Search results: work plan

Planning for Guided Reading

I’ve been teaching literacy in a 4th grade class this first quarter and having a blast! For an hour and a half each morning, I hop over to Susie’s room while she supports another teacher in math. After fall break, I’ll be going back to full day coaching, but I’m so glad I was able to dip my toes back into the teaching waters. It helped me reconnect to the work I’m coaching teachers on and rebuild my street cred.

Anyhow, part of that 90 minutes involved supporting a few groups of kids with differentiated literacy instruction using the structure of guided reading. Because you may be thinking about adjusting or freshening up your guided reading system {or supporting coachees with this} for the second quarter, I thought I’d share a few tips and resources for how I plan for guided reading.

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1. Organize Your Data

You’ll be grouping students primarily by their reading level and you’ll want a way to track their growth throughout the year and adjust your instruction accordingly. Beth Newingham is one of my hero teachers who I’ve been following and learning from for a long time. This is a tool she offers teachers on her website that I’ve always used and love.

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Click Here to Download

2. Form Your Groups and Schedule

I’ve found I’m most successful and efficient with my instructional time when I have up to five reading groups, although six is doable. Above that though is really pushing it. I like to use a planning template such as the one below to help me plan when and how often I’ll meet with each group.

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Click Here to Download

3. Create a Planning Template {or use mine!}

Planning templates are a bit like good checklists in that they help you attend to all the important components of a lesson without having to drain any mental energy remembering what they are. Which in turn improves your planning efficiency! This is the one I most commonly use, although here is a link to another one made specifically for working with Transitional readers if you’d like to check it out too.

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Click Here to Download

4.  Grab a Binder

Now that you have your progress tracking sheet, weekly schedule sheet, and planning template it’s time to pop it all into a handy binder. With a nice cover of course, which I’ve included as a free download for you here.

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Dividers with pockets work well for keeping everything organized. You can label your dividers by group or by student.

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5. Select Your Books

I like to have all of my guided reading texts for the week selected the week before and placed in a bin so they’re ready to go.

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{image via Scholastic}

And finally…

Let’s get to teaching!

 

 

31 Top Planning Tips

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I recently asked the MsHouser community of coaches, teachers, and administrators to share their Top Planning Tips for staying on top of things as we head into a new school year. And you guys really came through with some priceless wisdom and tips! Go ahead and take a look for yourself.

When you’re done, I would love to hear a top planning tip for the new school year from you, in the comments!

1. “A place for everything and everything in it’s place! Organization is the key and a huge time waster for me is hunting and gathering.”
Mandy F. 

2. “Only touch papers once. Put them in their place when you get them instead of creating a big pile to file later.”
Julie M.

3. Prioritize to stay organized! Identifying what is most important helps to reduce spending too much time on unimportant tasks that can interfere with those that can yield the most results.”
Melissa T.

4. “Stay focused! Things always pop in your head while planning. Keep a sheet of paper near you for quick notes to reference to later and then get back to the task at hand.”
Naomi D.

5. “Always plan with the end in mind…and realize that the end will always change.”
Lynn N.

6. “Keep track of the teachers you are working with in multiple ways…one way I do this is to have a list of my teachers and I have a code I use to track our work! This is a quick at a glance view that helps me to see the big picture!”
Dana K.

7. “This is going to be my first year as a coach, but I already know MY top tip will be to set realistic expectations of myself! I won’t have all the answers in August but I can’t wait to learn!”
Meredith W.

8. “I keep my action list on a small whiteboard above my desk. This way I see it every time I have down time and my admin can add to it as well as me.”
Kate F.

9. “I am a big believer in writing it down or taking care of it NOW! Simple choices to act on information can keep us from overlooking something important.”
Mandy B.

10. “Do a daily priority list in the first 10 minutes of your working day.”
Trina H.

11. “I email all the teachers my coaching schedule for the week. I make a color coded table differentiating grade level, content, district level work, etc. Always be where you say you will be and do what you say you will do.”
Lisa S.

12. “Stay organized so it doesn’t back up on you and cause you to get overwhelmed!”
Mandi S.

13. “Set up and actually USE a planner!”
Teresa C.

14. Bring your calendar with you to every meeting and schedule the next meeting with that person/group before you leave that room.”
Stephanie C.

15. “Use the color coding feature on Google Calendar to get a quick sense of the shape of your week!”
Alyssa S.

16. “Revise your todo list every afternoon and clear off your work spaces before you leave work.”
Tanja F.

17. “I love the idea of David Allen’s about getting it all down, listing ‘projects’ and then the ‘next’ actions. I found this eases a lot of stress and the way forward becomes clear.”
Belinda B.

18. “My top tip? To pencil in an hour on Fridays or Monday morning to plan the week ahead.”
Judy D.

19. “Have everything planned and ready for the next day. The plan may change but at least you have an idea of how your day will go.”
Kimberly M.

20. “Start as you intend to finish. I tend to have an explosion of ideas during the summer, but deciding on a few goals for the year keeps me focused. Setting up a planner now, will help to organize before the craziness of the new year begins.”
Rebecca R.

21. “Take time each day to reflect. It is a critical part of the learning process that is often the first thing to go in a busy day!”
Rachel L.

22. “Keep everything in one spot!”
Angie K.

