If you ask teachers, “What’s the one thing you’d LOVE to improve when it comes to team planning?” The answer you’ll get nine times out of ten is – “More efficient use of time when planning!” Hey, we get it! There’s nothing more frustrating than feeling like your team is actually slowing down the planning process. And no teacher wants to leave on a Friday afternoon with only half the plan for the upcoming week.
Having a collaborative teacher team truly can lighten the load. But, if you’re not all on the same page, or if you feel like you spend more time hunting down resources than planning, we’ve got some good news for you! There are VERY simple tools and strategies teams can use to streamline their common planning time. All it takes are three simple strategies to take your team planning practices to the next level (and bonus – there won’t be any leftover planning to do on your own time!)
“We can’t even accomplish one thing in an hour…”
If your team is brand new to working together OR if you’re feeling like it wouldn’t hurt to strip your current systems down to square one… Head over to our “Frustration-Free Team Collaboration” post for tons of ideas to start collaborating on the right foot! From setting norms to establishing a “Back on Track” code word, these quick wins will give you a strong foundation!
Tools to Make Team Planning Easier
When you’ve got the tools you need, it’s so much easier to stay on task and work efficiently. The best advice for saving time when team planning comes down to three things:
1- A scope and sequence so you know what to plan
2- An agenda/ planning template so you can decide how and what you’ll teach, and
3- A system for organizing all of your most effective and engaging resources!
Get these three simple things in place, and you’ll be amazed at how focused, productive, and TIME-SAVING your team planning will become!
1. Scope and Sequence
A map for when to focus on different standards and skills will keep your team planning on track from the get-go. You can create your own as a team before the school year begins, or feel free to use ours! Download a scope and sequence for your grade level below. Bonus: We’ve included free weekly lesson plans tied to our scope and sequence too! Grab everything below – totally free!
2. Agenda/ Planning Template
A simple agenda for each meeting provides so much focus! Decide what you want to accomplish before the meeting begins, then use your agenda to stick with that purpose. Click the button below to give our team planning agenda a try!
3. A System for Organization of Resources
You’d be surprised.. the time spent digging through files or leaving with a sticky note list of resources to find back in your classroom later can be the greatest time stealer for teacher teams. Thank goodness for 21st century tools for organizing resources for you!
Get your team an online organization system that filters quickly by the skills you’re planning for! Check out how efficient this makes things:
As you can see above, our favorite online tool is All Access by Lucky Little Learners. You can search and filter for resources specific to what you are planning PLUS grab levels above and below at the same time for super easy differentiation options. With over 15,000 resources for 1st and 2nd grade classrooms, there’s no doubt you will find just the thing you need!
And, All Access will serve as your online filing cabinet! You can make lists of favorite resources to come back to year after year. Copy and share the url to your saved lists with your team – instant collaboration!
There’s even a bundling tool, so while you’re planning, you can assemble packets to print immediately after the planning meeting is finished.
“But wait… What About…?”
Okay – reality check. Chances are, your teaching situation comes with a few quirks – who’s doesn’t? Ha! You might love the three tips above, but are still wondering about a couple little things…
“Everyone has completely different teaching styles…”
If you’re open to it, having a range of perspectives, approaches, and interests can actually end up being an asset to a team of educators! The key is to divide up the planning to capitalize on everyone’s strengths. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
a. Give the strongest personalities in the room the job of meeting leader. They will be great at keeping everyone focused on a common goal!
b. Your ultra-organized and structured teammate can be in charge of recording decisions made on the agenda, and emailing out the agenda for the next meeting.
c. Be sure you create norms right off the bat. Something about how you will ensure respectful disagreement might be important if you have teammates with strong beliefs and opinions.
d. If you have a social butterfly who loves turning team time into joke and gossip time, have them bring/ assign snacks and refreshments! (Also, set norms about gossip/ venting if needed. Maybe agree to set a timer at the beginning of each meeting for 5 minutes of venting – then agree to let it go and get down to business.
“Team? I wish! I’m the only teacher at my grade level…”
If you don’t have a team, you don’t have to go it alone. (Although, these three team planning tips are big time savers for solo planning too!) You can still share the load if you want to. Utilize parent volunteers for copying, assembling, etc.
Also, teachers in our community tell us they send all the printed literacy and math center materials home with volunteers to cut and assemble and it works like a charm! Another tip is to reach out to high school teachers. There are some courses that require students to volunteer in the community for a certain number of hours. Helping an elementary teacher is a great way to get some volunteer hours!
If you are craving planning partners, seek out like-minded teachers within your building or in another nearby school. Also, seek out teacher communities online! You’re bound to find lots of people who share your personal philosophies and teaching styles. In fact, we’d love to welcome you to our fabulous groups on Facebook!
Lucky 1st Grade Teachers | Lucky 2nd Grade Teachers
“My team is looking for different ways to collaborate…”
Once your team planning time is running like a well-oiled machine, you might find yourselves ready for a new kind of collaboration. Here are a few ideas for effective PLC time:
Feedback Loops: Plan a lesson together, then reflect together after each teacher has taught the lesson. Discuss what went well, what didn’t go so well, and offer each other feedback. Even better – ask your administrator if he/she can cover your classes so you can observe each other!
Student Work Analysis: Plan to bring student work samples of work on the same standard to the next team meeting. Each team member should bring at least one example each of above grade level work, at grade level work, and below grade level work. Writing samples work fantastic for this! Analyze each level as a group. What criteria are you all looking for to consider the work above, at, or below level? Learn what each teacher plans to do next to help their students grow. This exercise can reveal whether or not your team is aligned in expectations, and it can give you TONS of new ideas for your next small group lesson as well!
Download Visual Rubrics HERE
With a little practice, and a few helpful tools, you will begin to look forward to your team planning time! You may even start to feel like it is both saving precious planning time AND helping you grow in your practice as a master teacher.