I have mentioned in previous blogs that mentoring a teacher through the use of planners has been far more effective than any PD I have ever given. In this article I will elaborate more on this topic, and explain how one can teach and guide staff using planners.
The first and most essential step is to ensure that the planners you are providing your teachers with do in fact match your vision and what you hope they will achieve in the classroom. If they don’t, then any mentoring you provide will only lead to confusion. For simplicity’s sake, let’s imagine you were using the International Primary Curriculum (IPC), and your sole purpose was to have your teachers connect Language and Math outcomes with other subject areas, such as Science, Social Studies, etc. When designing your unit and lesson planners, you would need to ensure that the way in which you organized your columns/rows and the information you ask teachers to fill in would match exactly that, as seen in the samples below:
Column 1: Provide subject descriptors
Column 2: List IPC milepost Learning Goals for the subject
Column 3: List Math objectives that link to the subject
Column 4: List Language objectives that link to the subject
Column 1 (Lesson 1)
Row 1: Provide IPC Learning Goals to achieve during the lesson
Row 2: List Language objectives to achieve during the lesson (if any)
Row 3: List Math objectives to achieve during the lesson (if any)
Row 4: List activities or assessments during the lesson
Row 5: List any required materials
Once you are satisfied that your planners match your desired outcome(s), you can share them with teachers in a team setting so that everyone is clear on their purpose, and how they are meant to be used. Then have the teachers fill in the planners and submit them for review. This is essential to be sure that everyone has understood how to complete them. Things to watch for when checking the planners are as follows:
1) Are all the boxes completed? If not, this shows there has been a lack of understanding in certain areas.
2) Has each box been completed with sufficient detail? If not, this might indicate that the teacher may only have a surface understanding of what was required.
3) Is the information provided logical? Do the connections made between Math, Language, and the subject area make sense, or was the teacher over-stretching?
4) Let’s suppose the lesson planner provided was over the span of 10 lessons – when you look at what the teacher has planned out, does it have a sequential flow from lesson to lesson? Is what the teacher planned a reasonable amount for 10 days or have they tried to fit in too much or too little?
After reviewing all the planners, it is worthwhile to bring the team members together again to highlight examples of what has been done well, and what could be improved upon in general. Then set individual meetings with teachers to go over their planners.
Some teachers will have understood right away, and may only require the initial meeting to let them know they are on the right path. Others will take longer, and will need additional guidance. This is where your observations of their planners will help you to guide them. For those teachers who left boxes empty or who were struggling to achieve a logical flow in their lessons, you may wish to meet one-on-one as they plan until they have a more solid understanding. For those teachers who may not have added enough detail or perhaps have planned too much or too little, some words of advice may be all that is necessary, and they can then proceed to make the changes themselves.
The benefits of using planners as a teaching tool are many. Teachers are not left to their own devices to figure out how the school wishes planners to be completed; they will receive additional support. Teachers can move and learn at their own pace. After repeating the same steps numerous times, their understanding of what is required will deepen, allowing professional growth to occur. And the impact on the school in general? Cohesiveness amongst staff and cohesiveness in lessons, which will ultimately have a positive impact on student learning.