Planning for the Planning

calendar

It’s hard to believe that the end of the school year is already in sight. In the schools I where I currently work, mid-June is the end of the year–that’s just four weeks away!

That means it’s time to begin planning for next year!

Many schools make time each year for ‘June Planning,’ a time of year that involves reflecting on what worked this year (and what did not), as well as setting goals and making plans for next year.

June Planning can be the best — time well spent that helps you get organized and prepared for next year.  But without a well-thought out agenda, June Planning can also eat up your time when you could have been doing something else. Nothing is worse than spending hours in meetings doing things that could have easily been done in a more efficient way.

Having facilitated more June Planning sessions than I can count, I’ve had plenty of opportunity for trial and error. Here are a few tips to make the most of your June Planning meetings this year:

1. Writing plans by hand is so 1999. When I agree to facilitate June Planning, a requirement I have is that everybody must bring a laptop or device. Internet access is a must. We use Google Docs if we can, but as a back-up I bring several USB drives to make file sharing easy.

2. Minimize interruptions. It’s not possible to do a very effective job planning a school year in an hour or two. Set aside at least half a day, if not a full day, or two half days so that reading and writing can be planned side-by-side at once. In one district where I worked we even held June Planning off-site, at a local college, so that we could concentrate on the task at hand without being called into classrooms. Now is the time to reserve those rooms and schedule those subs, people! June is coming!

3. Bring data. I know that ‘data’ is a dirty, four-lettered word these days, but bringing samples of student writing, on-demand scores, a list of your kids reading levels, and other key pieces of information will help ground your reflections and plans in reality. A collection of information from across the year is preferable (portfolios, data binders, at-a-glance sheets), but at the very least, bring some information from the beginning of the year, along with something that is most recent. When you look at how kids in your own classroom have grown, compare with your colleagues to decide what makes sense for next year.

4. No need to reinvent the wheel. Bring resources. Bring your Units of Study for Teaching Writing, and the new Units of Study for Teaching Reading. Bring Kathy Collins’s books, and Debbie Miller’s book, and Stephanie Parson’s books, and Jenn Serravallo’s books… and Ralph Fletcher, and Carl Andersen, and Katherine Bomer, and Mary Ehrenworth… and more! Do some reading ahead of time, even if it’s just a few chapters here and there. Divide things up with your colleagues. The time you put in before June Planning will payoff a hundred-fold when your plans build on the shoulders of authors and teachers who have been able to field test units for you in hundreds of classrooms!

5. Most important of all, SET PUBLISHING DATES. Even if you don’t have laptops, or internet access, even if nobody in your building has read the latest books, there is one very important step that you can still accomplish. If nothing else, before this school year ends, set publishing dates for your writing units for next year. Plan to teach six to eight units of study next year, decide what order, and set a date for each publishing party. Make a sacred promise to one another that you will pace yourselves next year, and you’ll stick as much as possible to the dates, knowing that writing workshop is a spiraling curriculum that cycles back around to the same concepts again and again. Promise yourselves that never again will you still be teaching Unit 1 in December (not that that has ever happened to you, right?). Oh, and that means you’ll need a copy of next year’s academic calendar with you when you sit down to plan!

Do you have some tried and true tips for making June Planning run well? Now’s the time to share! Leave us a comment with your ideas!