Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Pacing Guides

Besides my golden rule (ask for help!), the best piece of advice I could give a new teacher (or veteran!) would be to make a pacing guide/course calendar. I didn't create a pacing guide my first year of teaching (and you can see how well that went for me here), but I've done it ever since. Your year will run so smoothly with a flexible pacing guide.

The idea of planning out your entire school year can seem extremely overwhelming at first, but I think I've got a system figured out that really can save a teacher a whole lot of trouble. I thought I'd share that with you today. :)

Keep in mind, we will have to create a pacing guide for each unique course we teach. I am blessed to only have two preps, but I did have to do this entire process twice. So yeah.

You Will Need:

  • a school calendar
  • several sheets of notebook paper and pens in multiple colors (trust me on the colors thing... you'll see why)
  • your textbooks/course novels

Step 1: Mind Map the Shiz Out of Your Class
Do you know Mr. Weinstein? Me neither. But I do know his methods, and I do know they work. He has greatly inspired my new writers' workshop this year (coming soon to a blog post near you). He's a big believer in mind maps. It's like web organizing on high fructose corn syrup. Anyway, you'll want to sit down with a sheet of paper and write your course name in the middle. Then you go to town, mapping out the course as much as you can. This is where the colors come in. In Language Arts, we have five major content areas we cover: fiction, non-fiction, conventions/grammar, writing, and vocabulary development. I assigned a color to each one of these areas while mind-mapping, and I started with five branches. Then I started to build each branch by plugging in my unit ideas, short stories, writing pieces, etc. It's easier if I just show you the picture.

Step 2: Time Management
Once you've mind-mapped your class, you will need to clearly define your units. I think about ten units a year is a good goal, if you tend to do 12-20 day units. (Tip: don't think about your units in weeks because that gets skewed. Your school "week" only has five days, and you've also got holidays and other breaks thrown in there. Think days.) Chunk up your map into units (you've probably done some of this without even thinking about it) and start figuring out the number of days your units will need. Once you've done this step, you're ready to start prioritizing units and listing them chronologically.

Step 3: Plug It Into Your Calendar
The picture above shows this next step too. Once you've got your units and your approximate number of days, start plugging those bad boys into your school calendar. At this point, you will probably have to make some adjustments to the number of days each unit is going to take, but that's totally okay. Be flexible. (Tip: add at least three extra days to each unit, if you can. Ultimate flexibility.) Watch out for things that can trip you up; you probably don't want to finish up the last day or two of a unit after Spring Break, for example.

Step 4: Create the Pacing Guide.
Now you can make your actual pacing guide. I just use Microsoft Word for this. I screen capture the corporation calendar and paste it into my Word document. Then I create a text box for each month and plug in my information. Again, this is so much easier to understand with a picture.

Once you've got a pacing guide established, planning is cake! I've already planned the entire 1st quarter of the year, following the pacing guide and continuing with my color-coding principles. ;) I zoom in a bit and actually broad-plan each day of the unit, like this.

Once I've got that, then I can put my more extensive plans in my Sanity Saver. This is my first full week, and it's a little weird-looking because I use my first full week of school to talk about skills.

Hopefully this is helpful and it sort of makes sense! If you've got any questions, feel free to drop those in the comments section below!

Happy It's Almost Time for School!