Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Three Levels of Lesson Planning

It might sound strange, but I really like planning.  I teach five different classes, all different levels (and sometimes different languages).  If I didn't do a lot of planning, it'd be impossible for me to stay on top of things.  Here's three levels of planning and how they'll help keep you organized.

Full Year Planning
This is a level of planning I (unfortunately) didn't really think about my first year.  I was too busy surviving day to day that I overlooked how the flow of the year needed to go.  Several of my classes ended up falling behind because I was spending too much time in some units, dragging things out that could have been much more succinct.  I was too busy looking at the leaves to notice there was a forest.

Whether your school has semesters, quarters, or marking periods, it's important to know the scope of the entire year for each level you teach.  Figure out how many units you have to do per marking period, then break that down into how many days that gives you.  Try to figure out when each unit will start and end - this will keep you from getting behind.

This is an example of what my quarterly planning looks like.  I've already figured out what units I'll be covering and everything in pencil shows when I hope to start covering a new topic, whether it be review, new vocabulary or new grammar.
German 2: Quarter 1 Plan for 2013-2014 
As we go through the quarter, I mark down the days we actually started working on these topics and quiz days.  Other things might come up that affect unit length (PSAT Day, Pep Rally, Inclement Weather, Assemblies, etc) and those get marked in as well.  As I finish up a full unit (usually I consider a vocab topic to be a full unit), I highlight it for easier visibility.  Note the difference between the planning calendar above and the completed one below from last year.
German 2: Quarter 1 Plan for 2012-2013
The great thing about keeping track of this is you have an outline for the next year.  If you're teaching the same course, you have the same general outline you used the previous year and you now know how much time you actually needed for each unit.  This way if the curriculum ever changes and units get moved around, you still know how much time you'll need for each one.

Here's a Blank Quarterly Calendar for 2013-2014.  Since school years can vary and not all schools divide their year by quarters, you may have to make changes to tailor it to your school year.

Unit Planning
Have a separate folder for each topic you teach
Once you have the gist of the yyou have for each topic.  I like to keep a separate file for every vocabulary and every grammar unit I cover.  Keep your vocabulary and grammar units separate!  Books and units change - just because one vocab topic is currently paired with a specific grammar topic doesn't mean they always will be.  Keep them apart for more flexibility later on!

Keep all of your notes and activities in a folder
Start planning the unit by organizing activities: easier, recognition based activities start the unit, while more difficult, composition based activities are at the end, with scaffolding activities in between to build students' skills.
Find a unit organizer that you like and decide which activities will be done on which days.  I like to look at several weeks at a time.  Every day gets an opening activity, at least one main activity/lesson, and a homework assignment.
German 2: First Two Weeks in Detail
German 4: First Two Weeks in Detail (note the comments!)
I used to do all paper copies of my units, but last year I switched to all digital.  I keep all my plans on my Google drive so I can access them anywhere.  It's also great because they're much easier to store than a stack of paper plans.  It has made things significantly easier to a.) keep my plans so I can refer to them the next year (everything's already in order for you) and b.) have digital copies where all I have to do is copy and paste.  Google is also great because I can add comments about needed resources or modifications for next year.

Here's a Blank Planning Calendar for 2013-2014.  As above, it's specific to the school calendar used by my school system, but can easily be modified to fit your needs.  If you're looking for a similar organizer but with a smaller time frame, here's a Blank Two-Week Planning Template.

Daily Planning
I teach five classes a day, all of them different.  I would NOT be able to keep track of which class is doing what, in what order the activities are supposed to go, what the homework is, what pages we're reading, etc. if I didn't write it all down.  Before each day, I write out what I plan to do in each class.  Simple little summaries that can be as short as "Mention quiz next Tuesday" or "Drill: Identify (pictures)."  Basically the same information from the planning sheet above, but with each class represented on the same page.
Here's my daily plan for the first day of school
If you teach multiple sections, I highly recommend doing something similar.  Just write it out, keep it up front with you or you can even write it out on a side board so the kids can also see the plan for the day.  The only real down side is it involves a lot of writing on your part.  They're also not that practical to keep - they're too specific to be re-used the next year.

Here's a Blank Daily Planning Template.  I basically just make a bunch of copies of this at the beginning of the school year and go through

Hopefully this will help keep you organized and planned this upcoming school year!

- Frau Leonard


  1. Thank you so much for your awesome resources! This will be my first year teaching German and I am very grateful for your blog and your resources on TPT! :o)