What Summer Can Do

by Leon Troyer

Summer: Time to be outside, focusing on something other than the next day’s classes. But fall, and the first days of school, will be here soon. Leon shares how he made lesson planning less overwhelming by using the summer to plan ahead. Now, says Leon, is the time to invest in teaching more creatively and effectively later.

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Once school starts, it is really difficult to have time to sit down and creatively think through some ways to do this. You’re so busy with lesson planning for the next week or day, grading, student issues.

After I was on the on the job, was hired, was in the classroom for the first time—before school started—I had about five or so subjects I needed to teach. It looked kind of overwhelming. And the first thing I did, I looked at each subject individually—looked at how many chapters there were, divided that by the number of days I had to teach. That gave me a rough estimate for how many days I had for each chapter. And certain days, you know, test one needs to be done by this day, test two by this day. Look at the content of the chapter, how many pages were there, was this chapter probably going to be more difficult than this chapter and then accordingly I shifted the number of days I have per chapter. I do that with Google calendar but you could use a paper calendar as well. As you start lesson planning for that chapter you know how many days you have and you can quickly, you know, divide the content into appropriate size lessons. It was so helpful to be able to—when one chapter was done—okay I’ve got this many days for this chapter how am I going to tackle this content in these six days that I have.

So after the calendar is done I make sure that I read through everything as much as possible. I read the entire text book. If you’re using curriculum tests, I like skimming over the tests and quizzes just so that I’m not as a teacher surprised by the content that they’re going to be testing on—so that I know what to cover and how to cover it. If I do cut out content—you want to know what’s on the test and how to test accordingly. Or maybe you really enjoy a certain unit and you want to add content. You want to have that planned out before the year starts as well. I like doing all the major projects—thinking those through really well before the school year starts. So if you have a poster project you want to do or a big research project or a group activity project that will last a few weeks, think through that. Write down the ideas. Outline it as much as possible before school starts. In preparing for science class especially, it’s always a good idea to do the demonstrations and the object lessons by yourself or with a safe audience before you present the content to the classroom. You think you’ve planned everything through and you know all the supplies that you need, but invariably as you actually are physically doing it, you remember, oh ya, it would be really nice to have an extra cup here or I need a roll of paper towels or this food coloring doesn’t show up against this background or whatever the case may be.

Ideally it would be really nice if you could do a lot of the lesson plans or most of them but that doesn’t really happen or is impractical in most cases. But I found it is very helpful to at least think through some or as many of the hooks and introductions for the lessons that you can. And throughout the summer as you’re planning your class, maybe you have several days or weeks to kind of mull over a good theme or topic for this unit. If nothing else at least have the first lesson in each unit planned out and think of the hook or the introduction that you’ll use, that possibly you could kind of recycle or reuse throughout that chapter.

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