The Big Picture

Tuesday, July 29, 2014
snapshot by Lori

The beginning of the school year can be incredibly overwhelming. From the physical space of your classroom to school supplies to your actual instruction, everything can feel incredibly daunting.

I'm not particularly crafty and I think that most of us have refined the art of back-to-school shopping and hitting those penny days at certain stores. I can however help when it comes to thinking about the bigger picture of your instruction. 

  • First of all, never be a singleton. I know many teachers like to ascribe to the close-my-door-and-just-teach philosophy, but I truly believe that is detrimental to your professional growth and your own sanity. When you share the planning load, school is just a happier place for everyone. I'm a huge believer in quality common planning time. 
Consider a big-picture planning template like this one where literature, targeted skills, and specific strategies are pre-planned. Notice that the two awesome teachers in this sample only write one lesson plan each but receive the benefit of two full lesson plans. Imagine what you can accomplish with 3 or 4 teachers in a six week period!
  • Secondly, plan to chunk the literature. Determine what literature you'll need to teach. This is typically a choice driven by the curriculum, but that doesn't mean you hit play and sit at your desk or spend 50 minutes popcorn reading. [Stab me in the eye with a dull pencil.] Chunk the text by measuring its literary worth. In other words, think about what objectives and skills can you teach with that particular chunk of text. If you find yourself choosing excerpts that are mostly plot driven, then you are not allowing for deep instruction. Granted, sometimes we have to have those plot pieces, but those should not take much of our time.
  • Finally, choose the best tool for the job and plan it ahead of time. For example, if you know you need to teach with a chunk of text where the focus will be word choice, what instructional strategy will you use? How will your kids get it? Alarm bells should sound when you hear yourself or your fellow teachers begin to use phrases like, "Well we're going to talk about diction..." That is easily translated to mean that you the teacher will talk and your students will artfully tune you out. Remember to keep your Mayday Menus handy for situations where you feel stuck. And always add to your bag of tricks. Keep your instruction fresh and new.
The days of summer are still upon us. Enjoy easy mornings while slowly sipping your coffee. Revel in the fact that your most difficult decision is perhaps which pair of flip flops you'll wear today. Use these last weeks to fully re-charge. You'll hit the ground running soon enough and you'll be so ready.

No comments