Mission Impossible? Teacher Planning Time

I called Mike Goldstein for a question about charter seats and wound up talking about teacher time.

Mike’s obsession (and it’s a good one) is how to develop the best rookie teachers around.  The match teacher residency does a great job of this; we hire their grads as fast as we can.

The conversation started with one of Mike’s recent posts where he mentioned feedback from one of our principals that match resident teachers were awesome rookies but didn’t have a repertoire of joy factors moves.

My take is that the Lemov set of J-factor moves are easily teachable but the larger issue for the MTR grads was not planning hooks.

Mike threw out the premise that most rookie teachers spend too much time planning.  They over-think and over-create when the time could instead be spent on tutoring and parent contact.  He recommended rookie teachers establish a planning budget and stick to it.  If necessary they should plan in a set time period and head for the copier when the egg timer rings.

I love the last idea because deadlines and constraints help most of us.  There may also be a hidden point that the ten thousand hours of deliberate practice necessary for excellence are not necessarily reached in the desperate bleary eyed search for youtube videos of your content and new fonts for your worksheet.

There’s another planning challenge, changing the way teachers use their planning time.  McTighe and Wiggins nailed this when they described activity planning vs. end in mind planning in Understanding by Design.  Their macro view of the planning challenge (most of us are activity planners) still holds true.  What does end in mind planning look like in the incredibly pressing day to day lives of our teachers?

KIPP MA teachers have an average of 2-3 hours of planning built into their day.  This is way more than teachers are allotted at many other KIPP schools.  Bless the great funding in MA. However these 2-3 hours are far from sacred planning time.  This is also a time for meetings with coaches, copying,  discipline follow up, responding to boatloads of email, etc.   This time is also frequently gobbled up by the bane of our teacher’s existence: coverage*.

If that 2-3 hours is actually 60 minutes that can be devoted to actual lesson planning, what should a teacher do during that time?

Here’s a thought.

Write the aim, criteria for success, assessment                                     20 minutes

Create the guided and independent practice                                         15 minutes

Scripting explanations and questions                                                      15 minutes

Developing the hook                                                                                     5 minutes

Figuring out lesson logistics (groupings, materials)                             5 minutes

Please take some swings at this pinata.


* There’s a whole future post on how we plan to tackle this.



4 Responses to “Mission Impossible? Teacher Planning Time”

  1. Charles Says:

    I look forward to the follow up post. Planning for self-contained elementary is a different animal and I’m thinking about how I will recalibrate my gears to run on a 60 minute track with 3-5 laps rather than a unique 6 hours long course.
    I think one on one parent & student interaction can be intimidating to rookie teachers and so there may be some overcompensation in planning.

  2. Paul Friedmann - teacher at Brooke Charter School - Roslindale Says:

    I actually almost never plan a lesson during the school day. Occasionally, I’ll finish a worksheet or something like that, but I find it too hard to do creative and thoughtful work like that with all the other commotion around. I use planning time to grade, collaborate with colleagues in thinking about upcoming lessons and units, answer email, read lesson plans, assemble materials, return communication, etc.

    I save time with parent communication by making calls (non-emergency) while walking home – I can usually make 2-3 calls in 10-15 minutes if they are routine.

    Of course, all of this means that planning is happening after my 2 year old goes to bed…and I’m heading into my 9th year of teaching and have been teaching the same subject for all of those years. With Common Core coming around the bend, my curriculum is changing in a big way next year (along with baby #2). We’ll see if I can manage it.

    That being said, I think most of my lesson creation time is spent on creating/tweaking worksheets and writing a plan to share with a colleague.

    Also, I think the hook deserves more time…I think it’s crucial in setting up a good lesson. Of course, I’m pretty opposed to I/we/you lesson plan orthodoxy.

    I guess the last thing I think is that if you spend more time with solid lesson planning, there are less needs for parent communications and tutoring…because the kids are learning more the first time, and kids are generally happier. Also, it helps to build time into the day for teachers to meet with kids for quick review…negating the need to tutor outside of class or provide high dosage tutoring.

    BTW, I almost never cover other teachers’ classes. That’s the glory of associate teachers.

  3. mrdolan Says:

    Paul- There should be a whole separate post about teaching, leading, and parenting. Thanks for sharing your other ideas as well. We definitely need to learn more about the associate teacher program.

    Charles-it will be fascinating to see how your planning alters in the shift to middle school. The analogy is spot on I think.

  4. JAC Says:

    Oh, how I wish GP and IP could be prepped in a mere 15 minutes! As a first-year math teacher I spent A LOT of time creating problems from scratch, which can be very tedious.

    Regarding planning in general: my KIPP school is test-driving a radically new schedule next year, where each teacher has one single 80-minute period free for four days of the week, and the fifth day is totally open for planning. That is, each content area meets for slightly longer blocks, but only four days of the week instead of five. The rationale is that we hope it will make planning more sustainable for teachers.

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