Friday, November 13, 2015

Quick Steps: Backwards Design Planning for the Year

Wondering how you can try to fit all your standards in before the year ends?  Look no further!  In Georgia social studies classrooms, we use the Georgia Performance Standards.  As a result, we know almost exactly what we need to teach & it's broken up into larger chunks.  For example, in 6th grade, our standards are divided by world region (Latin America, Canada, Europe, & Australia). Then, within each region, they are chunked into smaller groups (geography, government, economics, & history).  Here's how I was able to start my year with a plan to teach every standard before our state testing:

1) Get a calendar with large boxes for each day.
Before your start anything, get a calendar or planner for your school year.  I have also used electronic calendars thru Word, so use those if you like.  Those tend to be easier to share.  Pre-mark your calendar with all teacher work days, early release days, holidays, assemblies, standardized test days, etc.

2) Determine your units.
In Georgia, the state has come up with some suggested unit plans, so I took those & modified them to work with my resources/organization.  I have a total of 10 units, each chunked together in units that make logical sense.  Hopefully your standards are written in a way that makes them pretty easy to create unit chunks.

3) Give every day a standard (and if necessary, stretch your standards across several days to cover them adequately).
This can be tough if you've never taught before because you may not know how much time each standard will take.  Give yourself several "catch-up" days within the units in case something takes longer than anticipated.

4) Create/plan lessons that will cover that standard are quickly & efficiently as you can imagine.
Is it your first year teaching?  Have you been teaching a while but can't think of anything?  Start by Googling your standard (phrases from the standard or the standard number, such as "SS6H6a") and seeing what's available.  If that search is fruitless, then check out TeachersPayTeachers.  There is tons of great stuff on there!

5) Determine when you'll give your summative assessments.
Whether you're planning a test, quiz, project, writing assessment, or other type of assessment, try to determine when these would best fit within your calendar.  I usually pick two days in case I run late & need an extra catch-up day to get students ready for the assessment.  If it's a test, I also include 2 review days before the test which are reserved for, you guessed it, REVIEW!!!  :)  If you're hurting for an easy review activity, please check out my easy Teacher Review Lesson Plan.

6) Work really hard to try & stick with your plan!
This is going to get tough if you're long winded (like I can be!).  Sometimes you'll talk too much about certain topics & they'll go on forever.  Obviously, this can also be a good thing... But try & stick with your plan as best as you can.  If all else fails, revisit your calendar regularly to check your pacing & change things as needed.

7) Create your assessments before the unit begins.
I have thrown out many questions after I gave a test because I didn't cover it as I should have.  If you know what's on the test before the unit begins, you'll know exactly what topics you've got to cover in order to prepare your students.  If you've been teaching a while, this is probably a "duh" step for you.

8) Enjoy!
Obviously, this is a lot of work!  ...But it is comforting to know, even if you don't know exactly what you'll be doing next Thursday, you know what topic you'll be covering next Thursday.  It also gives you great information for parents when you can tell them the date of the test/assessment with plenty of notice.  Best of all, you'll rest assured that you were able to teach all of the standards before students were given a standardized test.

One last tip:  Be patient with yourself because it will take a year (at least) to really iron out the calendar.  You'll change your plan a bit each year and planning will get easier & easier as you go.  Let me know how it works!