Literacy Partners

Essential Planning Tips for the New School Year

We’re about to wrap up the 2020-21 school year. If this was ever a year to celebrate crossing the finish line — this is it!

Congratulations, educator — it’s just about time for you to enjoy a very well-deserved vacation.

Whether you do your yearlong planning before the school year ends or right before it begins, here are some suggestions and things to think about when planning your scope in sequence or pacing calendar:

  1. Reflect on this year’s scope and sequence. Granted, this wasn’t a typical year, but it’s still important to reflect on what worked, what didn’t, what needed more time, what required less, and what kids wanted to read and write that you may not have gotten to.
  2. Keep each unit to 4-6 weeks. Remember that units of study are about exposure and a spiraling curriculum (meaning you and your colleagues will come back to some of these genres). If you extend the units any longer, kids will often get bored and check out.
  3. Make a plan for celebrations. So often, we work with schools that say they’re doing reading or writing workshop and go through all the lessons, but there’s never a wrap-up at the end. Celebration is all about kids sharing what they learned and showing pride in their work during that month. There are many ways to celebrate. Make sure to plan when and how you’ll celebrate so you don’t miss this important part of the process. Here, you’ll find 10 celebration ideas.
  4. Don’t forget immersion! It’s essential to give kids the big picture in the new unit of study. We recommend doing this during the first week of each unit of study. How does this kind of writing go? What does it look like when it’s complete? What are the big things they’ll learn in reading these types of books? Read more about creating a community of readers and writers through immersion here.

Now, here are some suggestions when planning:

  • Get your grade level team together to build this scope and sequence or pacing calendar for the upcoming year. Having colleagues on the same page and working in tandem with you is incredibly helpful in this work. You don’t have to teach the same lessons on the same days, but working inside the same framework with the same start and celebration dates will allow you to support one another.
  • Decide if you want to use the TCRWP scope and sequence as a guide or not. This is your choice, and it’s critical that you’re always building a curriculum with your kids in mind. This pacing calendar or scope will be a draft because there may be things that change once you meet your kids. It’s also important that you have a say in the plan rather than following a plan blindly.

If you use the TCRWP units of study, remember these key points:

Build-in more foundational units when needed from the IF/Then Curriculum. There are units in there that help kids do the foundational or more basic work of that genre. If you jump into the more advanced units, there will be significant gaps in understanding, and both you and your kids may end up feeling frustrated.
Consider doing more advanced units or different units if you’re more experienced. If you’ve been doing this work for some time, have fun with it! Work with your colleagues and choose some new units to try out. Have you tried fantasy writing? Written comic books or graphic novels? Songwriting? Any kind of real-world reading or writing can make a unit. You’ll just need strong mentor texts and read alouds to support you. It’s also smart to do the work yourself so you can build teaching points kids can follow.

A note to administrators when it comes to planning:
It’s helpful to give teachers the time and space to do this planning. Many schools will provide teachers with a paid day or half day to do this work.

Also, be sure to give a deadline for each grade level plan and ask teachers to share them with you. To help keep the plans organized, consider a shared Google Drive where each teacher can upload their own and see each other’s.

Take it a step further and make the plan public to other grade levels and parents. This helps different grade levels see how the units spiral and that kids are doing the same genres repeatedly. And, it helps parents understand and support kids with writing and reading.

Download our Yearlong Planning Templates:

Here’s a Writing Yearlong Planning Template you might like to use to get started. Click on the link and make a copy. If you do both reading and writing workshop and want to align them side-by-side, you might like this Pacing Calendar Template.

Enjoy your planning process!

Here are some additional articles you might find helpful right now:

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