Does this statement seem at all familiar to you:
“I don’t want to create another lesson plan this Monday!”
I’m sure it does. This is the time of year that we all feel overwhelmed as teachers and thinking about ways to minimize our work is long overdue! We want to remain effective and productive but overloading ourselves is simply going to cause more unneeded stress.
I am passionate about helping others reduce teacher stress by finding little changes that can make a big difference in maintaining your sanity! I have started a series on this blog about smart teacher planning because I want to reach out to every teacher who may be feeling overloaded and offer a piece of calm and the ability to better handle the many demands of the teaching profession.
In this post, I want to explore one simple thing you can use to save you hours of preparation time.
I am so excited to share this with you! It has been so helpful in my classroom and I know it will help you too!
Think about those moments when you are overwhelmed such as preparing for the beginning of the school year, creating new handouts, parent letters and coming up with new ideas. It’s difficult.
What can you do about it?
Start a specific binder for each class you teach. Throughout the school year, or at the end as you have materials ready, put EVERY handout that has been successful in there. This will make preparing for the following school year so easy!
How this works for me:
As an example, a beginners orchestra class, or any beginners class, require the most work to get started. I have to keep the kids energized and engaged at the beginning of the year when they have not acquired enough musical skills to play. I have to have a lot of activities and a fast paced classroom to gain their attention and keep them on task.
Three years ago I started collecting all the handouts that the kids loved into my binder. This included simple bell ringers for rhythm, fix the mistake rhythm games and handouts about the instrument parts. I use separating sheets in the binder to indicate which part of the year I use each activity, such as the first week of school. In addition, I keep a small portable file box where I put extra handouts and more important units like Halloween.
This makes it so easy!
What I’ve done in the past:
I have been teaching beginners orchestra for 12 years. As I teach mostly in middle school I am working a lot on developing good posture as well as basics with beginning string students. I also teach at the local university which has helped me polish some of my ideas. Even after having confidence and experience, I always feel I need an extra level of preparation when starting a brand new beginner group.
This is where my work has the most additional hours of after school preparation. And the most need to organize things so I save time, not waist it.
Beginners need more handouts at the start of their lessons so I have a beginning orchestra folder where I collect everything I do. Every single lesson goes there especially for the first two weeks of school.
To take it a step further at the end of the year, I made copies of all the handouts my students would need the first two weeks of school. This meant that I could come back from summer ready for my classes with absolutely no teacher stress.
Why at the end of the year? Read this article about saving extra time for back to school preparation.
This makes things so incredibly easy! What is more I am building on my own knowledge, and I can also always go back and simply find the resources on a bad day when I just don’t feel like planning.
What I’m doing this year:
I am teaching a new class that requires more theory and, consequently, more handouts. I have some materials ready to use and others that I am creating as I go.
From day one I have started two binders for this class. Every lesson plan with the handouts go in to the first binders and I do this during the last 2 minutes of each class as the kids are seated and waiting for the bell. This way I can complete the task during class time and not worry about it during my otherwise busy schedule.
The second binder has exactly the same materials but with extra handout copies. Toward October I find having to copy and prepare materials tiring and I don’t want to do it – this way, the second time I teach the class, everything is ready for me.
Next year, when I teach the same class, everything will be ready so all I will have to do is open up those two binders.
Even if you change grades or schools each year…
You can always refer back to this blog as a place of support! In fact, this is why many educational blogs came into being! Even if the binder solution is not right for you, I am always happy to share many organizational and stress-reducing methods of handling the teacher workload. See ideas below: