Aimless Planning

A picture of how to plan
Here’s what planning should look like (in green) and what it shouldn’t look like (in red)

Planning is such an essential part of what teachers do, that it’s hard to believe that we sometimes get it wrong. But we do and we had. I had.

At my school, after a poor inspection outcome and our worst SATs results for 10 years, first came the hand-wringing, then the soul-searching and finally the cold, hard analysis of what we needed to do to fix the mistakes. Quite simply it was planning. Not teaching. Not behaviour. Not assessment. Planning.

The picture above shows what we had been doing and what we needed to do. The red blobs are the lessons. Each individually was a good lesson – it moved the children on during the lesson, there was good modelling, children made progress and did good work. However there had been no journey from one lesson to the next. There were just lots of individually good lessons that seemed to build on children’s starting points, but actually didn’t have an overall aim.

The green lessons are what we are doing now. Starting with an overall aim for the end of the unit (which typically are one or two weeks long), we build backwards to plan the lessons that are needed for the children to reach that aim. And we keep planning backwards until we find the children’s starting point. It’s been a much more healthy and vibrant process and, though it’s early days, it seems to be really working.

If you’ve read some of my previous #lentblog posts, you may well consider it inevitable that schools end up doing that ‘red blob’ aimless planning. There is such a pressure to perform within a lesson, for children to make progress within that singular lesson, that it’s easy to lose sight of the big picture of where you are trying to get the children to. And also there are so many supposedly useful schemes and resources out there for lesson preparation that it’s easy to forget that one of the most important tools a teacher has is their own subject knowledge, and not the ability to use somebody else’s downloadable content.

For the rest of this week, my focus in #lentblog is going to be on planning, some of the resources I’ve created and the lessons I’ve learned from trying to improve planning.

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