23. “I  keep a log of my hours on different projects and iniatives–just a general time, such as 30 min, 45 min, 1 hour–on a weekly calendar sheet.  I note the teacher or coachee and building so I can look at the week to see how I spent my time.”
Bethanne S.

24. “Schedule chucks of uninterrupted time everyday and anticipate possible problems that may prevent you from completing a task.”
Elisha T.

25. “I ALWAYS carry a good journal!”
Ali G.

26. “Priortize the important things that you need to get done. Then the rest is “Lagniappe” as we say in Louisiana… a bonus!”
Dawn P.

27. “Sort your teaching content in binders so that you can readily access it year after year.”
Andrea C.

28. “I scan my handwritten notes every 2 weeks so I don’t have to carry them around in my discbound notebook.
Chandra M.

29. “Have a snack ready! I can think more clearly when I snack on something!
Olga C.

30. “Use Evernote to organize and share planning notes with teachers during a coaching cycle.”
Leanne W.

31. “Never Give Up!”
Tracy B.

So good, right?!

Thank you again to all of you who took a bit of time out of your day to share a planning tip. I’m a big believer in sharing ideas and resources, so I sure do appreciate it. If you haven’t yet shared a tip that might be helpful to others, it’s not too late! Share it in the comments below. It doesn’t have to be a tip either…maybe it’s just a question you want to throw out there. And even if you’re new!…don’t be scared. We have a lot to learn from you too.

Have a great weekend and talk soon!

My 2014-2015 Instructional Coaching Planner. And a Giveaway!

As you guys know, I’m all about a good planner. Because once you find/put together one that you really jive with, she’ll become your new BFF. You’ll tell her everything, take her with you everywhere, and she’ll get you back on track when life gets crazy. So allow me to introduce you to my new BFF…The Simplified Coaching Planning Kit. I’m going with the word “simplified” because I’m hoping it will help do exactly that…help us plan, organize, record and overall simplify our work as coaches. While looking good in the process!

The Giveaway: Read more about it below! – The Giveaway is Now Closed

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I designed it to be flexible in a couple of ways. First, you can print and write, type and print (all the text fields in the planner are editable), or just type and keep the forms on your computer. Or maybe a mix of everything! I also created and included every type of coaching or planning doc I’ve had success with in the past, so you can decide what you need and organize it in a way that makes sense to you.

After considering what worked and what didn’t work in my past planner set-ups, this year I’m combining my planner and coaching notebook. Last year I had my planner separate from my coaching notebook and I found it wasn’t really working for me because I kept going back and forth between two notebooks, which got to be a little annoying.

So my first step was to pick my notebook. I continue to love the discbound system for it’s ease of use and flexibility. I really liked the lighter color of my notebook last year, but it got scuffed up and dirty quickly. So this year I chose good old black. I spiffed it up a bit with some fancy disc rings from Levenger. They’re a little overpriced and totally unnecessary…but I decided to spoil myself and get them anyway. Hehe.

Next step…decide on the sections. You don’t want too many sections because then your planner gets crowded with dividers, but you want enough to keep it tidy. I decided on five main sections:

  • Action
  • Notes/In
  • Projects
  • Lists
  • Reference

My “Action” section includes my Daily Agenda, Peek at the Week, Monthly Goals and my Action Lists. This section is kind of like my compass. It guides me in my planning…my monthly goals guide my weekly goals, which guide my daily goals and to-do’s. I keep my monthly calendar on iCal, though the Planning Kit does include a monthly calendar for the year which you could print and include in this section.

I keep two main action lists: one for home and one for school. Anything that pops in my mind that will require just a single action, goes on my action list. I refer to these lists when planning my daily to-do’s. If I’m having a super productive day and cross off all my daily to-do’s, then I can take a peek at my action list and see if there is anything else I can take care of. If only two lists feels a little muddled, you can break them down even further…email, copies, errands, etc.

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My “Notes/In” section has a few copies of my Meeting Notes form and some blank paper for planning and other notes.

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In the “Projects” section, I have a separate Project Planner sheet printed for different projects I have going on.  A project is anything that requires more than one action step or to-do. So for example, I had a project sheet for my coaching planner set-up. There is some blank space on the side to help me jot down ideas and notes, then on the right I capture all the different action steps I need to do in order to complete the project. I love planning projects this way. It’s so much more efficient than having to-do’s for different projects scrambled together. When a project is complete, I just slip it out of my planner and smile in victory.

Instructional-Coaching-Planner_Project-Planner

Up next, is my “Lists” section. The Planning Kit includes a few different lists to help you get stuff off your mind and put them in a proper holding spot. You could also keep checklists in this section which are so cool for freeing up mental space. The Checklist Manifesto is an interesting book to read on this topic.

Instructional-Coaching-Planner_To-Read

I obviously don’t currently have any coachees, but I set up an example section to show you what forms I plan to include. The first sheet is my Coaching Log which gives an overview of work I’ll have done with the teacher I’m coaching. Then I’ll have my Coaching Work Plan, followed by a few Coaching Observation Forms ready to go, and lastly a few printed Coaching Convo planning sheets {all of these forms are included in the Planning Kit}. In order to avoid my planner getting too full, I’ll also have a file folder for each of my coachees where I’ll archive past notes and planning sheets.

