Friday, September 19, 2008

Prep your Prep!

OK, this should help *everyone*, but it is ESSENTIAL for new teachers and teachers who have just changed grades.

Prep your prep... hunh?!?! Yes! This is a basic outline about how to be more productive during your prep time.

Now, in my neck of the woods, high school teachers get one out of four periods off for prep and elementary teachers get some odd combination of time when their class is in music, French, and/or the library.

No matter how much time you have, whether it is all at one time per day or only three or four days a week, being prepared for your prep time will help you be efficient (which translates into less time spent on work at home).

There are a ton of things to do during prep: photocopy, get the next lesson ready, mark papers, write tests, email, socialize, find resources, unit plans,... the list never really ends. How can we efficiently fit all of these tasks into a small prep period?

The answer is to get ahead. And have a plan.

Let's say, you're a brand new teacher, and you have to 'come up with' every single lesson for the entire year. Right now, you're treading water and have today's lessons done, tomorrow's lessons started, and you haven't even thought about the lessons for the day after. You're completely overwhelmed, and stressed to the max (this is reminding me of my placement days).

If you are that new teacher, how do you get to a place where you can actually relax every once in a while without sacrificing the week after you relax? It's easier than you think.

I say you need to plan two things at a time: plan your week, and plan your year. Start where you are and try to get ahead.

For your lessons, this weekend, you can plan Monday to Wednesday's lessons (yes, I know that's a lot of work, but we'll be able to ease off later). Then, Monday you can plan Thursday's lessons, and Tuesday you can plan Friday's (this part is after-hours, while you are maintaining your classroom life during prep).

Did you notice that it is Tuesday, and you've got the week's lessons done? Now you have time to get even further ahead with less stress. Also, by being ahead by a week, you can now plan your lessons as whole units, instead of individual lessons (more about this later).

Wednesday you're going to make your weekly plan for your prep time. I already mentioned what typically needs to get done during prep. You can more efficiently do your tasks if they are grouped together. For example, you can get your photocopying done in less time if you do all of it at once, instead of one to three times per day.

Your weekly plan could be:
  • Monday - Photocopy for the week, unit plan (class projects always due on Mondays)
  • Tuesday - Mark projects, unit plan
  • Wednesday - *Career related* email, online search for resources, unit plan
  • Thursday - Unit plan (entire prep period)
  • Friday - Errands (consult with teachers, meet with principal, gather resources from storage), unit plan (class tests and/or quizzes on Fridays, mark over the weekend)
Now, notice that you are unit planning everyday. Choose an amount of time to spend on the other task(s), about 15-20 minutes. Use a timer, and when it goes off, for the rest of your prep, work on your unit plans. By working on unit plans everyday, you'll be able to finish one or two a week. Then you'll really be ahead of the game. For the first couple of weeks, you'll still be planning the individual lessons for the next week on the weekends, but after a while, you'll have all of your units ready.

Please note that this is an example, I hope you will glean some ideas from this post that will help you be less stressed in your classroom.

Please comment or send your questions to me at

Have great day!

Valerie :)

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