I started writing this post back in March 2014, after sharing tweets about planning with Mary Myatt. There had been a few discussions at school about it and I wanted to confirm that my standpoint about planning was accurate. Mary kindly pointed me in the right direction of some relevant reading, including some Ofsted reports, which I shall endeavour to retrieve and add to the end of this post. I wanted to make sure that teachers can be confident in the planning choices that they make – that they don’t have to plan using a uniform document that has been imposed on them.
It is a problem that keeps resurfacing, which is why I have decided to complete this post. I say ‘problem’ as, after reading through a few tweets, @Cherrylkd’s blog post about planning and hearing about the stress it continues to cause, it would seem that some Senior Leaders are continuing to give out false information and have unfair expectations.
Tweets from March
When I worked as an Advanced Skills Teacher (AST) I often went into schools that were in special measures, to help with creative curriculum and AFL. What struck me was that the headteachers in these schools were expecting teachers to hand in plans the week before (and in one case 10 days before) they were due to be taught. I couldn’t see how this was good practice – and I said so. Planning should be an organic process that takes into account the daily lesson and the outcomes of it. Yes, I might jot down some activities that will cover the weekly learning objectives, but you can guarantee that what is taught will differ from what I planned on a Sunday night. So why waste too much time writing it? I have argued this many times. Lots of the teachers I talked to were unhappy and exhausted. Some said their enthusiasm for teaching was killed by the planning process and that they couldn’t think creatively when they were on a time limit for handing plans in. I understand this and am grateful that the schools I have worked in have not made demands about this. My planning is for me – I’m the one who teaches it after all!
I can justify my planning in terms of OfSTED too. During an inspection in 2010, they saw my medium-term planning for a topic, taught through the mantle of the expert approach. It consisted of a mind map, linked with an NC photocopied page and a few scribbled notes. They really liked it. More recently (2013) an inspector observed a maths lesson in which I had forgotten to leave my plan on the chair. Before I had my feedback I asked her if she wanted to see it and she replied that she didn’t. During feedback, she told me my planning was outstanding. How did she know? Through what she saw being taught – a well-planned lesson is not necessarily one that has been written down in detail.
I have already written a post about how I plan and I am not ashamed to say that it can be quite minimalist. I don’t always plan in the same way either, but always start from a yearly overview that plots out how I will cover the curriculum. This helps me integrate topics. For medium-term plans, sometimes I complete mind maps on paper, sometimes I use Popplet for medium-term planning. It depends on whether I am teaching through the mantle of the expert/enquiry, or teaching a stand-alone unit of work. I don’t copy out objectives into plans, they already exist in the National Curriculum. I work by copying the relevant pages of the NC and highlighting objectives as they have been covered. That way I can see what I have taught and where the gaps are. If I drop down dead (heaven forbid!) someone could easily see what needs to be taught next. Furthermore, I can then pass my NC doc on to the next teacher, who can easily see what was covered and when (I date them). My short term plans for maths are written weekly, but are unlike any other format I have seen, because they are mine. If you are interested you can see one here alongside a copy of my current weekly overview (my organisational tool). Again, I highlight the objectives on a learning objective overview, so that I am clear what I have taught. That way, nothing gets dropped off the end. I wouldn’t expect anyone to plan in the same way and equally, I would not like to work from anybody else’s plans.
If you are on Twitter and you have the time, search the word planning. There are some healthy debates and some good links. I have just read posts written today by Lord Nash and tweeted out by Miles Berry
“We all know that teachers spend a lot of time preparing lesson plans rather than focusing on how well they deliver those lessons. This is a complete waste of time,”
I agree with the sentiment (think about delivery rather than written plans), but he talks about standardising lesson plans … What? What does that mean? I’m hoping that he is not thinking of a ‘one size fits all’ approach to planning. I am not the same as any other year 2 teacher I know (though may be fairly similar to Jenni Hammond and Becki Jennings) and my class definitely isn’t like any other, so let’s not even go down that route.