Instructional-Coaching-Planner_Coaching-Log

Instructional-Coaching-Planner_Observation

My last section is “Reference.” I bought a few sheet protectors to store forms I’ll be referencing frequently, such as my Coaching Schedule. You could also store your school’s Lunch/Specials schedule in this section, a Coaching Sentence Stems printout, or even your weekly meal plan! After the Reference section, I have a pocket folder/inbox to capture random papers or loose notes.

Instructional-Coaching-Planner_Schedule

And that’s it! Keeping it all together and staying on top of your game as a coach can be challenging, so here’s to hoping this planner will act as our glue this year.

Cheers to a new school year and happy planning!

Planner FAQ’s:

  • I print on standard letter size, 8 1/2″ x 11.  98 bright & 32 lb from Staples.
  • Here is my notebook. I just removed the sheets and added my own.
  • The Levenger punch works for the discbound system. This one is a bit less expensive than the one offered at Staples.
  • Here are the dividers I used.
  • This is the label maker I use.
  • I love the Paper Mate Flair pens. These Pilot G2 pens are also great.

The Giveaway is Now Closed

Giveaway description…fill out the form below for a chance to win a free Simplified Coaching Planning Kit!  With over 180 pages {read more about what pages are included here}, the Simplified Coaching Planning Kit will ensure you’ve got all your bases covered for the upcoming school year.  The winner will be announced by August 1st.

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My 2013-2014 Instructional Coaching Planner

Hey coaches! You didn’t think I would forget about us and our planning needs did you? No way. Although our planning style may be a bit different than classroom teachers, we need a good planning system in place just as much!

So let’s discuss. Last year, I went the all digital route. I used iCal for monthly, weekly, and daily planning. Google docs for recording and storing information gathered in observations and debriefs with teachers. And Evernote for note taking during meetings.

While there are lots of things to love about digital planning and organizing, I must admit I am a paper and pen kinda gal at heart. And this year I felt the need to show some more love to this side of myself.

So I did what I love to do and created a just-right coaching planner that has made my paper and pen heart sing with happiness!

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Along with my Discbound Notebook, here are the materials I used to put it together.

Daily_Planner_Materials

My first task was to figure out how I wanted to set-up my Calendar section. Initially I thought I would use a two-page paper calendar, similar to the one I created for the Teacher Planner and build from there. However, as I thought about all of the planning and coaching meetings I have scheduled in a typical day/month, I knew there was no way the paper only calendar would cut it. So I called on my trusty friend iCal to lend a helping hand. The plan is to print my monthly calendar each month, grab some washi tape, and adhere it to the front of the divider right behind my Calendar section. Like this:

Month

This way I’ll be able to easily refer to my monthly calendar when I’m on-the-go or doing my daily planning without having to pull up my computer or phone. If any additional meetings or events come up, I can fill them in by hand or if things get really crazy, add them to iCal and reprint.

OK, on to daily planning! This is really where the rubber meets the road so you’ve got to do it right. Because I have so much going on in a typical day, I knew I needed a daily planning sheet that would help me manage my important To-Dos and scheduled meetings.

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 Visit my Shop

I plan for the next day the night before so I’m ready to dive right in.  I begin by identifying my top three priorities for the day in the “Eat that Frog” section. Then I get any other To-Dos off my mind by jotting them down in the section below that. Next I write in my agenda or schedule, balancing my time against my To-Dos.

As I work, I’ll jot down any notes or thoughts that come up in the “Thought Catcher” section. Written down, these thoughts won’t distract me from my plan, but they won’t be forgotten either. At the end of the day, I’ll review these caught thoughts along with any other To-Dos that weren’t attended to and use this information along with my monthly calendar to plan my next day.

Are you wondering what the heck “Eat that Frog” means? I picked it up from reading Brian Tracy’s book, Eat that Frog. If you’re interested in time management strategies at all, you should check it out. The idea comes from a Mark Twain quote: “If you eat a frog first thing in the morning that will probably be the worst thing you do all day.” Basically, take care of your most important and/or procrastination worthy tasks first!

One other tool I use to map out my week is my Peek at the Week sheet. I updated the one I shared in an earlier post to better match my daily planning sheets. You can download it free here!

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I adjusted the size a bit and trimmed it, so that I could stick it to the back of my calendar tab for easy reference.  I’m always checking to make sure that my priorities for the week match my daily plans!

Peek-at-the-Week

I’ve been playing around with my planning sheets a bit this summer and I’m psyched because I think they’re going to be so perfect for the school year. Woop Woop!

After I had my calendar section all figured out it was time to decide what other sections I would add to my planner. I decided to go with Coaching, Notes, Blog, and Personal.

Sections

Within my coaching section, I have tabs labeled Observation, Debrief, and Reference.

Coaching-Sections

I’ll store short term notes and reference material within these sections. For longer term storage of observation and debrief notes with coachees, I’ll use file folders and a PD Google Site which I’m going to work on creating next week. I’ll share more on this system once I have it all put together.

I decided I needed a separate Notes section for planning meetings and just to scribble out my own thoughts when I’m working on different projects. I use Levenger’s Dot Grid paper which is my favorite paper ever.

Because my school life feeds the work I do on my blog, it needed it’s own section to keep all my post ideas in order.

In my Personal section, I have my Meal Plan for the week along with a few other documents that help keep me together.

