July 2015 Wrap Up

Highlights of the Month

Top Posts

Top 5 Posts of July:

5.  What is Your Reading Style?

4.  Analyzing Fiction and Nonfiction Strategies

3.  How to Begin your PrePlanning

2.  Planning Tools

1.  The Reading I Didn’t Do and Classroom Bootcamp 

Books I’ve Read:

Classroom FYI:


How to Begin Your PrePlanning

My preplanning work station.

My preplanning work station.

Some may disagree with me, but I would rather give up a bit of my vacation time to work on a project on my own terms, in a comfortable environment, and a pace of my choosing.  I work better when I can control the amount of distractions, or at least the types of distractions, as opposed to having to be disrupted for a full-schedule of meetings and professional development sessions.  Trust me, there will be plenty of those over the school year.  I’m also the type of person who tends to be restless, so if I’ve taken care of my other priorities, I am glad to tackle the next stack.

Don’t get me wrong: I don’t necessarily enjoy having to “work” on curriculum and planning when I should be taking in the sunshine and relaxed atmosphere of summer.  I need to be in the right frame of mind.  So how does that happen?

Here are some tips for getting the ball rolling on your own preplanning schedule:

1.  Make a list of ALL the things that you want to accomplish.

Trust me, this won’t overwhelm you.  It will actually make the process that much easier.  Consider this a “brain dump” and don’t beat yourself up if you eventually cross things off your list.  You may find that once you begin, some tasks won’t be necessary.  It’s always better to have more and cut back than vice versa.

2.  Start with the easiest tasks first.

This will get you warmed up to the idea of the larger tasks.  For myself, I started by simply updating the dates on my syllabi and annual plan/pacing guide.  If you’re like me and will be teaching the same content area/grade levels, this is about as simple as it gets.  Once I started updating my dates for one class, I started considering which texts I was going to be using.  I then took out the text books and started narrowing down, refining what I would and would not include in the syllabus.  From there, I was able to simply cut and paste.  Abracadabra: updated syllabus and pacing guide!  Just before starting this blog post, I realized that I had checked off almost ALL of my tasks!

Updated To Do List

3.  Pace out your to-dos.

Don’t try to complete the entire list all in one sitting; you’ll burn yourself out and make the process  painful as opposed to enjoyable.  We all know when our threshold has been met, so do what you can until it’s no longer enjoyable.

4.  Google your key terms.

If you’re feeling uncreative or become stuck in a planning rut, use the internet as a resource for both your content and your motivation.  Sometimes seeing how other teachers have addressed the same topic or text will open your eyes to new possibilities.  Also, don’t forget the power of social media!  I find a lot of inspiration from the teachers and administrators in my Twitter #PLC.

5.  Enjoy the process!

Remember how you felt when you first started teaching: the eagerness of getting into your OWN classroom, planning your OWN curriculum.  It’s still in there somewhere.  Allow yourself the opportunity to explore new options for your planning.  Research a new instructional or classroom management strategy. The benefit of starting early is that you don’t have to rush.

One last tip: reward yourself each time you cross another item off your to-do list.  You’ve completed a major accomplishment and should view it as such.



Annual Plans

I’m a confessed curriculum nerd, so when I was asked to create an annual plan (otherwise known as a pacing guide) for my three classes this fall, I didn’t look at the request as work, but more or less like a fun, organizational activity.  The format for our annual plan was already selected by our administration, and while I understand the one-size-fits-all mindset might work in some instances, I was less than excited about working with this template.

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Excel and I have never really gotten along and I’ve always preferred to work with Microsoft Word when I had the chance.  I’ve had to watch a few Youtube videos in order to make my annual plan come to fruition, but here are a few excerpts:

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Here is a link to my completed document: Yearly Course Outline English IV

When I think about the purpose of an annual plan/pacing guide, I think about the useful nature of the document for the teacher.

1.  First and foremost, it helps streamline and prioritize the curriculum.  Most teachers will spend the vast majority of their summer vacations researching and organizing units or activities within the unit.  I moved up an entire grade level which caused me to add four completely new text titles because I will be working with the same students two years in a row.  With all of this brainstorming and new materials, I need to be able to reign in the content into an applicable manner.

2.  Identify timelines for how you will be able to cover the vast amount of content into a relatively short amount of time.

3.  Assess the new standards.  For myself and those other teachers who work in states where the new Common Core standards will be implemented, we realize that it’s now time to put up or shut up about our understanding of the requirements of the new standards.  We have been through workshops, read articles, Think-Pair-Shared with colleagues and administrators, and now it is time to put them into action.  Before you can truly understand where you’re going (Pacing Guide) you must be able to truly understand the what and how to implement the standards.

4.  Matching how much your mouth can hold versus how much your belly can.  In my ridiculous method, I am simply trying to say that the pacing guide is used to help trim the fat.  If I could have the entire school year, minus vacations, assemblies, testing, etc, I would add about another three to five novels to my curriculum.  I have utilizing four main texts: selections from The Canterbury Tales, Macbeth, Frankenstein, and 1984.  If I could, I would ask my students to read John Green’s Will Grayson, Will Grayson, Kate Chopin’s The Awakening, and Amy Tan’s Joy Luck Club.  I know that I can’t afford to do this, go over my time budget, so realistically the pacing guide lets me know how much room I have left on my plate.

Question: How do you utilize your annual plan/pacing guide?