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Saturday, September 21, 2013

Long-Term Planning

I have always been the organized type. Some of my friends from university will tell you that I am one of the most organized people they know. I like to think that organization is a desirable trait in a teacher, especially in terms of long-term planning.

Organization Example A: I am an extreme colour-coder. 

Since beginning teaching, however, I have found it difficult to plan and organize for the long-term. There are a few reasons for this:

1) I was unable to do much planning in the summer before moving here. I didn't know exactly what classes I would be teaching, what curriculum I would be following, what had been done in the past, what my co-teacher would want to do, what my room would look like, etc. Several of my friends were planning out units and lessons and going through their rooms and getting organized all throughout the summer - I didn't have this luxury!

2) Co-teaching: The other music teacher at my school and I are "co-teaching" the grade 9 and grade 10 music classes right now - aka, we're doing the same thing with both of our classes. I like the idea of co-teaching, but it makes planning somewhat difficult. So far I have found that it's hard to do a lot of the planning, timing, assessments, etc. together - it seems to make more sense for one of us to do something and then share it with the other person. My co-teacher has also been teaching for several years at this school, so he knows what he's doing, and he's quite laid back. I'm the complete opposite - I'm in my first teaching job and have a very type A personality, so I want to plan everything in advance (then adjust along the way as needed!)

I would rather take the time in advance to prepare a unit and have an idea of where I'm going with the students instead of taking the time each day to try and plan for the next day. 

Here's the problem: my school has an assessment calendar online for the parents and students to access. No student should have more than 3 pieces of assessment in one day (test, quizzes, etc. - this does not include assignments they've had time to work on in class). To ensure this, all faculty are expected to enter their assessments onto this calendar. Our due date for the assessment calendar was this Thursday, and we were expected to have all of our assessments for the first quarter (until November) on the calendar. AHH! My department tends to fly a bit under the radar (go Creative Arts!), and we don't adhere to the assessment calendar as formally as other classes such as Math and English. However, I still feel guilty that I haven't entered all of my assessments yet - but I don't yet know when or how I will be assessing most classes!

The grade 8s are my one exception. I sat down a couple of weekends ago and planned out my first unit for the grade 8 music class that I am teaching. The unit is "RHYTHM", and will take us to the end of quarter one. I mapped out objectives, formative and summative assessments, and even did a lesson-by-lesson breakdown of how we were going to get there. So far, two weeks later, we have stuck exactly to schedule, and I couldn't be happier. I know where we are going and what I am trying to get them to accomplish, and we're having a lot of fun in the process. Their assessments are firmly on the calendar, even though they don't technically know about them yet!

Today is Saturday, my last day of the weekend. I woke up early and managed not to fall back asleep, and have spent a lazy morning watching tv, cooking pancakes, etc. I am now sitting down with my laptop and determined to map out a couple more units (including assessment dates!!) for the grade 7 beginning band class, the grade 9 class, and the grade 11 IB music class. I'm trying to implement the backward-by-design type of assessment, where I think about the objectives and assessments first, and then create the steps to get there.

Any advice for a new teacher on long-term planning? Do you believe in long-term planning, or do you prefer to plan lessons on a short-term scale?

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