I have written several articles pertaining to the power of planners for educators, but have yet to discuss the ways to effectively use student planners in the classroom. It is easy to search the internet and find planning tools for learners in a pinch, and although convenient, it’s not enough to simply find a planner that looks pretty, print it off and give it to students without questioning the strength of the planner, what modifications the planner may need and how it can be used as a learning tool. Some things to keep in mind before classroom use are:
A. Curriculum Objectives
Does the planner match your curriculum objectives? If not, what modifications will the student planner need in order to achieve your goals? Perhaps you will need to change some of the wording, add an extra column or additional boxes.
There’s no rule that says that each learner in your class needs to use the exact same version of the student planner. Before providing your students with the planner, think about ways it may need to be modified to suit different learner needs in your classroom. Are there opportunities for extended learning to push certain students to a deeper understanding? What about ESL students in your classroom? Will they be able to follow the planner as is, or will any scaffolding need to be provided in order for them to complete the planner?
C. Links to Other Subject Areas
A planner may be designed to accommodate a certain subject area; however, depending on your units, it may be possible to incorporate elements from another subject area into the planner. For example, a planner may be designed for a research project in science and when reviewing your language curriculum objectives, you may be able to make some links.
D. Train of Thought
Before handing the planner out to students, try it yourself. While moving through the planner, ask yourself if it is logical, if the steps are in the order you wish your students to follow and if it will ultimately serve to meet the goals you have set.
E. Planners From a Previous Year
While it is easy to find new student planners on the internet, it may be also be tempting to re-use planners from another year to teach the same grade. And this is fine, however it is always a good idea to look at the students in your current class and decide if the planner meets their needs. If not, either a new planner may be required or modifications to the existing planner should be made.
F. Planners as a Teaching Tool
Planners are an excellent teaching tool, and meeting with your students to discuss their planners throughout a project or unit is a great way for you to see where your students are at in their learning. As you look at their planners, you will be able to see their areas of strength and areas for improvement by the amount of detail provided in each box. Perhaps you will notice that they are struggling with where to find their material or with coming up with a feasible timeline to complete their project and can offer the necessary support to help them succeed.
By taking the time to think about the specific learning needs in your classroom and making the necessary modifications to your planner, you will be helping your students succeed to the best of their abilities! How will you be modifying the next set of student planners you use in your classroom? Looking for customized planners to suit your learners' needs? Contact us!
An Emergent Curriculum based on the Reggio Emilia approach and the International Early Years Curriculum (IEYC) are two seeming polar opposites. An Emergent Curriculum is centered around planning based on children’s interests, no pre-planned routing of units throughout the year, and no themes. And contrary to it is the IEYC, which is based on themes and requires schools to route units ahead of time – or so it would appear. But here is the kicker, the IEYC merely suggests routing and themes, but if we open our minds, it can be used differently, simply as a base – a teacher bank of resources and ideas if you will. This realization came to me during my time at the Netherlands Inter-community School (NIS) while facing the issue of working with an Early Years Coordinator who despised the IEYC/IPC and who was refusing to link her program to the Primary Years, who were following the International Primary Curriculum (IPC), because it would take away from the teaching philosophy she wholeheartedly believed in – Reggio Emilia. And it was this revelation that led me to develop the planner below – a way of combining the two seamlessly and effortlessly, allowing the Early Years to provide information to the Primary Years about which IEYC units students had covered upon entering K/Grade 1, thus bridging the gap between two factions.
The planner below is one of many from the Early Years Framework that I designed to help teachers in planning and documenting an Emergent Curriculum. It is based on the Reggio Emilia philosophy, and uses the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) as a guide for milestones students should work towards.
In order to ensure that teachers are basing their curriculum on students’ interests, the first thing required is filling in the “Topic of Inquiry,” as shown in the planner above, followed by listing students who are interested in exploring the inquiry. Upon completing this, teachers would then check the IEYC curriculum to see if the inquiry topic is connected to any of their themes; for example, if students were interested in an area related to the ocean, a possible link could be made to the IEYC’s Ocean Treasure unit of learning. If no connection could be made, then the “Link to IEYC” field would simply remain blank, along with any of the other IEYC fields.
