Teaching shortages often mean missing out on your planning period. The rare times you do have a prep, it’s important to maximize your time. Today I’ll show you some time saving techniques to make the most of your time.
Start with a Schedule
The easiest way to start making the most of your time is to set a schedule for your planning period. Decide what it will look like.
Here are a few options:
Work in time blocks
Pick a certain day for each task
Batch lesson plan
Work in Time Blocks
Time blocks mean to break apart your prep time similar to how you would break down your reading block. What activities would you like to complete within these chunks of time?
Let’s say you have a 50 minute planning period. Maybe you know grading papers takes you forever to finish so you want to use most of your time for this. Let’s assign 20 minutes.
Next you’ll want another 20 minutes to work on writing lessons.
The remaining 10 minutes can be for checking email, writing a message to parents or updating a class newsletter, or running some copies (and don’t forget using the restroom)!
You can also mix up your time blocks to be different according to the day. Maybe somedays you have to have a PLC (professional learning community meeting) and this is considered your prep period. Sit down and think about what is realistic for you. Do you need to spend time changing out centers?
If you sit down and create a list of all the tasks you’d like to accomplish during your prep, then you can assign time limits to each one. Some tasks might need to carry over to more than one day (like lesson planning). Using this list will help you set up your time blocks.
Pick a Certain Day for Each Task
This is very similar to time blocking except you’ll spend the majority of your teacher planning period doing one task. The drawback to this system is that if your prep is canceled or a holiday falls during a weekday, you will have to adjust your schedule.
The bonus of batch lesson planning is that it works in your favor. On average it takes your brain 23 minutes to refocus after switching tasks. That means it could take you half your prep time to regain your thoughts if you are changing tasks!
Here are a couple of options to get you thinking:
Mondays: Prepping Centers
Tuesdays: Filing and Grading
Wednesdays: Lesson Planning
Thursdays: Lesson Planning
Tuesdays: Lesson Planning
Wednesdays: Email and Newsletter
Fridays: Prepping Centers
Batch Lesson Plan
One of my favorite ways to plan is to batch my lesson plans. This idea saves me so much time! When I first started batch planning I was hooked! It takes some time initially but once you have a template for your lesson plans and a format for your lessons, it is a breeze.
To start batching, decide on a subject. It is easiest to stick with one subject for a length of time rather than planning out your week at once. For example, I would write all my reading lessons for 2 weeks. Then I would write all my math lessons for 2 weeks. I would then continue this process for each subject.
Another option is to plan just the introductions of your lessons for that subject. Then plan the student activities. Last, plan the assessment.
The key to batching is that you are working on a similar task for the scheduled amount of time.
As a teacher you don’t even need to find distractions - they will find you. Once you check your email you will get lost in replying or deleting or completing a task the sender wants you to do before the end of your work day.
For this reason, I recommend checking your email outside of your planning period. I often check mine at the beginning of the work day, right before lunch, and at the end of the day.
Talking to others can also be a big distraction. Before you know it your entire prep period is gone! If you like chatting with your coworkers, maybe make an effort to spend 5-10 minutes or save the conversation for lunchtime. If your goal is to leave work on time each day, you will have to make a few changes.
When we are disorganized we can spend way to much time looking for things. This is another distraction from getting what we need done during our planning period. “Where did I put those copies?” can be a common conversation if you haven’t set up your classroom with a system that works for you. Try a small organizer to put your copies until you are ready to copy them on their designated day.
Staying focused and having a plan is key to maximizing your prep time. I know these tips have really helped me get a lot done and leave work each day feeling accomplished and organized.