking the above question as the previous responses have all provided good food for thought!

  27. I make a simple table in a word document. Since I am a modeler I just cut and paset the teacher notes from the ASU modelin units into the table and organize them in chunks making a plan as to what I think I can cover each period. I add my own notes and alter them to fit how I will deliver the instruction. I add in any links to webpages or documents that I will need. I leave a side column for my own notes so I can look at them in the future. I also after each class just leave a higlighted note as to where we left off in the “script”. I am thinking of transferring these documents to an online cloud like Evernote in the future. Its so simple – I like it.

  28. In many ways, I feel like I never stop planning. Because teachers are curriculum designers at my school, I am always looking for ideas/inspiration/examples. I spend most nights and parts of my weekend planning and creating but I wouldn’t trade the role of “teacher as designer” for the world. It is the sort of creativity that makes me love our job.

  29. Consider http://bit.ly/zTxT6g (and related http://bit.ly/Ai4P2v). But I suspect that this doesn’t get at the goal of your inquiry, what is a manageable routine for may daily / weekly lesson planning. Then my answer is begin by selecting a rich curriculum from which to work. This should save you 95+% of the work that I observe most teachers putting into planning (writing curriculum) and turn the effort into planning for engaging students in rich tasks, and assessing their ways of thinking & knowing.

  30. Hey Sam, I’m with you about this: “Because I don’t like being restricted (I get through what I get through in each class, with a general hope of where I’m going to be at the end of a unit), I plan each night based on what we covered in class that day. Thus, I don’t have a “unit plan sheet” with what I’m doing each day and the homework problems for each night, all set up…”

    So I do too things. First, as described above, I have my 100-ish objectives lined up, but I do not have a calendar plan of what I get to on what day. They are each 1-2 days long and I have about 150 teaching days so it works out. When we get one done, I can just check my sheet to see what’s next, even if it’s mid-class. Second, my HW is not tied to the days activities. It’s a spiraled set so each night there are 6-10 problems covering everything we’ve done so far during the year. That way the HW can roll along and even be assigned a few nights in advance and it doesn’t matter exactly where I am each night on the course plan, so long as I’m past the point the HW is practicing. The problem sets come from the CPM text which is set up this way but if one has all your problems on disk one could shuffle them up pretty easily.
    PS I never answered the physical format question — but since you’re a TeX fan, my ordered list of standards and objectives is one long LaTeX document that I edit daily for one or two minutes with notes for next year.

  31. I am soooo late to comment, I don’t know if you’re still looking for responses here.

    I have a calendar for every unit, that’s just a table in Word with Day, Date, Topic, and Assignment. The kids get it at the start of the unit. I make notes on my copy for next year, like “this takes two days” or “highlight this common error”.

    I have all my materials in folders on the computer, with a separate folder for each day. At a minimum, each contains a smartboard file. It might also contain a problem set, worksheet, or calculator document. The smartboard file contains everything I need to do the lesson. So if I’m going to switch to a calculator poll in the middle, I put a screenshot of the poll in the smartboard file.

    I also keep a binder for each class – one binder per marking period – that contains blank master photocopies I sent last year, and answer keys for everything.

    I plan out the whole unit ahead of time, because we have to send out our photocopies, and it takes 2-3 days to get them back. I work off my annotated calendar from last year and fix whatever needs fixing for this year. This year because of PCMI, I also read through each lesson asking how I’m going to assess if the lesson is working, and add in exit slips or polls or mini-discussion/shares or whatever. If it’s a class I taught before, it doesn’t take that much time.

    Classes I never taught before take forever to plan, though, and I often am only a couple days ahead of the kids. I probably average 2:1 planning:class time.

  32. I’m planning a lot less just because I’ve been lucky enough to have the same preps these last few years. I teach geometry (8th grade), algebra 1, and 6th grade math.

    I finally got smart two summers ago and spent most of that summer planning my lessons. I organized everything into binders (kind of like what Kate has above), re-typed worksheets, did all the Geometer’s Sketchpad lessons that I plan on having my students do. This was a HUGE payoff during the school year because I always had materials to work from, but it allowed me to look for new stuff and implement as needed — the pressure was off to start from scratch or to say, “Where the hell did I put that lesson?” I even had my daily warm-ups and weekly “problem solving” sets planned. The binders are working binders, I chuck lessons that weren’t great and add new ones that I want to try next time.

    At the beginning of each chapter, the kids get a packet that has all the homework for each section on it already. (This summer I plan on making a key for each section to speed up the process of homework checking and posting.)

