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Monday, 20 March 2017

How I Plan a Unit

This week I am on the mission of completing another HASS unit so I thought I would take you on my journey of how I create a complete unit.

The first step I take is looking at the curriculum. Usually I divide the curriculum for each subject/area into 4 groups so I have a unit for each term. I use my curriculum checklists and cut up the aspects.
(Find my Curriculum Checklists for F-6 in my store).

Once I am happy with the groupings I choose one that either I am most motivated about or the one that makes sense to be first. Maybe it runs into other aspects or involves prior knowledge or is just an easier topic to cover in first term. I take the aspects and write them down in a brainstorm and from their add points from the elaborations (available on the Australian Curriculum website).

As ideas for lessons and the flow of the planner start coming I start adding numbers to represent the ten lessons I plan around. Sometimes this means that I start a new brainstorm to allow enough room for the planning. There is usually a bit of crossing out and arrows drawn from one side of the page till the other until all the tweaking is done and I am happy to move on. I find ideas come to me fairly naturally but you might like to look around the internet and Pinterest for ideas and activities on how to teach different concepts.

I then start working in my planning document. I add the title, year level, summary and copy in the aspects. The next thing I tackle is the lesson focus. I write down the main the students are doing or learning in each lesson. Sometimes by defining the focus I realise I need to move things around again or that a particular activity I wanted to do doesn't really work for the unit then i'll go back to the brainstorm until I am happy again. I always work with a template from a similar unit I have done so all the formatting is done and I can keep them consistent. I highlight anything still remaining from the template planner yellow so I don't miss anything. I often will refer to a list of verbs for objects such as this one during this process.

Then I go through an start writing in what ideas I already have for each lesson. If I already know exactly what is going to happen in the lesson I will plan it out fully including filling in the resources and assessment column although the wording may not be as clear or succinct as I would like.
If I don't know exactly how the lesson will play out or need to research items in greater detail before I plan them I will just write dot points.
As the lessons start to come together I will refer to the teaching and learning strategies I have at the top of the planner to ensure I am using a wide range. If I am stuck for how to deliver a lesson I will also look at the strategies to spark ideas. 

I then write up the resources I need to source or create and begin to make them. I prefer to use PowerPoint to design my resources because of how easy it is to move images and text boxes. Sometimes while I am creating the resources I will have better ideas or something I though would work didn't and I will go back to my planner and tweak.

So that's my design process. I hope you have gotten some ideas to help with your own planning.

I have heaps of resources in my store that are great additions to units or let me do all the hard work for you and download one of my complete units instead.
HASS Resources | HASS units | English Resources| English Units| Health Units| Science Units
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Tuesday, 7 March 2017

How to Make Time for Everything

I regularly get asked how do I have time for everything- I work full time as a classroom teacher, have two toddlers and run the MrsAmy123 business. 

The truth?

I don't!

In everything we do in life there will never be enough time to do everything! There is always more we could or should do. When we learn to accept the fact we can not do it all we can become much more at peace. Learn to forgive yourself if you don't get EVERYTHING done!

Some days it gets me down that I didn't do this or that and sometimes it keeps me awake at night. Its only human!

So now that we are all probably feeling a bit down with that notion lets move on to how I better manage the time I do have.

The first thing is to have priorities!
 What ranks highest on your list? Where does everything else factor in?

For me, my family is the most important thing in my life and they will always come first. But as a teacher I have responsibilities and set hours. So what I decided was while I am at work I get as much as I can done and arrive and leave within half an hour of my students. When I am home and my kids are awake my time is dedicated to them first. When they are asleep the time is mine for me (and sometimes my husband ;-) ) and I usually choose to work on my business because that's my hobby, that's what I enjoy doing. So every now and again I will do school work at home but it is not the norm and other than the first two weeks back each year it doesn't happen more than 1-2 times a week.

Next is getting systems in place to help with everything! For me that's routines.

I was really excited to start using a planner this year to help me manage everything. I decided to take the plunge and get an Erin Condren. They are not cheap, but they are aesthetically pleasing and the style really works for the way my head thinks- three sections for each day which match up perfectly with my top three priorities- family, school and my business. Having a planner keeps me on track and motivated to be productive. Nothing is worse then forgetting about something and having to rush it at the last minute or wasting your time trying to think about what you need to do.
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 I get up at 6 and get myself and my family ready for the day and then (after a 25 minute drive) arrive at 8 am in the morning (mainly to guarantee good parking otherwise I would probably get there later). The students are allowed in at 8:30 and official teaching time begins at 8:40. Unless I have duty I force myself to go to the staff room at recess to debrief and build relationships with the staff. Unless I have duty, I take a working lunch. I eat as I prepare whatever I need to to. During my DOTT sessions (duties other than teaching) I make sure to maximise my time. You can read more on that by clicking here. 

Home Time:
As soon as my girls are in bed around 7pm I start working on my business until I feel ready for bed.
My husband and I like having a tidy home so we found a cleaning routine that worked best for us. After our tea he takes our girls for their bath/shower while I clean for 10-20 minutes. Each night I have something different to do on a fortnightly cycle. You can never have a completely tidy house with two toddlers but this routine keeps things live-able. I usually have time to squeeze in a shower and a quick 15 minute workout before I start work on my business.

I work during my youngest daughters nap time on the weekend and usually manage to squeeze some other time in for the business but the majority of the weekend is spent with my family.

Don't stretch yourself to thin!
Don't be the teacher that is constantly running around in a panic stricken state with a to do list longer then the Titanic. We all know a teacher like this (or maybe that's you)! They don't have their priorities in order as we spoke about before, but they are also usually stretching themselves way to thin! Don't take on more responsibilities if you're struggling with the ones you have.
We were once asked to start two new programs in our class at the start of the year with a fairly large learning curve. I implemented one in the most basic way I could and focused all my attention of making the other one big and great. After I was satisfied with how that one was running and my knowledge of it I went on to conquer the other one. To try implement them to both at the same time was unmanageable and they would have been half- hearted and probably fallen into a heap.
With two young children at home I am also not jumping on board any extra projects at school. When my girls are older then I will devote more time to school and get back into those extra thing.

Make time for yourself:
Looking after yourself is fundamental to being a good teacher for the long hall. Get sleep! Have fun! Spend time on something you LOVE! When we are happy, well rested and enjoying life we are more productive!

My last tip is to work around your strengths and weaknesses.
My teaching strength is in planning. I love making up fun, engaging units that involve collaboration. If planning isn't your strong suit then let me help you out to give you more time to be the excellent teacher you are!
Shop my store full of ready to use units by clicking here.

I have heaps of other ideas to help your maxmise your time at school that I will share in future blogs. Don't forget to check out my blog article on maximising your planning time.
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