Getting The Most Out Of Your Planning Period

When you become a teacher, there’s a lot they don’t tell you. You are expected to figure out many of teaching’s ins and outs on your own. One of these things is getting the most out of each planning period. 

If you didn’t already know, a planning period is the one period you have each day to ‘plan.’ Why the ‘’ marks? Well, a lot can happen during a planning period, and sometimes actual lesson planning does not happen at all. 

In this article I’ll teach you some planning period trade secrets. That being said, let’s turn the 47-55 minutes you have each day into pure gold!

Expect the Unexpected

Even after a single day in the classroom, teachers learn to expect the unexpected. From IEP meetings to watching another teacher’s class, there are innumerable tasks that sap away teachers’ planning periods. Sometimes new teachers may feel panicked that you won’t be ready for your next class or the rest of the day.

First of all, know that this happens to everyone, and that even experienced teachers feel the same frustration when they are pulled out of their planning periods. They, however, know how to adapt on the fly. If you’re a new teacher, keep the following tips in mind when your planning period gets cut short:

  • Don’t fret/panic.
  • Think about what your next period may lack if you can’t finish your planning period goal(s).
  • Consider substitutions.

The third bullet will take practice. But as more of these situations come up (and they will), you’ll have more tools in your teacher toolbox. The same advice won’t work for everyone, but here’s something that should help the majority of new teachers. If you get seriously sidetracked and know that the next period’s lesson won’t be as great as you intended, explain what happened to your class. They may not like whatever you decide to do that day, but at least they will know your circumstances. And for whatever you try, if it works, keep that strategy for another time. If it doesn’t work, ditch it.

When Your Planning Period Is The First (Or Last Period) Of The Day

Ask a seasoned teacher what period he or she would prefer for planning and your answer is likely to be either first or last period. Why? Well, these two periods come with a lot of perks. But there’s also a few pitfalls new teachers can make if they are unexpectedly blessed with one of these planning periods. Let’s look at some examples.

Why First Period Planning Is Great! First period planning is a great way to jumpstart your mornings. You have more time to make last minute adjustments to curriculum, worksheets, presentations, etc. If you need to rearrange your classroom for a special activity, there’s no need to come to work when it’s still pitch black outside. Also, without as much pressure to be ready by the first bell, you can socialize with students in the halls and form positive student-teacher relationships.

Watch Out! Please be mindful of the other teachers in the break room making copies. They might have class in five minutes, while you have over one hour. Save the copying for your planning period.

Why Last Period Planning Is Great! Last period planning usually means one thing: time to grade! Though you might want to plan for the next day, trust me, focus on the grading. Planning for tomorrow might take more brain power, but it will be more engaging that grading the same quizzes/tests over and over. The faster you get the tedious work out of the way, the better.

Watch Out! At the end of the day, you’re likely to be exhausted both mentally and physically. Without any more students, it’s likely that your body will try to send you asleep. If you have the 2:00PM yawns, take a walk in the halls, have a cup of coffee, or eat a snack. Basically, do anything that will give you a burst of energy that will last until the work is done.

Final Thoughts

Not every planning period will go the way you expect. But when it does, work to get the most out of every moment. Your students will appreciate it. Their parents will appreciate it. And you, having less work to do before and after school, will definitely appreciate it.  

Thomas Broderick lives in Northern California. A former English & social studies teacher, Thomas now works as a freelance writer. You can contact Thomas through his website,

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