#1 Teacher Summer Must-Do: A Step by Step Guide to Easily Plan your Upcoming School Year

What is on your teacher summer to-do list? This ONE thing will help you have an easy & smooth upcoming school year.

Tell me I’m not the only one- during the school year, I have tasks I keep pushing over to summer.

I like to call it my, “I’ll work on that this summer” list.

But then summer comes and golly gee! My list is about a mile long. There are more to-dos than there are days in the season. Then something else happens: while I am trying to check off things from my to-do list, I get caught in the rabbit hole that is social media, Pinterest, and Teachers Pay Teachers. I see these ideas that lead to other ideas and before I know it, my original ideas have ideas of their own!

So, how can you manage this without getting overwhelmed?

One word: PLAN

Yes, this word usually sucks the life out of educators (I can feel you rolling your eyes!). But having a clear and organized plan can help you get to your to-dos and implement rest and relaxation into your summer!

Take a look at how I use a plan to tackle my summer to-dos!

1. Decide what is a priority

    Is it a priority to re-do your entire classroom decor? Maybe not. There is nothing wrong with this, but when you want to get a lot done during the summer for your instruction, this task may be best to put on the back burner.

    This is especially important If you’re like me and are committed to taking care of yourself with some down time and relaxation during the summer.

    So make a plan, decide what your priorities are and go for it!

    2. Consider a “Year at a Glance” Plan

      In the summer? Well, yes, if you would like to stay on track and organized during the school year.

      I speak with teachers all year long who are panicked about finishing the curriculum or are panicked about teaching all of their standards in the amount of time they have. My first question is, “Well where does your year at a glance say you should be?” I’m often greeted with blank stares. “Year at a glance? What’s that?”

      Or, the other extreme. “Well, where are you in your year- at-a-glance?” Response: “ Like, two months behind.”

      Most likely, these teachers are too focused on doing every single problem in every lesson. They are teaching lesson by lesson instead of topic by topic.

      Well that may be why they are panicking, I would be too.

      Having a year-at-a-glance plan created during the summer will help you have a smoother whole school year.

      3. Create your Year at a Glance Plan

      Build your own plan and compare what your district has created. Creating your own plan will help you view the plan differently, decide on how long some lessons will take, and avoid errors that will also avoid frustrations from you.

      I will never suggest you go rogue, but you can use the district’s plan as a guide without having to follow it exactly the way it was written.

      4. Look at your school calendars for a general school year outline

        Friends, we can’t do it all. So we need to look at our school calendars and do a general outline of how long each topic should take based on our day’s schedules, district school days, and our experience with that grade level. It is just a fact: when we are a part of the solution, we are happier people.

        5. Use a blank calendar to plan your school year’s year at a glance

        If you’re ready, follow the steps below to Plan your year at a glance. Grab a blank calendar, (one that isn’t for ANYTHING else) and by yourself or preferably with your team, follow along.

        • Fill in your school dates:
          • The first day, last day, days off, field trip days, etc. Anything that would interfere with math instruction.

          • Testing dates. These interfere with normal instruction and therefore need to be included as days you don’t have to teach content. It also helps you decide which units/standards need to be taught prior to those testing windows.

        • Count the units and the lessons.
          • For each unit, give yourself one day per lesson (or follow the publisher’s guidelines), one day for each unit test, and at least 2 days for reteaching. Use this as the bare-bones plan. This is the, “if it were to all go as planned” plan.

        • Mark off each unit with the number above on your school calendar.
          • Note when you start the unit and note the last day (assessment or reteaching day).

        • Repeat for the entire year.

        Now that you have your original draft, my guess is you didn’t have enough time or space. If you did, glorious! Go back and add in a day for each quiz and a reteaching day for each quiz. Add in a second lesson day for those lessons YOU KNOW will need more than one day. Use the publisher’s outline as another resource to check your decisions against.

        If you didn’t have enough time, now begin to do the pruning but first, be well informed:

        • Consult your state standards. 
        • KNOW the priority standards, major clusters, minor clusters, etc. Many states (& districts) have created their own priority standards. 
        • Use these documents to ensure you really know those big ticket standards. 
          • *Please be careful here. Some districts are so focused on priority standards (that they dictated) that teachers omit teaching anything that is NOT a priority standard. Priority standards are to help teachers to focus time and intensity, they are NOT the only thing you are teaching. Priority standards fit into the progression of standards. Skip around and you will likely impact next year’s priority standards and or you are just going to be really unhappy with how disjointed your instruction feels. If you are a common core state, I highly suggest Achieve the Core: https://achievethecore.org/coherence-map/. They have great resources to help you identify the major clusters of each grade level.
        • Consult your testing materials, released items, graphs, etc. Most states have fantastic pie graphs and such that will tell you how much of the test is on which standards. This should really be taken into consideration when you are considering the amount of time to spend on each unit. We are just becoming well informed before we look at the units. I do not believe tests are everything, but they are a part of our reality. We don’t skip standards or content if they aren’t on the test, but we also need to be mindful of the time we do spend on them. There are many cases for the testing grades where teachers don’t have to fit in the entire unit before state testing and they can move big ideas to after testing which frees up time in the pacing guide.

        Next, identify each unit’s main concepts (standards), methods, and models. BE FOCUSED. You can’t do it all, so you will need to consolidate some lessons or group them based on ‘topic.’

        • Unit order: In general, most curriculums follow a very specific progression that coincides with how topics are learned/taught. It is generally best practice to follow the publisher guidelines. However, this isn’t always true and things like state testing impact these guides. Make minimal rearrangements as needed. If you find yourself moving everything, all over, you are probably moving things too much and are doing it based on preference rather than on research-based knowledge of how concepts are learned.
        • Think Big Picture, not isolated lessons: I’d rather you say we have 6 days to cover comparison bars, instead of saying we have 6 days to cover 10 lessons. Pull the big ideas out of those 10 lessons and make the instruction manageable and focused on the most important models, language and methods. You now have 10 days to teach that list. You will use the lesson content to help you during those ten days, but if you try to do each lesson every day, you will fall behind and become a drill sergeant who is more concerned with doing every part than that kids are doing the thinking and the learning.
        • Less is More You can’t skip entire topics or standards: Although many people do, in the big vertical lense, this is really harmful. Standards build upon each other and when everyone continually runs out of time for ‘geometry’ 5th & 6th grade really get sucker punched because they now have much higher level skills to accomplish with zero foundation. So, in honor of less is more. Teach the standard, but teach fewer lessons more in-depth.

        There is never a foolproof way to ensure you are totally at peace with your pacing. The reality is even with standards shifting, there are too many. So, we must be more intentional about the quality of our teaching. Do fewer problems, better.

        This year-at-a-glance will help you remain committed and accountable to getting in all of the standards. It will also help you from panicking. I have some teams that finish really early every year. This is not ideal either and is a product of poor planning. When this happens, it means we sped through concepts that we know kids needed more time learning, out of a panic that we wouldn’t finish.

        Fitting it all in for the sake of fitting it all in, and you’re going to have under taught standards, a messy version of understanding, and raw concepts not fully developed.

        Either take something out or commit to being late.  


        Use this playlist to motivate you while you plan! 

        We can avoid getting two months behind if we have a plan we believe in. This is not to say you still won’t get behind for various reasons, but that, my friends, is a topic for another day.

        Categories: Lesson Planning