Friday, June 10, 2016

Prepping for Next Year Now

It is officially summer break around here! For me that means beginning my Master's degree, moving across town (closer to my school! woo!) and getting everything planned out for next year.

Every summer, I spend hours and hours getting ready for the next year, trying to think of improvements, better listening lessons, smoother transitions, unique ways to keep my students' interest. Allthethings.

My friend Linda over at Floating Down the River has challenged us to come up with a list of things you can do now as school is ending to help the next year go more smoothly. You can link up at the bottom!

Analyze Your Data!

If there's anything that education has taught me over the last 13 years, it is the importance of data. Data can show us what is really going on in our class, what our students are actually learning, and should help us to plan for the future.

During the school year, we are always in a time-crunch, whirl-winding (just made that up) to the end of the year. Shew! Take a minute when the dust settles (but before summer brain kicks in) to evaluate what happened in your class this year.

Student Data

Look over the year's student work. Really dig in to what they missed and why. Was it the kid who was in orchestra three times during that unit, or was it a kid who was there every day and stilled missed it?

Make a tally of the answers for "exit tickets" - was there a pattern? One of my close teacher friends mentioned that her students were having issues with adding the stems to their staff work - bingo! Next year, she will be adding more examples with stems.

Look at the self-assessments - did students feel confident in their understanding or was it more surface level? I find that when students are not confident about their knowledge, many times it is because we had to rush through the preparation phase of learning. Usually when I look back, I see that we were also preparing for a performance, or we ran out of time because of a school holiday. This is a great time to assess exactly how much time you got to spend on each unit.

This is also fantastic data if you are having to speak to a principal or administrator about the number of programs and performances required. When they see actual data regarding the missed curriculum, sometimes that is more persuasive than a tired teacher who just has "too much on her plate."

Teacher Data

Look over your "teacher data" - lesson plans, yearly plans, how many units did you complete? This is a great chance to analyze "what you planned to do" vs. "what you actually did."

For example, every year I make two Yearly Plan documents. The first is the pie-in-the-sky document in August when I have forgotten about assemblies and field trips and orchestra practice and program prep.

The second is usually about halfway through the year, when I come to grips with the fact that the year is half over and I get down and dirty trying to decide what I can cram in with the remaining weeks.

Here is the document I've been using lately. It allows me to do a rough sketch of the year, blocking out any program dates, holidays and events, so I can see the big chunks of time and plan accordingly. I don't want to start a unit the week before spring break (for many reasons!) but I also don't want to finish it the week we get back.
My printed lesson plans have check boxes on them because with over 120 kids rotating through my room each day, it is very simple to check off the items we completed and circle the ones we didn't. Then I can look back on them when planning the next rotation to see if I need to add more time for preparation or more time for practice if I see they are having trouble in the next unit.

Create One Project for Your Classroom

When I think about the list of things I want to do for the next school year, it can get overwhelming! But if I step back and create one thing at a time, it makes it much more manageable. I try to do one creative thing for my classroom early in the summer, before all the activity of summer gets me out of "school-mode."

One year, I ordered banners and stickers from a printing website. Another time I made instrument and manipulative repairs for the next year. I was very thankful I had glued all of the magnets back onto the beat and melody cards come August.

Rest, Relax and Don't Think about School!

Get some R&R time with your friends, family, or a good book! It may seem like a good time to get everything done that didn't happen during the school year - and it is! But make sure you spend time re-charging your batteries and spending time to think about things that are not related to work. Your creative brain will thank you for it!

What do you do during the summer to make your school year better?