If you would like to use my Any-Day Planner to put together a coaching planner for yourself, please visit my Etsy shop. It includes a Customized Planner Cover which you can have laminated like I did or bind together with your planning pages to make a planner for the year!

If you’re someone who could do without all the daily planning action and are content with a weekly planning spread instead, then this weekly planner may better meet your needs.

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Weekly_Planning

So tell me, what’s your coaching planning system? I would LOVE to hear!

Thanks for reading,

ms-houser

DIY Teacher Planner/Binder

Something you may not {or may} know about me, is that I am obsessed with planners. I love them. I love creating them and using them to help manage all the daily madness. As educators a well organized planner is an essential, must-have for our line of work.

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When it comes to choosing your planner for the year, you could use the standard teacher planner that gets passed out every year at school, but those are usually pretty darn boring if you ask me. So the solution for me has always been to create my own.

As a fun summer project, I worked on creating a planner for teachers and another planner for coaches to support your DIY Planner style. They have all the planner essentials you need, yet leave you with room to build out from there. You can find these different Teacher Planners in my shop.

Or if you’re interested in a weekly calendar that’s already set up and ready to go, definitely check out The Time & ToDo Planner.

Alright, now let’s take a look at how you might set yours up.

For my planner I chose to use a Discbound notebook, which seem to be all the rage these days and for good reason! They’re sleek and sophisticated, highly customizable, fold neatly in half, and lay flat when open. Love it! You can check out the Circa notebook system by Levenger, or the Arc notebook is a slightly less expensive option yet just as good.

On the inside I added a pad of gotta-have sticky notes, some page tabs, and a few paper clips. I also had my cover laminated to spice it up a bit!

The Teaching Planning Kit has three different cover options for you to choose from.

 

I used white tab dividers, some washi tape, and my label maker to create sections for “Calendar” and “Lesson Plans”. Two essential sections for every teacher!

tabs

Begin your calendar section with a Year at a Glance spread. Use it to note important dates for the year, goals, and/or student birthdays.

Behind the Year at a Glance, let your two-page Monthly Calendar spreads for the year begin. These August 2016-July 20147 calendar pages will serve as your Comprehensive Calendar and it is going to be one of your most important tools in your Teacher Planner. A two-page spread is a must, since this is where you will record all of your hard deadlines, events, and meetings for both your school and home life. Yes, both! If you value getting a pizza and watching The Bachelor on Monday night, you’ve got to block that time off and work around it the best you can. Not that I watch The Bachelor or anything…

Behind each month are two lined pages for notes.

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In the section for your lesson plans, I created a weekly lesson plan template you can use to get all your big ideas down. There are 5 planning spreads (print as many as you need!) in each Teacher Planner, designed to be printed front-back, so you can either print for the year, or a month at a time. It’s designed to be flexible!

52 Weekly Planning Spreads in PDF

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Lastly, I used some sticker paper to make a label for the folder in the back. This “Inbox” is where I’ll collect any loose odds and ends that come my way.

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Now that you’ve got the essentials taken care of, the rest of the planner is up to you. You might add a section for grades, meetings, general reference, whatever you need!

A few notes on printing the Weekly Lesson Plans in your Planning Kit or Teacher Planner. For easier viewing and printing, I recommend using Adobe Reader which you can download for free here. You can also use Preview if you have a Mac.

Once you open the Planner PDF in Adobe you should see a screen that looks similar to this:

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The weekly lesson plans are set-up for simple duplex/two sided printing. If you have a duplex printer, you’re good to go. If not, no worries. I don’t either, so on my printer I first printed the “odd pages” by adjusting the “Subset” selection in the print box. The paper I used for printing is standard letter size, 8 1/2″ x 11, 98 bright and 32 lb. from Staples.

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After the odd pages were printed I flipped them over, inserted them back into the printer, and changed the “Subset” selection to “Even pages only.” Now, here’s what you need to make sure to do: print out a few test pages BEFORE printing out the entire document!  Kind of like the old adage, “Measure twice, cut once.” Or you can take a shortcut and just head to Staples.

OR don’t forget about your Time & ToDo Planner option either. You’ll save on the cost of printing, and be ready to go.

Alrighty then, let’s get this Planner party started! Here’s to an organized and awesome school year.

Happy Planning!

ms-houser

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May Planning Calendar

Most if not all of us coaches and teachers have some type of planning system to help us stay organized and on top of scheduled obligations and to-dos. Some of us prefer an online calendar system such as iCal or Outlook, while others prefer a paper based system…or maybe you’re someone who has uses for both! However you choose to organize and plan your time, a monthly planning calendar serves as the foundation for mapping out how to make the best use of your time during the week and from day to day.

I’ve been working on putting together a coaching binder of my own and thought I would share two versions of a monthly calendar I’ve created.  The first is a one page monthly calendar and the second is a two page outlook if you prefer more space.  Hopefully you can make use of them to enhance your personal planning system!

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Click to Download

Thanks for reading,

ms-houser

Lesson Planning and Creating a Teacher Plan Book

Lesson planning.  Every teacher’s got to do it.  Not only do we have to do it, but it’s important that we do it well.  Well crafted lesson plans create a direction and a vision for your day.  They help you feel less stressed and more confident.  They’re there for you to grab onto when your classroom is buzzing with activity and you can’t remember what you were going to do next!  Don’t get me wrong, as teachers we should always be willing to step away from our lesson plans and steer our instruction in a different direction when our planned vision takes a turn in a different direction or our students show us they are in need of something else or something more.  However, thoughtful lesson plans set the tone for the day.

