Now that the school year has come to a close, it’s important to reflect about the past year and begin to think about what we’d like to do better in the fall. One of the first steps here is through lesson organization. I don’t know about you, but I find that organizing lesson plans in a personal system can have powerful results! By simply taking the time to think through how you work best, you’ll begin to flesh out a plan for keeping those lessons readily accessible and you’ll save time, too. And who among us doesn’t like to save time? So here are some quick tips on developing your own lesson organization plan to make your life next year a little easier:
1. Know yourself.
You need to have a clear understanding of who you are as a person and a teacher first before you design your organization system. Copying other people’s methods won’t work because they aren’t you. For instance, while I love the whole idea of using color coded hanging accordion files, I have found that its not a very realistic solution in my world. I am constantly on the go and most days, those files aren’t with me right when I need them. So (and I say this with a heavy heart), that system won’t work for me. I need something portable. The same is true for using technology to help you organize your lessons. If you are a “techie” person and are comfortable with that medium, then explore your options. If, however, you prefer to file your papers and not scan them, tech organization may not be for you. Be truthful with yourself and move on from there.
Once you have a clear idea of who you are as a professional, what your specific needs are, and what you’re comfortable with, begin researching the organizational tools within that realm. Start searching Pinterest boards – you can check out my organization board here – or do a Google search for blogs that give organization ideas. And don’t limit yourself to education blogs for lesson organization! Lots of home improvement and family blogs have ideas that translate really well into the classroom.
3. Sort and Stack.
Now that you know what organization system you’d like to employ and you’ve researched the methods that are available in that system, now you need to go through your lessons and begin to sort them into 3 piles: keep, sub plans and discard. This is a fairly simple task. Grab all of your lessons and go through each one. If it’s a fabulous lesson, put it in the keep pile. If it’s a lesson that someone else could do while you’re away, put it in the sub plans pile. And if it doesn’t fit either of those descriptions, get rid of it. That sounds really harsh, but our students deserve the very best. If it’s a so-so lesson, neither you or your students should be spending precious time on it. Throw it out. Once you’ve sorted, begin to stack your lessons by content/grade level.
This part is two-fold. First up in looking through the lessons in that “keep” file and making notes of what hasn’t been covered. Where are the holes? Write those holes down on an inventory sheet so you know what you’ll need to begin to focus on writing and researching for next year. The second part is to inventory the materials you have to begin housing these lessons. If you’re going to use a digital file system, what do you currently have that can help with that and what do you need? The same is true if you’re going to be using file folders, binders or other more “traditional” methods.
Now’s the fun part! You’ve planned and gotten everything ready. Now you just need to put your lessons in their new “proper” place and begin working on getting together some new lessons for the ones that didn’t make the cut. Set up a system for yourself that doesn’t take a lot of time (no more than 5 minutes a day), but that keeps everything within your reach that you know you’ll need.
6. Stick with-it.
This is the hardest and easiest part at the same time. It’s hard because just like any new healthy habit, it takes time to develop and get yourself into the routine to just DO it. But it’s easy after a while because it becomes a part of the way that you teach and eventually, makes you a more effective facilitator in your classroom because you’re no longer scrambling to find your lessons. By making the system your own, it becomes a part of you and your teaching routine and that makes it much easier to keep up with in the end.
Summer is a time of relaxation and refinement.
Certainly take some time to reflect and refine how you organize your lessons, time and classroom. But also make some time for that relaxation so that you can be fully charged when it comes time for all that organization to pay off!
Susan Riley is the founder and CEO of EducationCloset.com. She focuses on teacher professional development in arts integration, Common Core State Standards, 21st century learning skills, and technology. She is also a published author and frequent presenter at national conferences on Arts Integration and STEAM education.
Susan holds a Bachelor of Music degree in Music Education from the prestigious Westminster Choir College in Princeton, NJ and a Master of Science in Education Administration from McDaniel College in Westminster, MD. She lives in Westminster, MD with her husband and daughter.