You probably wear more than a few hats at school. This means you’re doing a lot of context switching or jumping between tasks and tools. For example, students come in and out of your classroom during your plan period. You plan, get interrupted, and start again. Or you’re grading, answering parent emails, and organizing your desk at the same time. Context switching is mentally and physically draining. You can’t do your best work when your attention scatters in so many places. You end up working more because you never finish a task. Teaching feels burdensome, and you are working 24/7. Caitlin and Jessica, founders of EB Academics and former middle school ELA teachers, felt this way. And they did something about it: batch planning. Here’s how to get started with batch lesson planning.
What is batch planning?
Batch lesson planning is an efficient process where you plan several weeks or months of instruction at one time. Teachers who batch lesson plan share that they no longer take work home. They don’t think about school over the weekend and “The Sunday Scaries” is a distant memory. Another benefit? Caitlin and Jessica find that lesson plans are stronger when teachers batch plan. Here are their tips for getting started.
1. Set a date on your calendar, stick to it, and eliminate all distractions.
I know. Easier said than done. We are used to being readily available to everyone all the time (thanks, smartphone!). If you’re going to reap the benefits of batch planning, find a quiet space where no one will bother you. Set boundaries with family and friends and stick to them. Explain that you will have more time to spend with everyone if you take this time to plan now.
2. Decide what you will plan, how much time you will spend, and gather everything you need.
Caitlin and Jessica recommend going into a batch planning session with clear goals. How much do you want to plan? If batch planning is new, try two weeks. If you have the time, consider planning the next 30-90 days. There’s no perfect way to batch plan. Whatever you decide, stick with it. Then gather all of your materials: lesson planner, school calendar, teaching materials, Common Core Standards app, computer, workbooks, colored pens, etc. The last thing you want to do is get up and leave your workspace because you forgot something. It’s easier to batch plan if you stay in one place.
3. Set-up your technology so it works for you and surround yourself with treats and tunes.
If you have ten tabs open on your browser and you are getting email notifications, you will get distracted. If you can, turn off your phone. Fill up your water bottle and grab your favorite snacks. Caitlin and Jessica like playing instrumental music that gets them into the planning zone. They like to light a scented candle. Do whatever is going to help you feel comfortable and energized to plan. Decide how you will treat yourself when you’re finished. Maybe you’ll order your favorite takeout or watch an episode of a TV show you enjoy or nap.
4. Get out your school calendar to see school breaks, field trips, and other events.
This helps you get to clear on how much time you have to teach. For example, you will not start teaching a novel when you’re about to go on a break.
5. Consider the units you teach and schedule them in your planner.
It’s important to have the big picture in mind before you batch plan. When during the year do you typically teach a unit? What units work best at the beginning of the year rather than at the end?
6. Pick your standards, so you know what students need to learn and be able to do and start planning.
Before you think about the activities students will do, get clear on the standards you’re going to teach in these two weeks to 90 days. Then plan activities. Jessica and Caitlin swear by the Into, Through, Beyond approach. Your first lesson is where you will “hook students” and get them excited about the unit. It’s a chance to activate prior knowledge and pre-assess. The next few lessons are your “through” activities. Rinse and repeat. If your students love Socratic Seminars, use them more than once! Finally, your “beyond” lesson comes at the end. This is where you give students an activity where they can show what they learned, and you can assess.
More tips to consider:
- Schedule a few floating days that you leave blank in your planner. This gives you wiggle room if an activity takes longer or there’s an unexpected schedule change.
- Photocopy everything you need for the following week on Friday before you leave school. This way, you can truly leave school at school and enjoy a restful and fun weekend.