Lesson planning is a very individual process, taking on a number of different shapes and forms.  In this post, I’ll share a few of my own ideas and resources for creating daily and weekly lesson plans as well as how to organize them.

Lesson Planning Styles

Before my first year of teaching began I drove myself to the local teacher supply store and bought myself a shiny new teacher plan book with pencils and lined paper decorating the front. I had visions of myself sitting at my desk with my plan book, neatly writing in my lessons for the day and week. Well my vision didn’t manifest itself as I thought. I quickly found that the traditional teacher plan book was not going to work for me. There were too many details I wished to include in my plans that just wouldn’t fit in the tiny spaces provided. I also wanted to adjust the one size fits all boxes to fit the needs of my schedule. I wouldn’t necessarily turn and throw your teacher plan book out of the window however.  They make perfect sense when you want to jot out an outline of your week to quickly refer to. Although like I did, you may come to desire the need for more freedom and flexibility with your plans. If so, below are a couple of daily lesson plan templates I created to better fit my needs.

Download this daily plan template (.doc)

Download this weekly lesson plan template (.doc) – adapted from Beth Newingham

While some of us may prefer to use paper and pencil to plan, others may be anxious to check out ways to use technology.  I was one of those anxious teachers last year and so I tried out  Planbook by Hellman Software.  In the beginning, I spent much more time than I would have liked just figuring out how to best use this program rather than actual planning.  Once I figured it out though, I found there to be many benefits.  One being that after you create your plans you can easily print them out to have for easier reference.  I also liked how I could easily switch from a weekly to a daily view.  While I enjoyed this style of planning for awhile, I came to find that it just wasn’t for me.  It turns out that I do my best thinking and planning when using paper and pencil.

Planbook by Hellman Software

Creating a Teacher Plan Book

If you have chosen to go the paper and pencil route, you may find it useful (and fun!) to create your own teacher plan book.  Here is how I made mine:

First
Grab a three ring binder.  You might like to choose one with the plastic covering so that you can create a personalized cover.

Second
Decide what tabs or sections you would like to include.  I always include a calendar, weekly plans, daily plans, and notes section.  I also liked to have a pocket folder in the back to collect miscellaneous papers so that they don’t end up somewhere else.


Third
Add a small three ring pencil bag in the back.  This can hold sticky notes, extra pens, or note cards that you can use for planning when you are not near your desk.

Now that you have created a place to organize all of your lesson plans (whether it be online or in your own plan book), you may find that your life feels a bit more complete!  You’ll also have a book (online or off) of thoughtful and organized resources to use for reflection and hopefully even preparation for next year.

Happy Planning!
Kristin

5 Routines that Help me Keep it Together

Hello! Long time no blog. How are things?

Things with me are good! I just wrapped up a small group coaching cycle, am full swing into unpacking curriculum modules with our K-2 team, and have also been Work Planning with our leadership team for next year. Oh, and on the side, we’ve been hard at work getting next year’s Time & ToDo Planner going…exciting!

So yes, things have been good, but they sure have been busy.

And I have to say these last few days and weeks, I’ve been feeling especially overwhelmed.

More like I’m frantically thrashing through my days, rather than calmly and confidently flowing through them.

Do you ever have those days or weeks?

During those times when I’m feeling especially overwhelmed with lots of meetings, planning to do, and other commitments, I have to take a pause and get back to the basics. What are the basics for me?

Routines.

Yep. Routines, Routines, Routines.

Daily routines provide structure for our days and everything we do.

There are five key, daily routines that really help me to feel more in control of my days and on track.

Morning Routine

Oh my cherished, morning routine. I wake up particularly early. When it’s dark, it’s quiet, and it’s blissful.

This is my time to organize my thoughts and tasks for the day. To have some time for solitude and reflection. To “reset the room” from the night before, and launch myself forward into a successful day.

There are a few key morning habits, sequenced into a routine, that help make a great start to my day.

Start Up Routine

Once at school, I give myself 20 minutes to get set-up for the day.

Rather than diving straight into the thick of things, my start-up routine helps me make a smooth and organized transition from at home Kristin to Coaching Kristin :)

Shutdown Routine

In these past few weeks, I’ve found myself not making time for my shutdown routine. Not good!

When I don’t take time to get “clear and current” at the end of the day, and organize for the next, I find myself taking more work home with me and creating more stress for myself the following day as I try to catch up.

20-30 organized minutes at the end of the day serves me well in setting up for the next.

Afternoon Routine

When I get home after a long day, it’s super tempting to just sling my bag on the dining room table and throw myself down on the couch.

But nope. I’ve still got things to do.

The afternoons are when I take care of several of my “home management” tasks. Having a tidy home really helps keep me calm and happy :)

Evening Routine

And so the day is done. After dinner, I have just a few more key tasks to complete that makeup my evening routine.

One of the most important being, shine the sink! When I give the kitchen and the sink a good shine before I go to bed, it makes the tomorrow’s early morning something to look forward to.

What a routine packed day, huh?!

