Workload: Four (really) quick wins for planning lessons

Adam Riches offers sure-fire tips for cutting down your planning time and getting a better work-life balance

planning teacher workload

Planning inevitably takes up a big chunk of your time as a teacher.

As education (hopefully) moves away from the micromanagement of every minute in a lesson, some of this pressure is being relieved. 

But with a legacy of having the lesson plan handy, and years of being told that each phase of learning needed to be accounted for, some teachers are still feeling the burden of planning. 


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Re-evaluating your practice can be a real time-saver and can hugely reduce your workload.

Better together

Collaborative planning is an excellent way to reduce the burden of preparation. Centralised schemes of learning allow consistency across a department and they also stop the wheel being reinvented three, four, or even 10 times over.

Lessons will still require individual tweaking and personalising, but through working collectively and planning as a team, preparation becomes significantly less laborious.

And this can happen outside school, too. Twitter can be especially valuable to those who work in, let’s say, less collegial contexts. Networking can be a huge time-saver when you find like-minded individuals.

Forget three parts 

Lessons do not need to have three parts. Also, forget about constant mini-plenaries and other fads that have come and gone. Think logically and make sure that you include the right ingredients that aid understanding and build knowledge.

This will allow you to develop a lesson formula that ensures you will focus on the learning and not on what the learning looks like. Rosenshine’s principles of instruction are all you need for this. 

Modelling, scaffolding, independent practice, periodical review are all phases that you need to consider including. Knowing that you’re going to use these in one guise or another gives you a backbone to work from.

Control creativity 

You don’t need something new and whizzy every lesson. In fact, sometimes it’s better to go old-school and get instructivist.

There are topics and times where you will need to be creative with the ways you teach content, but think about how much value you get from the time you put in. Consider the additional resources you need for lessons and keep them to a minimum.

Ask yourself: what impact is this going to have on the learning? If the answer is not a lot, simplify it. The time you save can be used in so many better ways.

Teach reactively

Learning needs to be structured, but you also need to be flexible and able to react to student misconceptions as they inevitably arise.

Overplanning can lead to time being wasted on phases and resources that aren’t used – or, worse, rigidity that means misconceptions aren’t addressed. Save yourself time in the long run and plan opportunities to react to the learning that is taking place.

Do away with pro formas that nobody looks at, forget about word differentiation and don’t create reams of worksheets where a simple slide will suffice.

Reducing your planning workload will have a huge impact on the quality of your actual teaching.

Adam Riches is a senior leader for teaching and learning, specialist leader in education and head of English. He tweets @TeachMrRiches

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