One of the most valuable skills I’ve learned so far in teaching is keeping a strict timetable.
I make my timetable at the beginning of the week, and then convince myself that somebody else has given it to me, and that I absolutely must stick to it, no matter what. (I think of it like secondary school, where you have to physically move to another class and to another teacher for every lesson). If I schedule Science for Thursday afternoon, then that’s when it’s happening. If something gets in the way, (e.g. an unexpected assembly or visit), then the lesson gets pushed onto the following week or it just doesn’t get taught. My timetable generally looks the same week to week, unless we have an external teacher coming in for P.E, or if I need to pair high and low energy lessons, as I’ll get into below.
Flexibility is an essential skill in teaching, and of course there are times when I have to work around other people’s time, and be ready to adapt. If five or six kids are out sick then I probably won’t start a new Maths topic on a Monday morning. If the kids are getting really into an activity and it’s going over time, I’ll shorten my next lesson and work around it. As far as possible however, I try to stick to what I’ve planned for the week.
I like having this strict schedule for two main reasons. Firstly, as it allows me to plan my week on a Sunday morning, and drastically cut the time I spend on work after school during the week – I used to be happy if I had my fortnightly plan printed, and knew what I was doing for the day going in on Monday morning. Then I’d end up staying in for an hour or two every day planning the next day’s lessons! Now I force myself to write down what I’m doing, what I’ll need, and what exactly I have to make/photocopy/laminate for the entire week on a Sunday, and I find that having this to-do list cuts hours off my time during the week.
Secondly, it allows me to optimize the balance between quiet work and active learning, independent tasks and group activities, writing and discussion – you get the idea. If that week’s History lesson is hands-on, and includes videos and group tasks and presenting to the class, then I might balance it out with reading our novel afterwards. If I have to cover a grammar point using a PowerPoint and a worksheet, then I’ll swap around my speaking and writing Irish lessons so the kids don’t fall asleep. I’ve found this has made a huge difference to the energy in my classroom since I started paying attention to it at the beginning of the year!
I find that the kids in my class absolutely love knowing what their schedule for the day is. I use these cards from ‘Class of Creativity’ every day to show what we will doing on the whiteboard, and the kids always read it as soon as they come in. It also stops (or reduces, at least!) those questions that drive you up the wall, like ‘What time are we doing P.E. today?’ or ‘When are we doing Music again?’
I’ve included a sample of my weekly timetable here, and also some links below so you can see how I structure my English, Irish and Maths lessons over the course of the week.
(COMING SOON – I’ll post these by the end of midterm!)
Hopefully you got some value from this and are thinking about applying it to your own planning. Give me a shout over at @irishguyteaching on Instagram if you found this helpful!