Backwards Planning for School Year Success Part 1
My team’s year curriculum mapping and planning for next year is done! It feels fabulous to have this complete and ready to go! I’m ALL ABOUT backwards planning! Curriculum mapping and planning for the following school year is a huge part of our end of the year routine.
For an assortment of reasons, it is definitely in our best interest to be completely aware of exactly what we plan to do with our firsties while ensuring that we will “hit it all” during the school year. The best and most efficient way to do that is with backwards planning.
This is our year plan. In addition to our own personal copies, I put a poster-sized one in our common pod space.
This helps our resource team know exactly where we are at any point in the year. That’s an awesome way to make sure that our kiddos are working on the same or supporting skills regardless of with whom they’re working. RSP, Intervention, EL support, aides – everyone knows the standards of focus in first grade each week.
It also makes it easy to discuss things as a team while looking at the “big picture“. This is our piece of mind. This is our bible. This allows us to embrace our creativity while knowing we are also meeting the needs of all the data driven aspects of our job.
I’ve been asked a lot about year curriculum mapping and planning and how to do backwards planning. As the end of the school year approaches, it seems a perfect time to go into a little more detail about the process.
Backwards Planning for School Year Success – Part ONE
First of all – of all the things that you can do to organize your teacher work life, creating a year plan is absolutely at the top of the importance list.
What’s Guiding Your Instruction?
Oftentimes, districts purchase or create curriculum, assessments and pacing and send it all to school campuses with little regard of HOW teachers are going to “fit it all in”.
This results in a chasing our tails frenzy that leads to chaos and far too often, stressed teachers, ineffective lessons and a feeling that “I wish I had done better.”
Over the past couple of years I have spoken with a lot of teachers who have things like this to say:
“I’m just trying to get through the year. There is just so much to do!”
“Every time I turn around, there is another mandate from the District. I can’t keep up.”
“I don’t have time to teach my kids to read! We spend so much time on the stuff our district tells us to cover.”
“By the end of the year, I feel like I missed so much.”
Teachers who haven’t taken the time to plan their year, get to know their standards, and ensure they have given themselves time to teach ALL of the standards struggle immensely with trying to squeeze in what the assessments ask of them and wishing they had more time to just teach.
When I ask teachers about their greatest obstacle, the resounding answer is
I get that. Teaching is not a science. It’s an art. Creative and passionate people teach. Their goal is to inspire, motivate and create lifelong learners. The pressure of less than fabulous mandated curriculum, assessments and schedules that come from outside our classrooms bring havoc on the creative soul of a teacher.
But, by dedicating a day or two to curriculum planning, teachers can simplify their lives while creating a much more peaceful way to address all that is expected of them. It lifts that scheduling load for the year. Less time panicking, stressing and catching up = more time for creative and passionate lessons.
Know Your Standards
You have to start here. Not only should you know your standards, but you also need to be aware of the standards that follow your grade level. Does the buck stop with you? Have you been teaching more than you need to on a specific subject?
Let’s look at the standard for capitalization (L.2.a) for example:
- Kinder L.K.2.a – Students must capitalize the first word of a sentence and the word, I.
- 1st Grade L.1.2.a – Students must capitalize dates and names of people.
- 2nd Grade L.2.2.a – Students must capitalize holiday, product and geographic names.
- 3rd Grade L.3.2.a – Students must capitalize appropriate words in titles.
It’s important to note that teachers should spend time on ensuring their students master the standard requirements for their particular grade level. That way the following grade level teacher doesn’t have to go back and teach the prior year’s standard. And, although it can’t hurt to introduce more complex aspects of a concept, there is little value to wasting precious time teaching something that will be covered in-depth the following year.
If teachers don’t spend time getting to know their own standards, they may waste valuable time covering things they simply don’t need to cover.
Our time is valuable. We need to spend it where it is needed.
That’s the VERY cool thing about common core. The design began with high school standards. They determined the essential things that should be known by graduating seniors so that they will be career and/or college ready. Then they worked their way backwards, all the way to kindergarten.
So, if we look at our standards as building blocks for the next grade level and understand the depth that we need to cover, those 71 first grade ELA standards are a little less overwhelming.
Yes, there are 71 first grade ELA standards. That’s a lot. When you have 71 things to do in just one aspect of your life, you need a plan!
It seems an overwhelming task. But once you dig in, you’ll find it’s not so bad. AND you emerge on the other side with a sense of confidence and peace! Not to mention a clear view of your goals.
Ready for More Backwards Planning?
Are you ready to dig in? Come back tomorrow and I’ll share the steps for using backwards planning to curriculum map your school year. It’s such a fantastic way to help your school year be even more successful (and run smoothly)!