The holiday season is drawing near and with it comes a wonderful two-week break. By this time in the year, you might be feeling less overwhelmed by daily tasks, but more disillusioned about teaching. Don't worry. That's perfectly normal, and a phase almost everyone goes through. You are tired and ready for a break. When it comes, take full advantage of it and get your rest.
At the same time, you know that another semester is peeking at you from around the corner. And now that you're familiar with short-term planning, you should be ready to start thinking ahead. A little long-term planning for the spring semester will help keep you from getting overwhelmed and stressed out again in the weeks ahead.
What do I mean by long-term planning? Well, it's planning for weeks -- perhaps even months -- ahead, rather than day-by-day or week-by-week. The very idea of long-term planning can be overwhelming, but I have a system that has helped me. Hopefully, it will help you as well.
First, if you have a curriculum guide for your district, pull it out. If you don't have one and can't get one, you'll want to print and review the essential elements or basic skills and concepts required by your state for your grade level and/or subject area. If you don't have a copy of those required elements, you most likely can find a copy on your state's Department of Education Web site.
Next, get or make a calendar for the six weeks (or nine weeks, if you are on the quarter system) grading period. Using a pencil, briefly write in the skills/concepts to be taught each week. For example, you might write "Poetry" during weeks 1-3, "Mystery Genre" during weeks 4-5, and "Final Draft/Review/Test" during week 6. Don't fill the entire box with your words; you'll be adding more information shortly.
Go back to the beginning of the calendar and pencil in specific skills for each day. For example, you might write "Intro Unit/ Vocabulary" on Monday, "Alliteration" on Tuesday, "Personification" on Wednesday, "Simile & Metaphor" on Thursday, "Repetition & Rhyme" on Friday, "Imagery" on Monday, and so on.
After you've penciled in the basic outline for each day of the grading period, go back and make sure that your skills and concepts flow from one day to the next. They should make logical sense, and each skill should build on previous skills. If you see that your list of skills seems to jump around without making any logical progression, go back and make some changes. (That's why everything is written in pencil!)
Now that you've established the basic outline, you can establish specific objectives for each day. When the objectives are planned, you can develop activities that will help your students meet those objectives. Write all the information in pencil, either on the calendar or on a separate page that goes with the calendar. (You never know when something -- a snowstorm, an assembly, an unrelated teachable moment -- might make it necessary for you to change something.)
The calendar now contains enough details for you to easily write lesson plans for each week. You already have your objectives and basic activities ready to go; you simply need to fill in the details of your lesson. As you plan your daily lessons, don't forget the basic lesson cycle: Introduce > Direct Instruction > Practice/Apply > Closure.
Having established a basic outline of what you plan to teach during the upcoming grading period, you now have something definite to refer to when writing detailed lesson plans. The outline is not meant to be the sum total of your lesson planning, but rather a starting point. By outlining topics, and skills and concepts in advance, you have established an overall plan. You know where you're going; you're not moving haphazardly from one day to the next without knowing your destination.
Think of long-term planning as planning for a trip. First, you decide on a starting point and a final destination. Then you plan all the details that will help you make the trip with the least amount of fuss possible.
Enjoy your vacation and have a happy holiday season.