Plan for the Rest: Time-Saving Tips for Lesson Planning

Abraham Lincoln once said, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” It’s a reminder of how important preparation is to every great endeavor. Whether you’re planning a long trip, or strategizing before a big game, the preparation done beforehand can make all the difference. As teachers, we’re already well acquainted with the importance of planning. Most of our time is spent brainstorming lessons, preparing resources, and adapting schedules to maximize the potential for student growth. Not to brag, but we educators may be some of the best planners on Earth!

Then 2020 happened.

I don’t know about you but planning during 2020 has often felt like slip-sliding down a progressively steeper hill while repeatedly getting whacked in the head. The landscape is always changing, the tools are always evolving, and our best strategies have a way of unraveling before our eyes. Now we look ahead to 2021, and the path is still uncertain. Thankfully, none of us have to travel it alone.

Big Ideas

Van Andel Institute for Education (VAI) wants to empower educators and give them the resources they need to thrive in 2021. While we cannot prepare for every eventuality, we can still help educators find their footing as they prepare to enter the new year. To start, here are 5 considerations that will help you plan for the days ahead:

  1. Plan for Remote First: By planning for a remote environment, you can create consistent routines that will work even when you are back in person.
  2. Set Clear Goals-Prioritize: Identify what is most important to teach; what is going to have the biggest impact. Share clear and measurable learning targets with your students daily.
  3. Create Consistent Routines: To avoid learning whiplash, establish routines and daily schedules that will remain consistent at school or at home.
  4. Organize Content: Chunk your content into weekly or unit-long structures. Post your content daily in a clear and consistent manner on your learning platform (i.e. Google Classroom, Schoology, etc.). Check out this video for suggestions on how to organize your Google Classroom.
  5. Think Long-Term Projects: When students are engaged in a sustained project, changing locations will not be as big of a disruption to their learning since student ownership is at the heart of PBL. PBL also provides an authentic context to integrate multiple standards. Check out the Blue Apple free resources and projects for ideas.
Practical Tips

These are only a few of the ideas and strategies teachers can draw upon as they start planning for the new semester. Use planning templates and collaboration tools to help your class transition quickly when change inevitably happens. Reach out to teacher networks on social media or visit websites like EdCamp or Cult of Pedagogy to learn about the latest trends in education. You can even view VAI’s latest webinar and discover more strategies that will help you expect the unexpected. 2020 may have left us all spinning, but that doesn’t change the fact that nobody can plan like a teacher!

For now though, we hope you are all taking time to rest and recover this holiday season. Remember to teat yourself to your favorite dessert and enjoy a classic holiday-ish movie. These tips and strategies will still be waiting for you in January. So give yourselves and your students permission to enjoy the winter season. Take care of yourselves, and Happy Holidays from everyone at VAI!

We hope you are all staying healthy and safe during this difficult time. For more free educational resources, or ideas on how to promote healthy Social-Emotional Learning, simply follow this link!