Sorry for the long post, but I thought this might be useful for the new teachers who are trying to figure out how to pace their lesson plans throughout the year so as not to miss something that should have been taught before the spring standardized tests. I don’t know about you all, but I have always used my district’s pacing guides as a starting point for deciding what lessons I would teach on what days. While it is great to know which chapter in math I should be teaching during which weeks, I always take it a step further and have a planning calendar of my own that I can write in, cross off, and move around when those crazy schedule changes come up!
First, start with a plain academic year calendar. The boxes don’t need to be super large, but I do like to map out my Reading, Math, Science, and Social Studies on one calendar so it is all in one place. You can find a free monthly calendar about anywhere online.
After printing out the entire year, I sit down with a school dates calendar and mark down days off, vacation days, early dismissals, state testing, parent conferences, field trips, and any additional important items I might need to be aware of as I am deciding what to teach when.
Then, I take my school’s pacing chart and write down what I am supposed to teach during which weeks. I lightly place this information in my calendar as I will be hitting it up again later as the time gets closer. I used to plan out each chapter lesson for specific days far ahead of time, but I found out that if I was differentiating correctly, I might be able to skip something – or a harder skill could take up more time, so I added in the next step below.
Before beginning the new chapter, I always give a pretest from the basal (or even make up one using 1-3 of the HARDEST questions from each section I am slated to teach, with the pretest being able to be completed in ONE class period). Some people feel this is a waste of an entire teaching day, but I find I can usually modify my lesson planning map to skip something based on the results of the pretest and also be able to pull small groups by levels very easily by knowing what each student already knows about the upcoming work.
After quickly grading the pretests, I then item analyze the results and if 80% of the class received correct answers on a certain lesson in the chapter, we can skip that (knowing which students I will need to work with in small groups on those same skills who did not understand them). Now I know which lessons still need to be taught and which can be skipped (sometimes you don’t get to skip, but you might be surprised as to which students actually know more than you thought about different subjects).
Last – I start adding the specific chapter lessons into my calendar so that when I sit down to do lesson plans, I already know exactly which lesson and standard I will be teaching. Makes it so much easier for easing my worry about whether I will cover everything in time for the spring testing season, and I can take time where time is a little more flexible. I keep all my calendars together in a sheet protector, which then hangs from an o-ring on my lesson planning crate so it is always easily accessible!
How do you plan ahead for the year to know that you will hit everything in time? We love more ideas from veterans too and thanks in advance for sharing!