How about you? Do you have any key routines that help you keep it together?

Or maybe you’d like to work on putting a few key routines into place. If so, I’d probably start with the afternoon/evening routines. Those two make a really good foundation to build from.

And if you’re interested in reading more about building positive habits and routines into your day, these are a few books I’d recommend checking out.

Thanks as always for reading! Looking forward to checking in again soon :)

How to Set Yourself up for a Successful Year: 11 Coaches Share their Top Tips

I’m so excited.

Because today I have a fun little surprise gift to share with you!

This past summer I reached out to some of my favorite coaches, and asked them the following question:

What is your #1 tip for preparing for a successful year as an instructional coach?

And here are all of their thoughtful answers, full of wisdom and experience. Enjoy! This is going to be good.

Elena Aguilar

Sought after presenter, transformational leadership coach, and consultant
ElenaAguilar.com | edutopia.org/users/elena-aguilar

Get clear on your personal and professional hopes, dreams, and goals for the year: What do you really hope to be able to say about the year next June, when you’re heading out for summer? What would be an indicator that you’d had a great year? How do you want your colleagues, coachees, and supervisors to experience you–what would you like them to say about you? And then map this goal on to what the children you serve need you to be and need you to do. Let their needs inform your dreams, hopes and goals for the year.


Michelle Te Grootenhuis

K-8 Literacy Instructional Coach
Twitter: @MrsTG | Blog: mrstg.edublogs.org

My #1 tip for preparing for a successful year as an instructional coach is to seek out or form a group of coaches, a “cohort”, OUTSIDE of your school and/or district.  Such a group will provide you with a safe environment to share joys and insecurities, a place to learn (your own PLC group of sorts) and get ideas from neighboring schools, and a chance for some quality “drive time”.

First of all, especially if you are a first-year coach, you really need a support group. You have walked away from the comfort of your classroom and chances are you really don’t fully understand your new role.  A coaching cohort will provide you with a safe place to share those insecurities, but also a place to be reassured as others share their joys as well.  If you are lucky enough to have a group with mixed levels of experience, your colleagues will be able to reassure you. Trust me, they felt the same apprehension during their first few days and weeks until they got into a groove. I was certainly blessed with wisdom from coaches that had been in the role for three years within my group.

Secondly, this coaching cohort will become your own professional learning community (PLC) of sorts. While you might not dive into data like a traditional PLC group would, you will certainly share what is working in your schools.  Sharing roles and duties as coaches, curriculum resources, and instructional methods are all part of being in the cohort.  This is a great way for new coaches to contribute to the group as EVERYONE has something positive to share from their schools/districts.

And chances are you will be TRAVELING to meet with your group. Believe it or not, that drive time is absolutely one of the biggest benefits! My first year my two fellow new coaches and I drove 45 minutes one way to attend cohort meetings set up by our local state education agency.  That time together was probably the BEST part of those meetings as we were able to use that time to talk about joys, insecurities, and then on the way home, ideas gleaned from the meetings.  My second year, I traveled just 10 minutes down the road to a local group that would meet during a “working lunch” 90-minute block of time.  That 10 minute drive time was good for me to think through what I had accomplished so far, what I needed to get done yet that day/week, and then ponder ideas gleaned from the meeting.  Drive time is like built-in reflection time, something we don’t get enough of as educators.

So, if you have access to such a group, make sure to JOIN it.  If not, do what a few local coaches did my second year, take that bull by the horn, reach out to neighboring schools or districts and form your own “Coaching Cohort”.  It will be one of the best things you can do to take care of your own professional learning and personal well-being as a new instructional coach!


Gretchen Schultek

Educator and Consultant
AlwaysaLesson.com

My number one tip for preparing for a successful school year as an instructional coach is to organize all of your resources into a binder. By having all of your important documents in one place, it makes it easy to reference when needed as well as light enough to grab on the go! A coaching binder will grow as the year progresses, but there are a few documents you can include in it from the beginning. For example, curricular standards, teacher roster, school building map with classroom locations, master schedule, etc. As you meet with teachers throughout the year, you will want to add sections for observations or meeting notes, feedback slips, debrief discussion prompts, data collection tools, rubrics, lesson plan formats, guides, visuals, etc. This binder will become your “bible” as you learn the ropes as an instructional coach. Don’t be afraid to make it yours and revamp and reorganize as often as necessary. Best of luck on a successful year as an instructional coach!


Stacie Giesecke

3rd Year Instructional Coach, Pleasant Valley High School, Bettendorf, Iowa

Online Instructor: isea.org and AEA PD Online | Advancing Educators (Classes offered for re-certification and salary advancement)

It’s so hard for me to come up with just ONE tip to start the year! As I start year 3 as an instructional coach (I’m in my 3rd year – previous experience of 20 years in Special Education), I think that it’s important to have a positive attitude and open mind. Teachers are super overwhelmed at the start of a new year. So many things to get ready and set up, they have little time to think about themselves and what they truly want to work on as a professional. I like to make sure I have read up on all the books I have stacked up (still have a lot to do in this area!!!), gather my resources from any conferences/trainings I attended over the summer (went to an amazing conference and am so excited to continue networking), and remember the little things (coffee, candy, and positive notes)!

Teachers like that we remember them, appreciate them and all they do for kids, and are truly there for them to help them develop as a professional AND help increase student achievement.

