I am not sure if I am feeling okay or not, but I do think you can Enjoy Planning Lessons!
This is the 4th blog in my Enjoy series, and I hope you have been able to read the previous blogs.
Planning is an essential part of our lives. We have lessons every day that need to be planned. But we are all at different stages and we will all have different approaches to planning.
Where to start?
It is a good idea to have an overview of the lessons you are teaching. If you have a scheme of work already then things are much easier. But if you are looking to change that scheme or you don’t have one at all, then you need to start with an overview.
I like to change topics most years as I get bored of the same thing. Also, Music Education is changing all the time with new ideas and approaches. I start by thinking through what I want the students to fundamentally understand and listen to in the lesson. From this point I can think of ways of approaching this understanding and explaining the key concepts. I then work out what they are going to do in the lesson: practical work, written work, listening, group work or work on computers.
If you are coming up with a new lessons, then start with the Musical Understanding. What exactly are you hoping to impart to the students? You can then focus on the music that you are going to use. I think that every music lesson should contain music!
How can Planning be fun?
My favourite thing about planning is listening to music. The way I plan varies from thinking through ideas on a walk or run, to sitting at a desk or piano. Sometimes I use “Door-Knob Planning” – quite simple, I plan something as I walk into the room. I have now said that out-loud, but come on, we all do it. Some of my best lessons have been made up on the spot!
Making planning fun involves picking topics that you will enjoy as well as the students. Sometimes new ideas can come from nowhere and then turn into something great. What I love is trying out new things and then going back to the drawing board. Whilst we can’t experiment in every lesson, part of the planning process is being prepared to try things. We can then go back to the drawing board if needed.
Planning is also fun when you do it alongside another colleague. Bounding ideas around and coming up with great ways to bring topics to life is really good fun. And the more music you listen to, the more ideas you will get for lessons. Students always love listening to great music, so teachers should enjoy it too.
Using a Spreadsheet
A few years ago I started to use Excel to plan lessons, well more to plan schemes. But mainly to put in ideas for lessons and start to fill out the bigger picture. I am not sure why I used a spreadsheet, I guess I just liked the columns and tabs and. But what I have found useful is that I can gradually fill in different columns and start to build up a really clear picture. Excel is also helpful in the way it can easily create dates in columns, helping to work out how many lessons I have in a year.
I find it satisfying to have a clear list of exactly what each lesson is going to be and then I fill things in as I go. Sometimes I don’t have a great piece of music in mind and so I leave that column blank and return to it later. Also I like to use different colours for each term and I am always moving ideas around. I also have all year groups in one document using the tabs at the bottom to keep things separate.
I am sure you will have your own way of planning lessons, but just keep it manageable, easy to follow and fun to complete. And if you haven’t tried the 5 Minute Lesson Plan approach then maybe give that a go as well.
One of the key things with planning is to consider what resources we need to make a lesson work. I Enjoy planning a great deal more when I know that I have time to create or gather exactly what I need. Part of the enjoyment comes from creating something that you know will have maximum impact. Sometimes we need to consider what we are going to spend time working on in order to create great resources.
The thing is I have created loads of things in the past and spent lots of time on them. But then I quickly forget what I have and often don’t use things that I have spent time on. Enjoying planning involves not feeling like you are wasting your time.
Therefore it is good to consider whether or not you need to spend hours creating a powerpoint or worksheet, or is this something you can do in class. I love writing music on a whiteboard, or creating generic resources that have multi-purpose. I don’t like to spend too long on a presentation or worksheet when I know that I can easily do things differently.
Review how you create resources and start to look at what you need for the future. I love using tools such as Focus on Sound, Music Teacher Magazine and YouTube as they provide wonderful resources that I don’t need to make. I also think that sometimes I would rather spend time working on the lesson content than be in front of a computer making something.
And don’t forget that the Music Teacher community is really lovely and there is probably someone out there who has made something you can use. Ask away on Facebook or be prepared to pay a few quid on TES. We can all help each other out and also honour the time that others put in to their work.
Don’t Over Plan
My advice after several years of teaching is Don’t Over Plan. I know that trainee teachers are often forced to plan down to the second, but it is not always the best way. Things change in a lesson and sometimes even go wrong. I think it is good to plan for all eventualities, and have ideas up your sleeve if something like technology goes wrong. You also will enjoy planning more if you aren’t getting worried too much about the timing or the minute details. We have to get the balance right and the more you teach the quicker you can plan ideas.
Break The Year Down
Often when we consider the whole year, we can become quite daunted. I recently had to consider a new scheme for a Year Group and it was an overwhelming thought. But then I turned to my spreadsheet and worked out how many lessons I needed – 36.
When you think of it like that, it isn’t too bad. So I need 36 ideas for a Listening Starter or Do It Now task. 36 clear topics and a range of composing, performing and appraising tasks. 36 lessons, it isn’t that bad.
And then suddenly I feel the planning is more manageable and therefore more enjoyable. I can work out where I can use lessons I have taught before that I know will work. I can consider lessons that might be open to a bit of fun, like Christmas or the end of term. Don’t get overwhelmed by the thought of a whole year. When you break it down, it isn’t too bad.
Enjoy Planning Lessons
It is easy to say, but it is really important that your Enjoy Planning Lessons. It is such a huge part of the job and students will thank you in the end. You need to work out the style and approach that works best for you. You also need to work out what resources you can, should and might make. I enjoy planning because it revolves around listening to music and exploring topics. Coming up with new ideas is also lots of fun and I look forward to then teaching them.
If you have any approaches to planning that work well then please do get in touch. And don’t let it get you down. Sometimes the best lessons are the ones that you didn’t plan for. When things go wrong there is always something we can learn. Sometimes it is good to plan for a lesson that will be organic and exciting!