Planning ahead can be a challenge for secondary teachers with multiple preps. Probably because it seems like it will be 2x, 3x, or 4x, more work. Some teachers fear that planning ahead will limit their flexibility in the classroom. But, in reality, planning ahead increases flexibility. It allows you to make adjustments and adaptations based on your students’ needs.

While lack of flexibility is a big misconception, we’re going to look at some others too.

Misconception #1 About Planning Ahead: Lack of Flexibility

Planning ahead may make teachers feel restricted and limit flexibility. Especially when you have several different class periods learning the same thing. But, planning ahead actually increases flexibility. It allows you to adjust and adapt lessons based on student needs. Knowing where students are headed allows teachers to have a framework for innovation.

Real-life example: Planning a Vacation

There are a couple of ways of planning for a vacation, but I like to have a menu of activity choices. That way, we know what we are wanting to do, but can be flexible based on naps and the weather. Having a plan, even if you made it a long time ago, will allow you to have the flexibility to shift plans when things come up.

Classroom example: Fire Drill or Assembly

Doesn’t it seem like there is always something going on at the school? Like some sort of drill or school assembly. When you have a plan, you can still shift your lesson plans without messing up your classes. You can adjust your lessons and activities so that you can still use the time.

Misconception #2 About Planning Ahead: Limited Creativity

Another misconception about planning ahead is that it limits creativity in both teachers and students. Knowing where you are headed allows you to think of examples and experiences. You know, the ones that are relatable and can make your lesson more engaging.

Classroom example: Memes (or Pop Culture)

One way to get students engaged and excited about learning is to bring in a little pop culture. Memes is one of those ways to do it. When you know where you are heading with your lesson and unit, you will naturally have those topics on your mind. So, the next time you are scrolling social media and you see a relatable meme, you’ll be sure to save it for your lesson.

Misconception #3 About Planning Ahead: Boredom

“But won’t students be bored if I have things planned out?” In my experience, boredom/predictability in your routines and protocols can equal a safe environment for your students. Remember, your students will only hear your lesson once (unless you need to do some re-teach), so it’s all new to them. As for you, planning ahead will give you more time to reflect on what you want to change for the next time you teach it.

Real-life example: Cooking the Same Meal

Because my husband and I both teach, we love our freezer meals. In fact, we eat freezer meals 5 or 6 times a week. While we rotate the meals each month, we usually have about 10 different choices in our freezer. While it could seem boring, it saves us so much time, and money, and we don’t have to decide what we’re going to eat. And, we have learned how to make minor adjustments to the meals (serving over rice instead of a taco) to change things up.

Classroom example: Routines and Protocols

One of my favorite teaching protocols is the Gallery Walk. This is where students work in groups, pairs, or alone, to create a poster to teach a concept. (My students would use this all the time when they were brainstorming a solution to an engineering problem.) Because we did this protocol frequently, my students knew what to do. With very little instruction. That left us with more time to do the protocol.

Misconception #4 About Planning Ahead: Time-Consuming

Planning ahead can take time, but it saves time in the long run. It helps teachers be more efficient with their time, and you won’t need to spend extra time planning each day.

Classroom example: Scrolling for Hours Searching for Learning Activities

Have you ever spent the night before a class (or even the class period before) trying to find a way to teach a topic? I know I have. When you know where you’re headed, you can still search online, but you can narrow your search. Searching for a specific standard or objective will get you much better results.

In Summary

Planning ahead may seem challenging for multiple prep teachers, but it can increase flexibility, promote creativity, prevent boredom, and save time. By understanding these misconceptions, you can create a more effective planning system that benefits both you and your students.

Useful Links

I will be the first to admit that. It took me a while to really figure out that planning ahead was helping me and my students more than it was hindering us and mainly because I had some misconceptions that maybe you have had too.

So in this episode, we are going to go over some of the common misconceptions about planning, and specifically planning ahead and far ahead that could be hurting you or failing you as a multiple prep teacher.

 Welcome to the Secondary Teacher Podcast, the podcast for middle and high school teachers juggling multiple preps to get the strategies to reduce overwhelm so that you don’t have to choose between being an effective teacher and prioritizing important relationships.

I’m your host, Khristen Massic, a 10 year high school engineering teacher, former middle school assistant principal and teacher coach. Every week we will discuss strategies, systems, and time saving tips to help you not only survive but thrive as a multiple prep. teacher. The misconceptions that we are going to talk about today is the first one, lack of flexibility.

Second, limited creativity, third boredom, and fourth, that planning is time consuming. So we’re gonna dive into each of those a little bit more to give you an idea of why there are misconceptions and how you can. Change those misconceptions in your mind to something that would be positive to help support you as a multiple prep teacher.

So the first one, secondary teaching has its own issues in that you could have several. Periods, class periods learning the same thing or same subject, but then you also could be having this like your multiple prep. So one of the challenges of having a class that does repeat is that. Thinking ahead.

Planning ahead makes you think that you would limit your flexibility in that you would feel restricted. And I have felt restricted before thinking that first period is on this unit. And so second period also needs to be exactly at the same place because it is planned totally. Faults. The reason that this is false is because when you have planned ahead, you’ve actually increased your flexibility by allowing for adjustments and adaptations based on your student needs because you know already where they are going.

And you also know that perhaps that if class period two, Gets slightly behind the other class period. You know what you can cut out, or you also know some extension activities that you might be able to give to first period. So, Having this idea of planning ahead, remember, it is not a lack of flexibility.

