Planning beyond the first day

planning beyond the first day of school

Thinking about planning beyond the first day of school and through the rest of the year can be immensely intimidating.  You spent hours planning day one. How can you possibly make it through 179 more days? 

When planning beyond the first day, take it one day at a time at first.

Once you have a moment to breathe, and you’ve caught up on some sleep, start planning for a week at a time.  Then you can start planning a unit at a time. This is my go to planner to keep me on track. I spurge on a planner every year before school starts. I’m such a nerd, but I’m lost without it on my desk so I can see where I want my kids to be today and where I need them to be in two weeks. At the bottom of this post I’ll share four other splurges I recommend new teachers make on themselves before the first day of school.


Always remember to keep your plans fluid.

They should never be set in stone. Not every lesson will work.  Some of them will flop royally. Once you’re planning on the scale of a unit, make sure to work in a couple days for wiggle room. You will find some lessons will take longer than you expect and some concepts will be more difficult for the kids than you anticipate.  Don’t push through just to keep to your plans.  

Many schools have what are called pacing guides which can help you figure out how long you can/should spend on a topic in order to get all the material covered by the end of the year or in time for the standardized test. 

Pacing guides give a basic outline of how much time and emphasis should be spent on a concept. Some even chart exactly what to teach and when. Using the guide is a great way to get started. I’m a visual person so I have my hard copy planner and I pencil in approximately when I want to hit major concepts throughout the year as well as big projects I know I’m going to assign.  It always ends up changing, but at least I have a template to work from and adding a day here or subtracting one there doesn’t derail my blueprint.

Make sure to keep your overarching objectives in mind as you plan beyond the first day.

Those overarching objectives might be the state’s standards and the standardized test or a graduate profile, the 5 C’s, or an SEL (social emotional learning) framework.  In Virginia, the state test is called the SOL, and you are shit out of luck if you don’t cover what will be on the test by May.  Your school, your students, and you will be judged based on those scores, but always remember that students personal growth and well-being cannot be assessed on a standardized test and therefore it should not be your sole focus.

At first, it will feel like you’ll never be able to fill the days and suddenly you’ll realize that you’ve got so much to cover in so little time.

Have you tried to create your own lesson plans already?  It is difficult, especially if you want to be creative. Don’t be stubborn.  In a past post, I told you to beg, borrow, and steal. Go to veteran teachers who are teaching or have taught the content you are teaching and ask for ideas.  Ask for resources. Ask if they keep a binder/digital folder of lessons for that content. Ask if they would email them to you or if you can bring a flash drive and copy their folder on writing or variables, etc.  Then you have a starting point. You can use, modify, and find inspiration in their lessons and you’ll have more time to be innovative with the plans you draft on your own.

Also, use the internet to your advantage.  There are hundreds of great websites out there for teachers.  It never hurts to type your content into a search engine. For example, “parts of a cell + lesson plan.”  You’ll be amazed at the websites that come up. If you are looking for a visual, try typing in “parts of a cell + PPT” or click on the image search in your search engine.  There are so many ready to use and ready to modify lessons, presentations, and handouts out there for free. Try for fantastic FREE lesson plan ideas.  There is also always Teachers Pay Teachers. I’ve never used it because I refuse to pay for lesson plans, but I know people who have had good experiences with it.

Don’t be too proud. 

You are a new teacher.  You can’t afford to be proud.  I repeat: beg, borrow, and steal.  There is nothing wrong with using other teachers’ tried and true plans.  Just remember to credit the teacher you borrowed from if you are observed teaching one of those lessons.

Overwhelmed and need a little retail therapy? I recommend you splurge on these five things before your first day of school.

  1. Storage Solutions
  2. daily planner book
  3. comfortable chair
  4. quality water bottle
  5. A Wannabe Teacher’s Guide

Looking for more free resources? Check out these posts which may be helpful to you.

Pre-service week checklist

13 Must do Tasks during Pre-service Week

First day of school check list

Setting up classroom expectations/”rules”

Planning for the first day of school

5 ways to handle first year teacher stress

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A Teacher's Guide

I am a National Board Certified educator currently teaching in Virginia. I have taught the following: English 9, 10, 11, and 12 (on academic, collaborative, and honors levels); Dual Enrollment English; Mass Communications, Yearbook, Newspaper, and Communications Technology. I have experience in five different school systems, four in Virginia and one in Maryland. I served as my school’s 2019 Teacher of the Year and was a top five finalist for the Teacher of the Year for Virginia Beach City Public Schools. I am passionate about recruiting and retaining quality educators in our public schools. Let me help you find your path to changing lives through teaching!

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1 Response

  1. August 26, 2019

    […] Planning beyond the first day […]

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