Smart Tips for Long-term Instructional Planning

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Unforeseen events can throw your long-term instructional plan off schedule. Follow these best practices to make your plan more successful.
Effective teaching starts with effective planning. Without a well thought-out long-term instructional plan, your classroom will drift unevenly through the year—paced too slowly one week, crammed for time the next.

Plan Around the Academic Calendar

When scheduling your units, pay close attention to the school calendar. You’ll need to consider scheduled days off, such as spring break, holidays, and professional development days. Know when half days are scheduled—your students will have reduced class time, so avoid giving exams on those days. Also be sure to account for final grade submission deadlines.

Consider Major School Events/activities

Effective teaching starts with effective planning. Without a well thought-out long-term instructional plan, your classroom will drift unevenly through the year—paced too slowly one week, crammed for time the next.

Successful teachers backwards-plan their curriculum through the year, each term, and unit-to-unit. But long-term instructional planning has inherent pitfalls that make it challenging to create a plan that doesn’t break down at some point:
**The Physics teacher doesn’t communicate her day-long field trip
**Winter brings an unprecedented number of snow days
**There’s a power outage the day of your unit test

No matter how thorough your planning, unforeseen events will frustrate your efforts to follow the curriculum plan. But there are steps you can take to reduce the chances that your instructional plan will get thrown off the rails. Follow these best practices as you create your teaching plan for the next term or academic year.

Plan Around the Academic Calendar

When scheduling your units, pay close attention to the school calendar. You’ll need to consider scheduled days off, such as spring break, holidays, and professional development days. Know when half days are scheduled—your students will have reduced class time, so avoid giving exams on those days. Also be sure to account for final grade submission deadlines.

Consider Major School Events/activities

Be aware of assemblies and day-long field trips that other teachers are planning. When planning exams and class projects, plan around major competitions or performances that could demand your students’ time and energy. There will always be some kind of event going on, but you should avoid colliding with the major events that will affect a large percentage of your students.

Collaborate With Other Teachers

Veteran teachers are a terrific resource for newer educators, because they have a lot of best practices and lessons learned that they’ve acquired over the years. Every school has its own set of pitfalls to avoid, and curriculum planning is much more effective and efficient when teachers collaborate. Planning together also helps to maintain consistency across disciplines and grade levels.

Be sure to communicate any of your own class plans that will affect other teachers’ curriculum planning. They’ll need to plan around your class trips.

Consider Implementing Interdisciplinary Thematic Units

Interdisciplinary teaching provides a meaningful way for students to master the content, while understanding how the subject matter applies to the real world. Studies have shown that interdisciplinary thematic units also increase students’ motivation and improve learning.

When you’re developing your yearly instructional plan, work with a team of teachers to identify opportunities for leading thematic units together.

Build Flexibility Into Your Plan

You know what they say about the best-laid plans of mice and men. Inevitably, your instructional plan will get thrown off-track. Whether it’s a snow day (or several snow days), unplanned fire drill, your own absence, or simply a highly distracted classroom, expect to adjust your long term curriculum plans throughout the term.

Build flexibility into your planning, so that you can easily adjust when the unexpected occurs.

Use the Right Planning Tool

The right tool makes all the difference for effective curriculum planning. You need a tool that can give you visibility into all of the calendars and other teachers’ schedules that affect your own planning.

Plandisc’s circular planning tool lets all of the faculty in your department, grade, or school provide input into the same plan, so that you can see all of the events that you need to plan around.

Already widely used in Scandinavia by organizations that rely on strategic planning, Plandisc provides a format that’s a natural fit for educators. Because the circular plan naturally reflects the calendar year, planning becomes an easy-to-use visual experience. And the multiple rings of the plan allow you to plot out your overlapping events—lessons, exams, class trips, and more—in a layout that’s easy to understand at a glance.

Best yet, you can share Plandisc with other teachers and collaborate with them on the same plan. When snow days or unexpected events occur, you can quickly update the plan in real-time.

A Grade-A Instructional Plan

The most successful teachers invest into long-term instructional planning. Although there’s no way to plan a curriculum without some bumps in the road, these best practices will help you create a robust, flexible curriculum for the year that will help guarantee you and your students a successful year.

Plandisc’s interactive, real-time planning tool is a major part of a successful instructional plan. See how Plandisc can help you coordinate your curriculum, and play around with a live template. Like it? Get Plandisc for free!

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