We all know that the curriculum is HUGE and despite current moves to ‘simplify’ the curriculum it is likely to remain so. There isn’t much in the English Curriculum that doesn’t need to be there! Trying to fit everything in and make sure you are covering all of your bases in English can be quite a challenge. Planning and programming can spiral out of control until you find yourself surrounded by paper or with 900 internet tabs open trying, in vain, to get it all in hand. But never fear, there is an answer!
You Need a System!
While ever you are trying to reinvent the wheel every time you write a unit of work for English you will find yourself back in the same position. That is down the rabbit hole of downloadable lesson plans that usually gets you nowhere or sitting up until 2am hoping that all of that work will make you feel in control. So, the alternative is to think about what’s important. How can you structure your programming so that you cover everything you need to in a way that is systematic, repeatable and sharable? After all, being able to share the load with other teachers is a brilliant way to get your life back!
Step 1 – Decide on your curriculum requirements
What does your jurisdiction or district expect you to be teaching? Examine the curriculum and decide what the most critical parts of it are for your students. Don’t assume that you can just throw your students’ grade level work at them. It is important to make sure that you are pitching learning at the right level for your students. If you find yourself in the position of working with children not at grade level (and chances are you will) have a look at the scope and sequence of the subject area you are teaching. Where are your students ‘up to’?
Step 2 – Think about the tasks, activities and lessons
Think about the tasks/activities or lessons that you can use to each the skills and build the knowledge you need to. This is where all of those fabulous lesson ideas from your favourite Facebook Pages come in. Make a list of the ones that you think are going to meet the needs of your students.
Step 3 – Decide on a teaching model
The gradual release of responsibility model is my particular favourite.
Step 4 – Group lessons
Group your lessons/activities into logical categories depending on how often they need to be conducted (daily, weekly, once per unit).
Examples of Daily tasks might include:
- Knowledge and skills reviews
- Sentence structure review
- Vocabulary quiz
- Spelling revision
- Fast write
- Checking for understanding
Examples of weekly tasks might include:
- Weekly quiz
- Weekly writing task
- Extended vocabulary task
Examples of once per unit tasks might be:
- Building background knowledge
- Activating prior knowledge
- Formative and summative assessment tasks
- Writing/recording tasks
- Explicit Teaching Lessons about core content
Step 5 – Create a Table
Use Word or Excel to create a table for our planning or us the template provided.
Step 6 – Plan your Unit of Work
Organise your content into your grid according to your teaching model and curriculum requirements.
You can download the complete planning document seen above here.
The advantage of creating a system and sticking with it for a predetermined length of time is that you get to reflect on what is working well for your students and adjust this for next time. It also reduces cognitive load for both you and your students. For you it means that you don’t have to constantly create different ways to teach your content. For your students, it creates a predictable pattern of experiences that allow them to be secure in what comes next. Constant change can be draining for everyone!
Creating a system doesn’t mean that teaching and learning is boring. You will vary how you do things slightly each time and how much time you choose to spend on each step depending on your students’ goals.
I have found this style of teaching to be a game changer and I hope that you can too! My hope is that you can use the above steps to ease your teaching load. If you want to know a bit more about how I use this approach to teach language, text knowledge and writing you can find out more here.
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