It’s actually going to allow for more flexibility. So real life example, not in teaching, but is currently happening in my life right now, is that we are planning on taking our children skiing for spring break. Now, this is something we have never done before because we don’t like to take days off of school.

Snow usually isn’t around. Or if it is around this late in the season, then it’s like slushy and it’s just not a good experience. But this year we’ve gotten a lot of snow. So about six weeks ago we decided that we are going to go skiing. So I went online, I booked. Everything. This is the first time any of our kids have been skiing, so we are gonna go all in and we’re gonna do some ski lessons so that they can learn from professionals.

We respect teachers in all different areas and know that they would be getting good skills and feel comfortable skiing well. This last week, we’re looking at the, the weather for the next week and the day that we have planned to go is looking terrible like the snow is supposed to be. They’re calling it thunder snow, but I don’t know that it’s really, truly thunder snow, cuz I don’t know that we get that here, but it sounds like miserable.

So the high is like 18 degrees and it’s supposed to be snowing and like a very wet spring snow. Doesn’t sound ideal because I had already made those plans. I already had the itinerary in my email with the phone numbers, so I actually was able to call the resort and asked them if there was any way for us to shift for a few days.

Later in the week when we are supposed to be having a little bit warmer weather, definitely no snow and the sun will be out and miraculously they could. It wasn’t a very big deal because I also had planned far enough in advance that I wasn’t running up against any return policy issues. So having that plan, even though I had made it a long time ago, and we were really planning on going on this certain day.

I was able to have flexibility because when it came to weather being an issue, we could shift it. So that’s things that you can do with your, your teaching as well. Another example that could be in the classroom is when you have something that you are not aware of until that day. So you could have some sort of fire drill or maybe it is something.

Is planned but maybe wasn’t properly communicated, like some sort of assembly, you could really shift things still and not mess up all of your classes. So one of the things that. I used to do is that if we had an assembly, well first period had the really long class and second period had a really short class, and so I didn’t really know what to do and so first period ended up having like free time for half the class period, which then ended up being a classroom management nightmare.

But had I had. Everything planned, then I can actually shift things so that I, I could fill that time and possibly have some extension activities for that first period or second period. Figure out what, if anything, I need to cut out. So that’s something that you can think about when you are being flexible and how flexibility can really, Be something that you gain from planning ahead.

The second misconception is that there is limited creativity so that it stifles creativity in you and in your students. Really what the truth is is that. You have a framework for innovation because you know where you are going and because you have planned that, you really can start thinking of examples throughout life, throughout your experiences with, with anything that’s happening on TV or in the news because you have that already in your mind.

You’re actually more creative. You can bring things into the classroom on a daily basis that does relate to what they are experiencing outside of the classroom, what you are experiencing outside of the classroom, and it allows for much more creativity. Rather than giving the exact same examples from year to year to year.

You really can shift things because you know what is. Ahead. This also can really help out when you’re wanting to do open-ended questions or prompts, or your student choice in projects or your student choice boards because you know what’s going to be happening further down the road. Once again, you’re using that backward design to really allow for creativity in you.

When your students as well. So the third misconception is boredom, that you will be bored and that your students will be bored. But in reality, predictability is something that allows people to feel safe and secure, and it can increase your engagement. If students have already practiced a routine and if it’s something that they enjoy and something that you enjoy, so there might be a little bit of trial and error here where you would need to figure out what types of activities do increase engagement for your students, but.

Them. Having that sense of security and knowing that what we are doing next, I know the steps on how to do it. I know those instructions. I know what is expected of me, in the end will increase that engagement and that interest. Piggybacking on the misconception for number two, because you are thinking ahead.

You can also bring in those little bits from current events or from the community or TV shows, movies, things that are happening right now, right? Then you can bring in those examples through multimedia, through videos, through sound bites, through podcasts, all of those different things. Additional ways to promote creativity, but then also increase that engagement of your students.

Okay. The last one is that it is time consuming and I’m going to be blaming our pre-service programs, our pre-teaching university programs, if that’s what you went through, because. It did take a long time to plan because the uni plans and the lesson plans that we were doing there were very, very, very detailed.

When in reality you are probably using a sticky note. That’s okay. You can still pre-plan with sticky notes and have just brief little bullet points to get you through your lesson. It does not mean that you have to have super, super, super detailed lesson plans, and that’s what is time consuming is referencing all of this information that really you don’t ultimately, I would actually argue that it probably saves you a lot of time because you are not wasting time searching for resources or activities last minute, so you’re not staying up all night or during your prep period, or even during the previous class period, looking for something to do to teach the next thing for it to then totally flop in that next class.

Because you have thought ahead and you haven’t wasted all of that time, you’re not having that decision fatigue. So that’s where it can really save you time. You can also use reusable lesson plan templates and unit planning templates and other resources that can really. Cut down on this time and allow you to collaborate with colleagues and then share those resources.

So as we are wrapping up this episode, I want to really remind you again about these misconceptions, but then flip them on their heads. So planning ahead actually will provide you with more flexibility in your teaching because you will be able to. Modify for your students because you know where you’re going.

It will also increase the creativity of you and your students because you have a framework. You know what is coming up. You can think about things and get inspired in your day-to-day life of ways to creatively teach your students these concepts. It can also help your students. Engaged in what you’re doing because it is a little bit of predictability in there.

Helps them feel safe in your class, and then also allows them to be successful and it can save you time because you are not wasting time last minute trying to come up with things that may or may. Work out. As always, if this episode was helpful to you, it could be for others To help spread the word about this podcast, take a screenshot of this episode added to your Instagram stories and tag me at Khristen Massic, K H R I S T E N M A S S I C.

Until next week.

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