5 ways every teacher can save time on planning

The best way to save time is to work together with your colleagues, writes Nathan Burns as he suggests five ways departments can collaborate

Nathan Burns

Planning: five ways teachers can save time

As teachers, we’re all always squeezed for time. The search for extra hours in the school day never ends, and although it’s not the magic bullet, serious time can be saved by an under-utilised way of working: whole department cooperation and collaboration.

But how does it work in practice? How can departments truly pull together to make life easier for everyone?

1. Collaborative planning

Collaborative planning needs to happen as a rule. When everybody is teaching the same curriculum, it makes no sense at all that individual teachers all plan similar lessons. Instead, split up the curriculum between class teachers for a year group (or topic, if topics span different year groups), and each can take a lesson or set of lessons that they are going to plan. 

Ensure a clear timeframe is given, as well as an agreed common way to share them. If a teacher has a particular speciality within the subject, let them plan those lessons – this will result in high-quality planning for every topic. 

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2. Coordinated printing

Much like with collaborative planning, there are going to be worksheets, homework tasks, revision guides and exam papers used by all teachers for a year group. 

Rather than each teacher going down to the printer, queuing, realising they haven’t actually set the printing off at their computer, going back to do that, then coming back to the printer, it would make much more sense for only one teacher to have to go through this.

It might be that one teacher prints everything for everybody (and maybe they don’t do any planning or other tasks), or each teacher who plans a lesson makes sure that they print enough worksheets for everybody who will be using that lesson. Again, you will need to find a common place to share these worksheets – perhaps some files in the faculty office?

3. Common homework tasks

If students are all doing the same curriculum, then very often, they are going to need to do the same homework tasks. Therefore, once high-quality homework tasks have been designed, get one member of staff to do all of the printing, or, if it is online homework, get that teacher to set it for all appropriate classes. 

Again, it can be quite time consuming to set numerous different homework tasks, especially if you are following a homework calendar. However, if you’re just responsible for setting one homework, it takes no extra time to set it for multiple classes.

4. One marker

When you’re assessing your class, most students will likely receive the same test. And when it’s a series of assessments, and there are, for example, four different papers, it makes no sense for each teacher to mark all four papers. Instead, gather all the assessments together, and give teachers, for example, 100 of paper one to mark, while another gets 100 of paper two. 

This way, the teacher only has to learn one mark scheme, speeding the whole process up. Marking is likely to be more consistent too because the marker is familiar with one specific mark scheme.

5. Splitting up jobs to do

As teachers in the same department, there may be common things on your to-do lists: for example, a reflection lesson based upon a recent assessment. 

Some of the time, these resources will need to be class and student-specific, and so a shared resource isn’t possible. However, where it is possible, get staff to make a resource suitable for all classes. 

If teachers only need to do one thing, rather than lots of different things, they will have more time to spend on making it excellent, rather than just doing a decent job on very many tasks. Staff can also take on tasks that suit their skills and knowledge, meaning the outcomes will be of even higher quality (and likely done quicker, too).

Nathan Burns is an assistant progress and achievement leader for KS3, as well as a maths teacher

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