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Planning For No Planning

Most of the time lesson plans are left... but what do you do on the day that there isn't anything left for you? Hannah helps us prepare for this. 

I am usually met with planning and a timetable, but if not, I have some stand-by lessons to get me through the day. The objective is always to keep the classroom as well managed as possible. This, for me, means I prefer for the children to be busy. It may seem easier to get the wet play activities out or do some easy colouring in or worksheets, but boredom and purposeless wandering is the last thing I want.

So I have lessons ready in my head that require no preparation, and can be adapted to the classroom resources that are available. Often, when there’s no planning, there’s no laptop or passwords so, particularly for the first session, it’s good to have something you can teach confidently with only a dry wipe board and pen. This is what I teach in those (rare) circumstances:

For Maths, I use bar charts and pictograms. Most classrooms have an abundance of squared paper (lined gets used up really quickly!), rulers, pencils and coloured pencils. That’s all you will need. We choose a tally category from pets, dangerous animals, chocolate bars, minibeasts, sports, fruit and shapes. I ask for six suggestions from the category chosen, and we take a tally of our favourites. I model drawing a bar chart from our results, explaining how to represent each vote and label the axis. The children then go off and draw their own bar charts, using a ruler, and colour them in.

I choose this lesson because I know the progression of learning for data handling well, and so I can adapt it for any amount of time or year group. I can challenge the older or more able to answer questions fully (e.g. What is the average number of votes for lions, spiders and snakes?) and the less able can have a go at copying my model, so everyone is busy. I also really like it because when I mark it, the bars should all be identical in form, so it’s easy to see how they have done. 

For Literacy, my main go-to lesson in a hurry is the children planning (and writing if older) their own version of Billy Goats Gruff, under the pretense of writing for a younger child. The story structure is two animals of their choice crossing their own habitat (my model is three emperor penguins crossing over an iceberg with a spy hopping orca whale). They take it in turns to cross until the biggest of their ‘good’ animal tricks the troll substitute. Depending on the year group, I ask them to split a plain piece of paper into four sections with a ruler, then draw and describe four parts of the story. For the older children this is just their plan, and then they go onto write it ‘properly’.

Neither of these lessons requires any preparation or resources from me; if I made a worksheet that would fill time I want them to take over doing the work. I don’t need to dig around in my bag to find that thing I need for this lesson, I just pick up a pen, stand near the board and start talking. Quality in their work is only important to make them concentrate, their teachers won’t usually keep it. I just leave the piles of marked papers in two neat piles for the teacher to decide what to do with on their return.

I recommend having lessons in your head that you can pull out just like this. You want something that makes the children realise you are there to teach them, not let them mess about. As time goes on, and you teach different things, you might replace those go-to lessons in your head, but to start with, have something you feel confident with.

Hannah is a primary teacher who works with our Bristol branch. She has recently joined our blogging team and has already covered a wide range of topics. 

Tags: Hannah, Bristol, primary, teacher

Category: Australian Teachers

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