    It’s too hard to plan from day to day, period to period. Been there, done that. I look forward to my summers to recharge physically and mentally and do most of my hard-core planning.

  33. If I’ve taught the lesson before, the plan can be less than 10 minutes. My skeleton is like this:

    1.) Students write HW in their planner, then start the warm-up
    2.) Students share “Good Things” in their lives, then we review the HW from last night.
    3.) I give any announcements, then we review the Goal of the Day
    4.)
    5.)
    6.) (This usually involves moving, talking, getting out of ones’ seat)
    7.) Exit questions (3 questions, formal assessment)
    8.) Correct Exit questions
    9.) Fill in any holes or gaps in the notes

    I should mention that I have 90 minutes every day, so I have the luxury of regularly reviewing topics, trying something interesting every day, and giving a mini-quiz (AND reviewing missed questions immediately) every day.

    I’d love to talk more about it if you’re interested.

  34. I usually plan a unit at a time. I usually write out what I want to go over and put together the flow of the SMART Notebook file. I choose what example problems I want to go over. I don’t tend to script the whole lesson entirely as far as what questions I want to ask. I pretty much let it happen.

    Once I’ve put the unit together, I usually leave it alone. The day before or morning of, I put the warm up in the notebook file. Sometimes, I do last minute tweaking depending on what comes into my head that needs to be there. I usually don’t decide on an exit question until the day I teach it. It just kind of depends on how things go.

    I can’t say I have a real “plan” on planning, but that’s the basic gist of what I do. I do an awful lot of reflection (I have a 30 minute drive to and from work), so sometimes things just come to me as I drive to or from work. Not sure how much that helps you, but I did want to share what I do.

  35. Sam, I like what you say here:

    “I need a list of good conceptual problems/questions and good writing questions, organized by topic. I need good “essential understandings” for each topic. I need good hooks for reach topic. Once I have those, then I think creating new / fresh lessons/units won’t be so challenging.”

    I think this is a huge challenge for the entire field of math education and I find myself working hard on this very thing this year. I was laid off last year (budget cuts) and find myself in a position to sit, think, and write all day (fun, but hopefully temporary). Essential questions and enduring understandings are huge and hard to come by without a lot of intense thinking… because I think we tend to think we’ve got the whole essential question thing covered (“How can [linear, polynomial, exponential, trigonometric, etc] functions help us solve real world problems?” is NOT an essential question!)

    I find that the more I think about a certain topic, the more I realize that my previous understanding of it was shallow. I also find that once I broaden my understanding – then, and only then, can I be happy with the hooks and the problems/questions that I pose.

    This year, I’ve been focused on algebra, because it is so fundamental. I wish I could converse better with you in the calculus world, but for now, I’m building my ladder from the bottom up. Best of luck to you. I’d recommend a sabbatical!

  36. I’m only blogging a lot about calculus because I haven’t been working on Algebra II as much (… there’s only so much time each year… and I’ve been more inspired this year by calculus… but next year I’m teaching new things… and I have a few Algebra II things I can blog about this year…).

    Sabbatical! I don’t think I can afford it!

  37. (1) YO This is an unbelievable post in terms of the comments. Sa-weet. very helpful. It takes me forevah to plan, and I find that to be the most stressful part of the job. one thing i have been doing this year that has helped me a bit has been focusing on planning in 10-15 minutes chunks. I try to organize everything like this so that a. if something takes too long or too little time, I can push stuff around easily b. I almost always plan more chunks than i need so it keeps me a bit ahead, c. attention span of teenagers is about that long and d. i have a lot of activities now that i use which helps me speed up my planning. for example, if i want to practice doing derivatives, i could do speed dating or mistake game or wall flippy answers or folding game or whiteboard problems… this year with a much larger toolkit of things i find planning to be much easier because i can just pick the tools i need.

    (2) i keep track of what i’m doing in a color-coded table in a word document, 1 for each major unit (usually 2 sections in the book or so)… each row is a new CHUNK, and then I write down in the table right next to it how much time it took and this has helped me SO MUCH with planning for this year. i can look back at last year and gauge very easily how long stuff took.

    (3) i still never plan more than for the next day (and maybe a tiny bit more). i don’t know why, but i just can’t seem to do it. so planning is still EXHAAAAUSTING. i’m embarassed to say how much time it takes me…

    (4) you rock. hope you are well, if i am in NYC any time soon we need to chill… looks like i’m going to be moving there in fall of 2013 after i leave Jordan.

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