While I was out in Spain, I started doing planning my lessons in a new way which lead to me planning (in my opinion) better lessons, faster and which fit a syllabus better. That was by bulk lesson planning.
Bulk lesson planning is where you don’t just plan one lesson in isolation, instead you plan a group of lessons together. This could be planning several classes for the same class in a row or planning a day or two’s worth of classes in a row. In my case, I aim to plan the whole of the upcoming week’s classes (including several groups who have a couple of classes) on Friday afternoon. This isn’t always possible and doesn’t always happen but it’s what I aim for.
The benefits of bulk lesson planning
As I stated at the beginning, I have noticed some real benefits from this approach.
- quicker planning
- lessons which flow together better
- A greater awareness of the syllabus
- less pressure and stress during the week
Furthermore, I sometimes come up with an activity for one lesson, then realise that it would be better in the subsequent lesson so I can move it to that topic.
I don’t always follow the plan
Of course, during the lesson, it may become apparent that what I had planned won’t work. Sometimes I realise we need to move more slowly, and so I might have to plan a new lesson to repeat the material. Or it might be better to move quicker, in which case I may steal material that I had planned for the subsequent lesson. In fact, I’d say that most of the time I change my plans for the second lesson I have for a group. However, I still find that having planned a set of classes in one go makes it much easier to adapt.
Bulk lesson planning as Deep work
I’ve been going through Deep Work by Cal Newport recently, and although I started this practice years ago, it fits in with the deep work mentality well. Deep Work is work which requires focused attention on a specific task without distractions. It is also work which produces the most rewards in our work. It is the opposite of “busy work” like responding to emails, paperwork and so on. Lesson planning falls nicely into this area and as such it is important for us teachers to invest time and attention into our lesson planning to maximise our results.
Bulk lesson planning helps to get into a “deep work” mindset where I focus all my attention on the task at hand. I choose Friday as it is our slowest day at work, there is no pressure on me to have a class ready for that evening or the next day so I have time and attention to afford.
[More on deep work coming soon]
Bulk lesson planning might not be for you
Although this has served me very well, I understand that this might not work for you. Some classes require collaboration with another teacher and so you may have to wait till they have completed their planning or lesson. You might not have a clear block to time to spend on planning and might have to try and fill in planning whenever you can. You also might have to adapt your plans at the drop of the hat without a syllabus guide.
All of these are good reason to be critical of bulk lesson planning. However, you may find it useful to experiment with and see if you notice any benefits.