Some schools have planning that is just far too in-depth, where the lesson is broken down into what you are going to cover in five minute slots. It is so prescriptive that there is no room to adapt anything to the needs of the children and their responses.
Typically on a long term assignment I would spend about six hours at the weekend doing my planning for the week. You can’t do that level of planning at the end of the day because you are getting your resources together for the following day and marking.
That said, in reality it is impossible to plan effectively on a Sunday what your class will be doing on Wednesday because you really have no idea what stage they are going to be at. On a Monday I can leave school thinking my class has grasped a subject and I can move on in the plan but on Tuesday morning when I ask a question about what we covered the previous day I may get a lot of blank faces looking back at me. So much time can be wasted with planning in this way. By the Wednesday I had either binned my planning or it was covered in so many scribbles from where I’d had to adapt it to the children’s needs that I had difficulty using it. This meant I’d wasted time on planning at the weekend that I could have been spending with friends and family.
In September 2015, I started a long term assignment at a local school, where instead of daily lesson plans they use impact sheets. Using the impact sheets allows you to create flexibility in the lesson; you can adapt it to ensure progress of the children. So, say I’m doing lessons on the subject of time, at the end of each lesson I fill in a box detailing what I have taught then use the next three boxes to group the children based upon my observations of their understanding and engagement of the lesson.
Using this technique allows me to respond quickly to each child’s needs within the class, dispelling misconceptions, clarifying learning and challenging all pupils. This organic approach to planning allows for an immediate response to each child moving them up and down the groups so I can best support their needs as I believe that differentiation does not happen on paper and needs to be an immediate response to what is happening in the classroom. Using the impact sheets then allows me to plan appropriate levelled challenges that each child can work through the following day. By levelling the challenges I can also ensure that every child has a next step available to them within the lesson. For example, a child may start at level 2 on a Tuesday morning but levels 3 and 4 will be available if needed. It is a really good way of making sure you don’t have children who are stagnating. Every child is challenged and by the end of the week you can see the impact on their learning and have evidence through the impact sheet of you responding to the needs of the children.
Emma Parker is a newly qualified primary school teacher based in Durham and an ATL district secretary.