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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.
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.