I always keep it real. I am learning with the teachers and love doing it. Hope this helps you all kick off a great school year!


David Voves

Instructional Coach, Charles City, Iowa

My #1 tip for preparing for a successful school year is being organized.  Organization is such a simple thought, but one that can consume so much time throughout the year.  The Time & To-Do Planner truly helps me accomplish my organizational goal.  Key elements of organization include planning for professional learning, collaboration and coaching cycle planning, and my individual career development plan.

Professional learning not only includes summer opportunities, but also researching and registering for professional learning throughout the upcoming year.  Finding the best possible-learning opportunities to make me a more efficient and comprehensive coach takes time and planning.  In addition, I use the summer months to invite teachers to attend these opportunities with me to spark greater collaboration throughout the year.  By pre-selecting these opportunities earlier than later, early-bird fees often apply and it helps ensure that sub requests can be granted for teachers early.  From a coaching standpoint, it also allows me to prepare for days in which I will be unavailable to support in-district teachers.

Planning and preparing for future upcoming coaching cycles also helps ensure organization.  By gathering preliminary collaboration requests for this upcoming year this past May, I have been able to have conversations with teachers about their goals for our upcoming learning.  Goals have allowed me to research associated instructional strategies and find additional curriculum and technology resources.  I’ve also been able to create a preliminary calendar for this year, which organizes cycles, and allows me to communicate my availability for additional collaboration.

Good luck!


Deborah Meister

Instructional Coach at Lighthouse Community Charter School, Oakland, California
DeborahMeisterCoaching.com

Take time to ask the right questions — deeper questions, when setting or revisiting goals with a client. As I completed my end-of-year reports and reflection with my coaching team in June, it became clear to me the difference in how coaching had impacted folks based, at least in part, in how intentionally I had held the goal-setting process. In “The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever”, Michael Bungay Stanier talks about what he calls the focus question, which I have found particularly helpful: “What’s the REAL challenge here for you?” Whether I ask that precise question or simply work from the intent behind it, it nudges my coachee and I to pause, look beyond what comes up first, and dig deeper as we consider the focus of our work together towards meaningful outcomes. It keeps us from rushing into committing to the wrong goals, and it leads to a work plan that the teacher is more likely to be invested in co-creating, implementing, and refining. Slowing down at the beginning goes contrary to everything in my nature for the beginning of a school year, which is to want to jump right in and implement systems! But it’s so worth it for me, the teachers I support, and their students to take the time to uncover what’s really core.


Amanda Meachem

Secondary Instructional Math Coach, Pickerington Local School District, Pickerington, Ohio
Twitter: @pickmathcoach

So, my #1 tip (ok, maybe my top 3 tips) on how to prepare for a successful year as an instructional coach is to organize, prioritize, communicate!

Being organized will be a life saver when you’re in high demand.  Whether it’s on a Google Doc or in a binder, I suggest organizing each teacher’s schedule and room number, contact logs to document conversations and coaching, and materials specific to each teacher’s needs. Keeping a tidy work/office space will make it easy and is welcoming for teachers to come talk and spread out materials.

Prioritizing your work for the start of the year is essential.  Although this can change as the year unfolds, having a plan of attack and a general timeline will give structure to your role. Being aware of your building and district goals is crucial and will help focus your work. Some teachers will be excited to work with you, so make them a priority by tapping into their excitement.

Communicate, communicate, communicate! It’s easy to get caught up in emails and meetings especially when you serve a lot of teachers in multiple buildings, but get out there! Chat with teachers in the hall between class change, eat lunch in the teachers’  lounge, attend social gatherings, etc.Ask teachers where they need support so your efforts and feedback are targeted, and I recommend asking teachers what they want as well.  This can go a long way in helping you connect with a teacher…never a bad thing when building relationships! Talk with your administrators, department chairperson, and special education coordinator so the messages you communicate are consistent.  Be accessible and share your daily schedule with those depending on you.  I’d also suggest creating a “Pineapple (Welcome) Board” for teachers to invite others to observe the awesome things they’re trying; it’s a great way to get teachers talking about teaching and learning!


Kimberly Wakefield

Instructional Coach
Twitter: @kim_wakefield  | KimberlyWakefield.com

As an instructional coach for a K-5 elementary school, the number one tip I have about gearing up for a new school year is to ensure that I am building trusting relationships with our staff, and the number one way to do that is to communicate and stay organized!  In order to communicate, I must have all of my responsibilities coordinated. This consists of lots of planning (using my Time & ToDoPlanner really helps with this!) I sit down with different colored pens and iron out the calendar for the year. First looking at benchmark dates so I can mark off weeks in my calendar the few times each year when I will not be accessible to classrooms because I am responsible for facilitating our team to complete all of our benchmark assessments.  Next, I look at how long it will take me to get all of our instructional groups up and running in accordance with completion of benchmark assessments and data team meetings. Once I have the date down for when I can start coaching cycles, I mark in my planner when letters need to go out to the staff, how long I can run each cycle and organize the request survey to send to staff. Typically, I can run four, 6 to 8 week cycles per year. After I have all of that recorded and grouping in my planner, I can then sit down and draft out an email to the staff of all specifics going on for the year, which really helps with those relationships. I share when my cycles will start, when to expect our team for benchmark assessments and how I can learn along side them with our professional development focus for our school.

