Keeping it simple: how and why I don’t spend hours planning


There are two things that I see teachers doing via social media that I don’t do: spending lots of time (often at the weekend) planning lessons and asking for lessons.

This blog isn’t about ‘showing off’ that I don’t do them; it’s about saying that it can be done.

Why I don’t plan

I essentially don’t plan lessons because most of my lessons are the same. They follow exactly the same format, the only thing that differs is the content. Lessons go like this:

  • Starter quiz 1-10 prior recall OR set keyword/quotation test for GCSE OR an exam question/s test
  • Going through the test
  • Improve the test by writing correct answers or improve prior work as directed
  • Introducing the topic OR recapping where we are in the topic we’re doing
  • Teaching – me telling students information whilst they write notes
  • Discussion – students asking questions, debating, me asking them questions
  • Watch a video clip that links OR complete an assessed piece of writing

Once a half term students complete online multiple choice questions in the lesson.

Simply put, regardless of the way I do it, my lessons are:

  • Recall
  • Improve
  • Introduce/Remind
  • Teach
  • Embed
  • Practice

I make up the 1-10 in the lesson using one of the students’ books. No planning there. I know where we’re up to since last lesson so I just teach what is next in the scheme. Discussion comes from what students pick up on. Our schemes have the content I need. It tells me what I need to teach for that section. And it includes suggested video clips.

Notice there aren’t any ‘activities’ for the students to complete. These are rare. I have a handful for each year group that I use which are tried and tested which I think do play a role in developing their understanding. Occasionally, I’ll see something on social media and think I might use it or adapt it. It’s rare; it would have to significantly add to their knowledge and understanding.

Note, I’m not saying this is how everyone should teach. It’s not like a revamped 5 part lesson or anything like that.

I like it. It works for me and my subject, my school, the level of students and multiple classes.

What I do plan

Planning is normally in the form of developing my pedagogical and subject knowledge.

I might have to spend time on creating a GCSE test but we’re at the stage now, 3 years in, that most of this is sorted. This takes 5 minutes.

At the start of the week, all I need to do is remind myself where each class is in the scheme. That’s my weekly planning. I teach 17 classes. I don’t have a teacher planner I have a ‘taught’ list. It’s the opposite of a planner; I just write down where we got to, for each class. I then carry on. I don’t teach lesson by lesson as I see so many schemes outline on social media. I teach a topic over a number of lessons and just start where we left off. No neat ‘topic per lesson’ in my classes. Depth of coverage outweighs rattling through a scheme which has new content for every lesson in lesson sized chunks.

Why I don’t ask for lessons

I don’t need ‘lessons’. I find it odd when people ask for ‘observation lessons’. We don’t have observations in my school, but even when I know someone is coming in, I won’t change my lesson for them. Why would I change what I normally do because there’s another adult in the room?!

Questions I ask on social media are to help me teach i.e. subject knowledge or for suggested video clips.

I’m also an experienced teacher so I can spend less time on my teaching. However, this set up has worked for new colleagues. If they want to spend hours creating activities then they can, but I want to know that they’re valuable and lead to embedding learning, not just for engagement or fun. I think this model can work equally for NQTs. They might want to plan what they will say, ask etc but there shouldn’t be any need for extensive planning of what they will teach, if the scheme of work clearly gives it.

Boring lessons?

You might think this sounds really boring. Maybe it is. But I’m safe in the knowledge that I don’t spend hours of my own time planning. I have a good work/life balance. Most kids say they like it. Some say it’s their favourite lesson. Results are good.

That’s enough for me.