Should a link between the topic of inquiry in the IEYC and teachers’ themes be found, then the circled fields in the planner above may be completed. Upon listing potential EYFS milestones students could achieve, teachers would then search the IEYC unit for ideas for provocations that could be used and then list any inquiry language provided. Teachers would not be limited to using ideas from the IEYC, and space is also provided for adding their own ideas for provocations and language. It should be noted as well that if a teacher felt that the ideas provided by the IEYC were not what they were looking for, then they would be under no obligation to use them.
The above solution does not detract from developing an Emergent Curriculum that is Reggio- inspired. There are no fixed units or forced themes; however, this resolution serves to further unite a school and create increased cohesion. When students would arrive in the Primary Years, teachers would be able to clearly see which of the IEYC units had already organically been covered in the Early Years.
Education is rarely ever black or white, and if we are willing to explore shades of gray, solutions can be found. In this case, although two different teaching philosophies would have continued to exist within the school, a common ground could have been formed in which the IEYC and the IPC could link together.
Interested in customized planning solutions? Contact us!
A Planning Template for Passion-Based Learning
A Planning Template for Multi-Level Modern Foreign Language Classes
Setting Up a Guided Reading Program Across Grade Levels
Situations at a school can change, and sometimes we end up having to teach multiple levels of student abilities in one classroom, as was the case at the Netherlands Inter-community School (NIS). During my time there, we experienced a decrease in student population, resulting in a need for us to combine beginner, intermediate and advanced level students in our Modern Foreign Language (MFL) classes, which included English, Dutch and Bahasa Indonesia. Due to this shift, the planners that we originally had in place would no longer work, and as Language Coordinator it was my responsibility to create a new modified set, as shown below.
Above is the first page of the unit planner that was used for planning as an MFL team. Together, we would first indicate how many months our units would run, then fill in International Primary Curriculum (IPC) unit names and brief descriptions (due to our school’s routing, IPC units across all 3 mileposts were related themes). Once this was complete, we could begin filling out the first column – IPC Vocabulary/Grammar. The vocabulary and grammar we chose was based on the mainstream teacher planners (see Language Framework for more details) that we had received which indicated important terms and grammar they would be covering in their classes. Our goals were both to match up with the mainstream as much as possible, and to divide up the vocabulary and grammar provided to meet 3 different language abilities – beginner (CEFR A1), intermediate (CEFR A2) and advanced (CEFR B1). Because students would be following a combination of two of the MFL classes we offered – Bahasa Indonesia and either Dutch or English, we also had to ensure we were choosing similar vocabulary/grammar so that tight connections could be made between all of our classes. After choosing the language we would teach, we moved on to our Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR) objectives – choosing similar ones in each category but increasing in difficulty to accommodate all the levels of student abilities. The last column was for our end of unit assessment. Our goal was to create a singular assessment – a project that could be scaffolded to meet varying needs and CEFR objectives. We also had to make sure that our projects were different enough so that students would not be repeating similar projects in their MFL classes. This concluded our team planning, and then teachers were given the next page of the unit planning template below to complete individually.
The above planner had enough sections to accommodate all of the lessons throughout a unit, which on average was 10 – 12 lessons. This planner also allowed teachers to plan lessons that catered to all 3 language levels at one time. Teachers were first required to map out vocabulary and grammar that would be covered during each lesson, split 3 ways, and based on the first page of the unit planner. Following this, teachers would fill out the CEFR objectives sections – again split 3 ways. Then teachers indicated the activities they had planned during each lesson, scaffolded them, and listed necessary materials. Once completed, we would all come together as a team and review each other’s planners and offer support as needed. A note to mention is that these unit planners served as a general guideline; as we all know, sometimes lessons run longer or shorter and things need to shift on a day-to-day basis. What we did know is that by the end of our unit, objectives set out across all 3 levels would be met, and students would have learned the vocabulary and grammar concepts we had set out to cover.
From a teacher’s perspective, this unit planner offered an easy seamless way to cater to a multi-level class. And as Language Coordinator, this unit planner offered me a bird’s eye view of all of our MFL curriculums and allowed me to ensure that everyone’s units flowed from lesson to lesson and that we were able to accommodate all of our students’ needs while staying in synch with the rest of our school. In short, the unit planner was a perfect solution for our school and its changing population!
Making the Language Connections in Modern Foreign Language Classes
How to Help Your Foreign Language Students Improve Their Speaking & Listening Skills
How to Link Your MFL Curriculum to the IPC