Once the communication piece is in place, organizing our instructional support room comes next! I house a lot of materials that teachers need and use throughout the school year, from professional books and teaching resources to assessments and supplies! In order to be ready for teacher requests, I must have everything organized and ready before school starts.  This means many hours of unboxing and labeling (which makes my heart happy!) Also, the instructional support room is utilized for many learning groups, so I need to ensure it is ready for kids’ use too!

In conclusion, in order to start the year off right, meeting with our principal to ensure we are on the same page in regards to professional development in the building is critical. This allows me to communicate the best I can to the staff in order to keep those relationships so I can ensure the best possible coaching support in our school.


Lauren Fong

Instructional Coach
thechartchicks.blogspot.com

My #1 tip to prepare for a successful year is to create an organization system that works for you. Then take the time daily, weekly, or monthly to revise your system and stay organized. Keeping track of your schedule, notes from coaching cycles, and other projects can get overwhelming if you are not organized.


Chrissy Beltran

Buzzing with Ms. B Blog

My tip for a successful year of coaching is to start with some goals for campus growth. Think about what areas your teachers would like support in, and how you can help them grow in those areas. Isolate it down to about 4-5 actionable items; things you can actually do to support your teachers. Then, write it down and post it! Throughout the year, when you feel like you’re being pulled in 8 million directions, take a look at your goals and reflect. Is your work reflecting your goals? Do you need to change them? And do you need to adjust the way you’re spending your time in order to accomplish those important items?


Kristin Houser

You know me :)

My #1 tip is this — Listen to these guys! There is a ton of gold offered in these thoughts. Let this be the blog post that you revisit more than a few times, take notes on, and really reflect on how to put any or all of these suggestions into practice this year.

If you set yourself up for success, anything is possible.

And you’re sure to make that happen by taking action on the advice shared here.

A BIG, HUGE thank you to all of the coaches who participated in this post!

Talk to you soon,

PD Pad Pick-Me-Up

Have you ever had one of those years at school that’s just been a bit…tough? This has been one of those years for us.

We’ve been working through some changes and challenges in leadership, that have left us all without a solid foundation to stand strong on, and just not our peppy selves.

As a coach, when you notice a dip in staff culture and morale, what can you do?

When I asked myself this question, I thought…well…hmm…what is something I’m pretty good at, I enjoy doing, and I know will help add some pep to our teacher’s step?? Think, think…I got it!

Creating beautiful spaces.

Working and learning in an inspiring space is something that makes us all feel good.

And where do we learn each week? The PD Pad!

So the designer in me stepped in and said, “Let’s do this.”

These past few weeks, using spare chunks of time, I’ve been chipping away at project: “PD Pad Pick-Me-Up”.

Alright, let’s take a tour, shall we? Come on in!

I made a Welcome Sign to greet teachers as they come in. I printed “Welcome” using a fun font on a turquoise background, cut out the letters, and matted them on different size sheets of black construction paper.

As you come in the room, to your right, you’ll see the three categories of our Work Plan Goals posted. Below those, are the Learning Targets guiding our work in PD. Some foliage always helps to liven up a space, so I got the plant in the corner at Hobby Lobby (not real, but still leafy :) and wrapped it in string lights. The star hanging above it is from Ikea. Lighting is one of those design pieces that can help take a room from drab to fab.

“Explore, Question, Create” are the three words that make up our school’s vision. So I knew I wanted these posted front and center. I asked a kindergartner to help me write the letters for the words, then backed them on a painted construction paper background that our art teacher had the first graders help her with.

OK, let’s take a look at the far side of the room. I love this corner of the space! Photos of students, and our character habits posted on the wall help anchor the room in the importance of the work we do everyday.

Oh, and you’ll see each table has a plastic basket to hold sticky notes, highlighters, and pens. I didn’t like the original colors the baskets came in, so I spray painted them a fun turquoise and gold to go with the color scheme of the room.

Here’s a closer look at the student photos. I wanted them to stand off the wall a bit, so I had canvas prints made at Walgreens.

On the wall, I added a smidge of color with gold strips of washi-tape. This also helped me cover up some ugly holes in the wall :)

Here’s our Habits wall. I made some DIY frames, then used white chalkboard marker on a black tag-board background to hand letter our staff norms connected to each of our Habits.

Above each of the three windows in the room, I strung the words “We Are Crew.” As an EL Education School, this phrase is really important to the work we do. To highlight it a bit more, I strung some bistro light strands right above.

As a teacher, I would always hang photos of students in the room to help illustrate that this was our space. And as a coach, I like to do the same thing. Black and white photos of each of the teachers, matted on a black background, with gold washi-tape, felt just right.

On the other side of the room is our snack station. It’s hard to add some pep to your step in an after school PD without snacks and caffeine :)

I designed this typography poster for a bit of motivation as teachers grab their snacks.

And there you have it! Hopefully this post gave you some ideas for how you might work to create beautiful spaces in your own building(s).

For more ideas and inspiration, here are two past PD Pads you can check out:

Creating a Professional Development Space

PD Pad Set-Up

And lastly, if you’re going through challenges of your own at school, don’t worry. They happen to all of us. Just remember, teachers need you as their coach to stay strong and positive. You got this!

Talk to you soon,