When the bell rings to indicate the beginning of the Christmas holidays, many NQTs will utter a sigh of relief. Unfortunately, though, your well-deserved break might not be all mince pies and turkey. Quite possibly you will have to spend a chunk of it planning lessons for the new term and reflecting on your practice.
Paul Matthews, a newly qualified science teacher at Langdon School in east London, is counting the days until the end of term. "I am trying to recover from a cold - the third one this term," he says. "I want to spend several days planning to relieve the pressure in the following term and to get up-to-date on marking. Any resources I prepare this year are valuable for the future."
There are certain techniques that will make your holiday productive and enjoyable, says Anna Carlile, lecturer in inclusive education at Goldsmiths, University of London. "Your induction tutor may have advised you to consult with your pupils - try to build the process into your lessons," she says. "A questionnaire, for example, could generate responses that can be manipulated as part of a maths lesson."
Think about what needs to be revisited, what your pupils would be interested in learning about and teaching strategies they have enjoyed this year. "Develop plans over the holidays that are directly responsive to pupils' thoughts," she adds. "This can help with pupil engagement - through the consultation process they will develop a sense of ownership for their learning."
At the start of the holiday, identify one or two days in which planning will be done. Take a couple of days to sleep and relax, then do the planning and leave the rest of the holiday period to rest and recuperate, suggests Miss Carlile.
Mr Matthews has already come up with a rough plan of how to organise his time. "I will probably spend two or three days at the start of holidays working, have a good week of relaxation and festivities and then work for a few days before going back in January," he says.
Meeting with a friend to plan lessons together can be useful. "Sit down over a mince pie and a glass of mulled wine with carols in the background," says Miss Carlile. "It could become a seasonal tradition and you might learn new ideas from each other."
If it has them, use your school's lesson-planning templates - they will probably have been designed with Ofsted's requirements in mind. They will include a space to state learning objectives, a starter and plenary, and arrangements for differentiating between what all, most and some of the pupils will be able to do.
Secondary English teacher Martina McKoy suggests compiling all your lesson plans that were successful and analysing why they worked. "Discard lesson plans that did not contribute to the overall progress of your pupils," she says. "Use this as a starting block to developing new lesson plans."
Ask for a book on planning for Christmas. Understanding by Design by Wiggins and McTighe provides useful planning templates. "It leads the teacher through a procedure which is known as 'backwards planning' as it starts with a statement about what you would like pupils to understand by the end," says Miss Carlile. "This method supports the development of the skills needed for pupils to be able to explain, interpret, apply, empathise and have perspective and self-knowledge about a topic."
Finding comfortable middle ground between preparation for the spring term and relaxation during the holidays will ensure that you return to school with a fresh perspective
Things To Think About
- The holidays are a good time to plan for the new term and reflect on your practice.
- Consult with classes before Christmas - what needs to be revisited, what has worked?
- Identify one or two days on which planning will be done - preferably at the start of holidays.
- Meet with a friend to plan lessons over a mince pie and a glass of mulled wine.
- Use your school's lesson-planning template as it will probably have been designed with Ofsted's requirements in mind.