In each of my two previous schools, the emphasis placed on writing detailed lesson plans was great. In one, five-way differentiation had to be made clear in all lessons in every subject; in the second, it was expected that differentiation for groups of children would be denoted by the use of different font styles and colours. In both cases, the intentions for requesting such precise work were good, but in both cases the effort required to produce the planning also rendered them counterproductive; once they were written, there was very little time to prepare the resources needed to deliver the lessons they promised to deliver.
Common to both schools was the expectation that all planning should be done a week in advance. This is a concept I have struggled with from both teaching and leadership perspectives. As a teacher I know my starting point on a Monday morning; beyond that I can speculate about what learning might happen over the ensuing week but no more than that. As such, a five day plan is no better than a five day weather forecast; it is likely to change or even become irrelevant as each day passes. As a leader, a five day plan informs me of the learning a teacher intends to facilitate over a week but no more than that.
In my current school, I am developing an interest in what I am calling visual or ‘live’ planning. I believe that the process will help to reduce teacher workload (and therefore improve efficiency); that it will allow school leaders to monitor planing which shows what is actually taught; and that most of all, children will benefit because their teachers will have more time to prepare high quality learning experiences instead of pristine paper-based planning.
The premise for live planning is very simple; I hope that many teachers already use it. On a Monday, a Notebook (in my case) document is opened; pages are added to support learning through each stage of a lesson: objective, success criteria, models, key vocabulary, a timer, plenary questions etc. On Tuesday, that document is added too and on Wedneday, Thursday and Friday also. At the end of the week, the file is printed and any additional notes are made on it; if anybody needs to see it, the step-by-step, lesson-by-lesson teaching and learning that has taken place in my class is immediately clear. I don’t have a speculative document about what might happen, I have a concrete document showing what did happen.
So, ‘live’ or ‘visual’ planning; reduce the amount of time you spend creating paper trails; make planning real; and give the time taken away from children’s learning back to them.