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!



25 comments:

  1. As an almost-first year teacher, I wanted to say thanks so much for doing everything that you do to make the first year easier. I love your blog and your tips are always SO helpful. Plus, your post about Dwight Schrute made me decide to rewatch The Office while I lesson plan.

    Keep doing what you do! We really appreciate it!

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    1. Your comment made my heart smile. :) Thanks for reading and commenting!! <-- So excited that I had to use excessive punctuation.

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    2. I couldn't agree more! I will be starting my first year teaching in August. I was floundering a bit, at a loss as for how to start preparing for the upcoming year. Then I found your blog whilst on Pinterest and honestly it has been so amazingly helpful!!!! I couldn't even start to explain to you how stress relieving finding your blog has been. I feel like with your guidance, I will be starting off my first year off extremely organized and with some words of wisdom as a guide!

      In conclusion, I just wanted to reiterate how amazing and helpful the blog has been. Additionally, I would like to thank you so much!! I hope you enjoy the rest of your summer!!!

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  2. Every time I read your posts about organization-type things, I think, "Wow, we would be BFFs if she taught at my school." Our styles are very similar, but I still get some awesome ideas from you! :)

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    1. You know that cheesy clipart with the guy hugging the very old PC monitor and talking about his friends being in his computer? Yeah, I kinda feel that way about this. :D

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  3. I love this!!! I'm hoping for a regular classroom position soon and I have so many ideas and plans for my subject and this post is soo helpful in planning if I do get the position!!!

    Thanks!!!

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    1. Keeping my fingers crossed for you! Those teaching jobs can be hard to nab, but once you're in, you're in! :)

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  4. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I've never had someone systemically explain how they plan their year. It's always been this mysterious thing that just "happens". Now I feel more confident and ready to effectively plan out my upcoming school year! Yay!

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    1. You are so very welcome! I'm glad the madness that is my planning process is helpful!

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  5. What a great post! My school system gives me a mandated pacing guide, but you've given me some ideas that should make using it work better for me. I do have a techy question, though. You say you, "screen capture the corporation calendar and paste it into my Word document." How do you do this?

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    1. I just wrote up a quick tutorial for this, just for you! :) You can find it here.

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  6. Thank you, thank you, thank you! I stumbled across your blog on Pinterest and I'm completely addicted. I sat down this morning and read a bunch of your posts. I'm going to be a 3rd year teacher, but this is something that was never explained well to me at all, and so I feel like I can be so much better prepared now! I love the mind-mapping idea, and I think it will truly help me be more organized with my units.

    You have so many wonderful ideas. Thanks!

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    1. You're brave, sitting and reading several posts! I'm kind of a blabber mouth. :P
      Glad you're enjoying! I'm always open to blog post suggestions, so let me know if you have an idea.

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  7. I wish I had seen this as a first year teacher! Even so, I am going to be working this strategy with my student teacher this year so that she can see the big picture. Hopefully it will help her plan. THANK YOU!

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    1. You are welcome! Best of luck to both you and your student teacher. :)

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  8. I have been teaching for a while, and this is the best approach I have seen for tackling the daunting task of longterm planning. Thanks for sharing!

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    1. I'm absolutely flattered by your comment. I thought it was all just a hot and colorful mess! :)

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  9. I'm a second year teacher, and with this switch to CCSS I feel SO lost on how to map out my year! It's difficult to know how long Fahrenheit 451 will take my Freshmen, as I've never taught it before and we only have a classroom set of books. I totally wish that I had your ability to plan and schedule!

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    1. Go with your gut and be super flexible. Don't let CCSS freak you out too badly, either. I actually find them to be easier to work with that our old state standards were. They are more intensive, sure, but they are also broader (if that makes any sense at all...).
      Just a note on planning novels: I use little sticky flags and I flag sections of the book by day. So, for example, I have my copy of Night by Elie Wiesel flagged into ten different sections, one section per day of reading. That just helps me wrap my brain around it.

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  10. This was definitely a big concern of mine as I approach the beginning of student teaching. I know it's not going to be my job while under the wing of a cooperating teacher, but I have always been afraid of how to tackle a "whole year" perspective, especially given how OCD I am about everything. Thank you for making the process seem more approachable. I literally, and audibly, just heaved an enormous sigh of relief. You're the best!

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    1. Awwww, you're too sweet! There is a lot of trial and error with this method, but it is at least a good starting point, I think. Just be flexible. "KEEP CALM AND PRETEND THIS IS IN THE LESSON PLAN." :)

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  11. Thank you so much for breaking down the process of creating a pacing guide! Now it seems manageable!

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  12. As a second year 8th grade teacher... Thank you for this!

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  13. As a second year 8th grade teacher... Thank you for this!

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  14. Just finishing my first year. SOOOO going to do this for next year. Thank you!

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