A yearlong plan will help you teach (all the) writing; it will save you time and energy — and help you remain accountable for what you’re expected to teach this year.
The yearlong plan – your map
Your district or school may provide you with a year-at-a-glance (yearlong plan) that provides you with quarterly writing teaching goals. That means, you’ll be provided with a list of concepts to teach and when they should be taught.
Your school has provided you with the “what” and the “when”; it’s your job to create the “how.”
This is where your creativity, personality, and interests come in to make your class plans a joy for you to teach and fun for your students.
For our example, let’s say you are expected to teach expository writing the first six weeks of school. Here are some tips for making your own yearlong plan work for you:
1. Start with the big picture
If you school or district provides you with a plan, begin there. I find it helpful to create a simple one-page chart where I see the whole year on one page. (You can download a copy of that here.) This is also what I provide parents on back-to-school night, so they can see what is happening. I always include the disclaimer: “This plan is subject to change depending on the needs of the students.”
Include all of the writing modes that you need to teach for the entire year.
2. How to expand
Now comes the fun part. You know you need to teach expository writing in the first six weeks. Okay. Cool. How do you want to teach that?
- Understand the standards — and use them. Be sure to list them in your plan – accountability for your standards is key! Break down the standards into chunks you can teach in a week; then fill them into your planning chart.
- Think about themes for the year. You may want to build in a focus on different themes like friendship, kindness, or gratitude each grading session. Having a theme as you plan can help you narrow what you want to teach and how.
- One great tool that you’re probably already using is Pinterest. Create a board (you can always make it secret!) for your big writing projects. In our example, expository writing, you can use the board to collect ideas — assignments, mentor texts, anchor charts, writing prompts. You can check out the items I’ve collected on my board:Just gathering ideas can help you determine what you want your students’ expository writing lessons to look like.
- Don’t disregard the resources you already have. If you have a textbook, be sure to look at the teacher support materials. You may find graphic organizers, prompts, mentor texts, student samples, and checklists that you can adapt or use. This can be a big time saver!
3. Don’t forget to include these two items
- Use your standards to create a usable rubric for the assignment. Resist the temptation to put everything but the kitchen sink into the rubric. The longer the rubric, the longer it will take you to grade – and – it will extend your writing timeline. Rather, think about the most essential elements for this particular project. By creating your rubric ahead of time, you’ll know (and your students will know) where to focus your energy.
- Build in formative assessments. I like to collect something from my students each day we have writer’s workshop. This gives me a quick a quick idea of where they are in the writing process, who I need to meet with during workshop time, and how quickly we can move through the project. I use Writing Workshop Notes, Formative Assessment Exit Cards, and Formative Assessment Checklists to provide me with regular assessments on student progress. You can read more about how I use daily “collect something” to keep writing projects moving forward in this post Simplify Grading Papers.
4. Filling in the weeks
So let’s say you’ve decided you want your your students to write a problem/solution essay for their expository prompt. Now what? Use a planning chart (like the one here) to break down what you want to teach each week.
Do this by:
- breaking down the standards
- determine how much time you have to teach — are you going to devote a mini lesson with a workshop or are you going to teach a full class period? Will you want students to complete homework or will they be doing all the work in class?
- once you know how much class time you want to devote to the topic, plot the standards into your chart.
- build in some slack. In other words, provide an extra day in case you need to catch up, reteach, or the fire alarm goes off in the middle of class.
- go through the entire process — from start to finish on your chart before you start filling in how you are going to teach the concepts.
- once you know your pacing and how long you have to work on a concept, fill in your resources. Here is where you can go back to your Pinterest board and grab all those great ideas you’ve been saving! Do you want your students to create a cool writing folder or presentation? Will the finished product be a special bulletin board display?
By using a calendar to plot out the pace of your writing assignments, you’ll be able to know exactly where your students are and where they should be.
5. Finishing touches
As your plan comes together, you’ll see how you’ll use it to plan units and your daily lesson plans.
The first week of working on a problem/solution essay might involve:
- identifying the elements of a problem/solution essay by using a picture book, mentor texts, student examples, advertisements
- building an anchor chart with your students
- prewriting activities – warming up each day with a different prompt
- generating a list of problems
You can see that just this one week will be full of preparing students for the writing process!
It is easy to fall behind on your plan (remember that college professor who was behind on the syllabus after the first day of class?!). That’s why building in extra days is helpful, but sometimes that might not be enough.
You will have students who charge ahead and those who lag behind. That’s what is so great about a workshop-style class. You can conference with students individually or in small groups to keep them (or get them) on track.
Be careful not to slow the entire class down while you’re waiting for a student or two to catch up. Your class with lose energy and enthusiasm for the topic if they are working on the same writing project week after week. Pulling students into groups will help tremendously.
It’s never a problem if students work more quickly because there is always another paper that can be written! What could possibly be wrong with writing more?!
The last (and most important) step!
In order to make your own yearlong plan a tool that will serve you well, you need to take the time to reflect and record notes on your plan. What worked? What didn’t? What did the students respond well to? Where did they need more time? What resources were great and what were not so great?
Sure, you think you’ll remember all of that for next year…but chances are you won’t remember the details that made the lessons work or … not.
A yearlong plan can be an amazing teaching tool that will lighten your load by helping you organize your year — what do you think? Let me know in the comments below.
Want a copy of my editable yearlong plan forms? Click below so I can email you a copy!