How to Make Planning for Next Year Fun | Edutopia
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The end of the school year has finally arrived. You can start fantasizing about the novels you'll read, the closets you'll clean, the places you'll go. However, pulsing in the recesses of your mind is a whisper: You know you should plan next year. It would be so useful to reflect on what you did this year, to pull together some resources for a new unit, and to crack open that book on teaching writing that everyone says you should read.

In those final days of school, contemplating spending part of the summer planning sent you scurrying to schedule root canals. But here's the raw teacher truth: The summer is the perfect time to plan. Even three days of work can yield months of results. Once you start, you'll get into it, and you'll thank yourself next year.

The following are some thoughts about how to plan, when to plan, and what to plan so your time is fun and productive and invigorating:

How, What, and When

Get paid, if possible. Your principal may have some money left over for professional development and may be able to pay you extended contract hours. Ask.

Get units if you need them. There are accredited institutions that offer credit for planning time, and acquired units will advance you on the salary schedule. Many colleges, including the University of San Diego, offer courses online through their continued studies programs. Before enrolling, check with your human resources department to make sure the units from the institution count.

Get a buddy. Choose a colleague who also wants to plan. It's a lot more fun if someone is sitting next to you and the peer pressure will keep you from bolting. If you can find another instructor who teaches the same subject or grade and wants to coplan, that's ideal.

Get started planning right away. I strongly recommend that you don't schedule planning for the last week of summer vacation. Even though by the end of school, I'm always exhausted, I'm also often in a superproductive zone where I'm simultaneously reflecting on the past year and planning the following year.

Whenever I've had to go to professional development during this time, I'm always amazed at how much I get done and how engaged I am with the material. It's tempting to just take off into summer la-la land, but try using the first week to plan for the next year. You'll be impressed with how juicy this time can be.

Plan Your Planning

Set goals. I often hope to accomplish way more than I can. At the end of the summer, I just feel bad about what I didn't do. Write down what you'd like to get done, and then revise that list for what you think you can realistically get done. There's a lot of useful stuff online about setting goals. Take a few minutes to read about SMART goals.

Brainstorm. Jot down all the topics that come to mind. You might have a long list of things you want to plan, or should plan. Narrow the list down by using the fun factor: Go through it and star everything that looks like it would be fun to plan and teach. Then go back through it and circle the items that seem like they'd be really fun. Go with the topics that make you feel tingly.

One summer, I needed to plan seventh-grade English and history. I needed to learn more about teaching grammar and academic literacy, to read about a dozen young adult novels, and learn about medieval Europe. The Middle Ages won out. My idea of fun was to read everything I could about the bubonic plague.

Project Learning

Project learning rates really high on the fun factor -- in planning it and teaching it. And for students, it's the ultimate learning experience. Summer is a perfect time to plan a really great unit. Here's an article from about project learning that might give you some ideas.

Planning a project-learning unit might include taking field trips, previewing movies, contacting guest speakers, reading high-interest fiction and nonfiction, and wild brainstorming. In short, planning such a unit is inherently fun.

The summer I immersed myself in the plague was really a thrill. In the end, it was part of a unit about how societies deal with death and illness and how epidemics change political-economic structures, social systems, and religions.

Our final project was a living museum -- a dramatization of different scenes in a medieval European village during the plague. This unit was one of the most successful units I taught that year, due in large part to the planning I'd done over the summer. And for me, reading about epidemics constituted major summer fun.

Anything Will Do

Any planning you do will be rich and useful. Even if you plan only three days, the process you use, the mental space you will have -- not cluttered by a hundred other things to do -- will give you practice in planning that will impact you in the following year. Planning, like all aspects of teaching, is something we get better at the more we do. But remember, teaching -- and learning -- should be fun.

What would you like to plan this summer? What are your suggestions for making planning fun? Please share your thoughts and ideas.

Comments (75)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

Priscilla's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

My name is Priscilla S. Clement and I teach third grade inclusion class for East Orange Board of Educaiton. This Summer has been very busy for me especially having a ten months and a three year old. In addition to pursuing a Master's degree from Walden Unversity. I decided to start my graduate progam over the Summer just to familiarize myself with program while establishing rituals and routines. I have to see, my experience with Walden Unversity thus far has been a good one. I have learned so much over the last couple of weeks and can't wait to implent them this upcoming year. For the 2009-20010 school year, I plan discipline and pace myself when it comes to planning for my classroom. I'm going to dedicate a specific time each day for planning and not spend my whole Sunday glue to the computer trying to complete my plans. Moreover, I plan to keep my students engage by making learning fun and hands on.

What would you like to plan this summer? What are your suggestions for making planning fun? Please share your thoughts and ideas.

Ashley's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

As a matter of fact, I am at retreat right now. We are at a hotel for one night. Today, we got some basic news about the state of our school (given California's budget), our state score from last year (we're very proud), worked on some school culture and task analysis activities, had lunch, had some employee trivia, planned out our first wee of school, had dinner, and played some board games together. I feel so great to work in a place where I feel valued as an educator and person. More schools need to treat their teachers like this!

Sadeka Harrison's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

This book is excellent. I had it for my first year of teaching and I still refer to it occasionally.

Sadeka Harrison's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Hello, my name is Sadeka Harrison. I am a middle grades teacher in Clayton County School System, Georgia. The last few weeks of school, I made up in my mind that I would plan, plan, plan. Under the assuption that I would still be teaching 7th grade this year, I planned on enhancing my lesson plans. However, at the end of the year I found out I will have 8th grade this year. Sucks to be me! It was horrified because last year was my first year, and now I have to start over from scratch with curriculum planning. Needless to say, I haven't done anything this summer except Graduate school, and napping:(


greg porter's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Hello, my name is Greg Porter. I was hired back in February as a K-8 Art teacher in northern New Hampshire. I took over the position for the rest of the year and will be returning to my position in the Fall.
I feel like I am really behind the eight ball when it comes to my planning for next year because I have very limited experience and don't really "know the ropes" when it comes to getting organized for an upcoming school year. I currently work full time for a local summer recreation program tha runs during all of the hours that my school is open for me to get in. What types of plans should I be making, or goals should I be setting for myself as July draws to an end? Thanks for any help!

Tsenala Paul's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Planning is probably the one thing (aside from napping) that I look forward to most in the summer holidays. I am often so busy just keeping up during the school year, that planning sometimes feels like a real luxury. And it's fun! It's a creative process, saturated with visualization of how things could work, that I truly enjoy. In fact, it's my favorite thing to do next to being in the classroom. My summer holidays will (finally) begin this Thursday (I teach in Germany), and already I find myself jotting down notes on everything from research materials (I hope I can find a way to make the British Empire as interesting as the bubonic plague) to literature circles to bulletin board ideas. Thanks for the inspiration. I can't wait to get to it in earnest!

Tommi Ryan's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

What wonderful ideas! Usually by the end of the year I am so exhausted that school is the last thing I want to think about. But...I have found that if I plan while it is still fresh on my mind, I am definitely happy when August rolls around. This summer has not been as productive as I had planned. I began my Masters program and have been wrapped up in that. I have also found it difficult because I have been moved to a new grade level. I brought home the teacher's editions and have scanned them.

Your suggestions reminded me to "never say die"! A few short weeks before school starts. I had better get planning. Thanks for the encouragement.

Michelle Wong's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I am Michelle Wong, I am a Pre-K3 teacher of six years. I am apart of the Newark school district. I am currently a Graduate Student at Walden University. I am currently doing a class that requires that I participate in a Blog. I choose Edutopia because I was curious about your name. I am awe at the intensity of the topic that you focus on. As I delve deeper into the information that is provided I am so appreciative of the wealth of information that is provided. I do believe that I will gain relevant information that will help me in my classroom, and also a parent of a child that have been place in an resource classroom. I sincerely hope that I will eventually become an active contributive to the blogs.

Shonda Crump's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I have found that it works best for me to edit lesson plans almost immediately. At the end of each week I sit down and edit my lesson plans. If something works great I put a note on it. If it does not work at all I toss it or completely revise it. If I come up with a better or more fun idea, I go ahead and change it. There is no way I could remember all of this at the end of the year. Then at the end of the year I can focus on the end of the year paper work, cleaning up and getting myself organized for the next year. I too started Walden University this summer, and am thankful that I have much of my work laid out and ready to go for the next school year.

Heather Moore's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Hello everyone! My name is Heather and I teach First grade in South Carolina. Last year was my first year teaching so I am very new to the whole aspect of summer planning. I do have to admit though, that when school was over last year, I felt like I needed to hurry and start planning frantically for next year. I tackled the project at first with everything I had. I since have slowed down to a pace more normal. I've tried to incorporate the planning into my day and make it as fun as possible. I have realized the importance of planning and also the importance of having down time so you can renew yourself. One of the ways that I have gotten alot of planning done this summer, is a bunch of my girlfriends ,who are also teachers, go to the beach and just start talking and knocking around ideas. It's a great way to get inspired and relax as well.
Happy Planning!

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