Planning-Where to Begin?

Would you think I’m crazy if I told you that I actually love planning for the school year?  I really do. I’m one of those people who needs to have a plan.  I haven’t yet decided if it’s a blessing or curse.

When I plan for the school year, I always plan with the end result in mind. I’m horrible at starting small with daily lessons and working my way toward a year’s worth of plans. I really don’t think I could do it that way.  Not that there’s anything wrong with it, it’s just not how my mind works. I have to think about where I need my students to be at the end of the year (according to my goals and my state’s expectations via our standardized test) and work backwards from there. I like to layout one subject at a time, because it’s hard for me to juggle multiple subjects.  I typically start with math, since it’s my favorite.

I first print out all of my standards (for the hundredth time) and decide what units I need to teach, and all of the standards and skills in each unit. I usually create a table for each unit I teach, and I write every skill that I will need to teach underneath the unit.


Once I know which skills and standards I plan to teach within each unit, I begin pacing my units. I have an advantage, because I’ve been teaching third grade for a while now, so I have a good idea of what to expect. For example, thanks to incredible second grade teachers, I know that I will probably only need to spend a week on place value and a week on addition and subtraction. For me, the hardest units to pace are social studies and science, because I have so much to teach in such a short period of time! You can see below how many small units I have to teach!  It’s not nearly that bad with my other subjects!


As I begin pacing my units, I have to keep in mind all of the procedural lessons I teach during the first 9-weeks, and that my students will take their state test during the middle of the fourth 9-weeks. I also have a curriculum map that I have to keep in mind, but I do try to use a good dose of common sense along with the curriculum map, because there are definitely some things that just don’t add up!

I also have a visual pacing guide that I shared last summer. I’ve made several changes to it, so I’ve created many new things since last summer!
Once I have my units mapped out, it’s so much easier for me to actually plan lessons for that unit. I like having a time frame to plan around, because it’s is so incredibly easy for me to lose track of time once I’m in the middle of teaching a unit. I could seriously drag some units out for weeks, when in reality there just isn’t time. When I write my units, I try to incorporate a variety of instructional practices and techniques to keep learning interesting and fun for my students. I also try to create activities that will lend themselves toward differentiation and to think about how I can formally and informally assess my students.
If I’m feeling overly ambitious, I also try to organize my units into weekly plans. The picture below is just a really rough outline of what my weekly unit overview might look like. Don’t judge the handwriting:)

Of course nothing can be set in stone, because who really knows how what’s going to happen during the year or how your students will respond to certain concepts and lessons. This is just an outline to make day-to-day planning easier. If I need an extra day on something, I take it, but I do try to stay on pace all year long.  I constantly assess during all of my units to see if I need to add or take away anything, because I don’t want to end the unit and my class still not understand the concept.  However, I don’t teach in a perfect world, and it does occasionally happen. In those instances, I often try to squeeze in a few extra lessons, especially on essential skills.  Fortunately, it’s usually only a small handful of students still struggling with the concept, so I do keep moving forward. However, I’ll continue meeting with those students in a small group on that skill.

My daily lesson plans come last, and those are my least favorite to write. I think that’s where you really have to look at your students and decide how to make the most out of each of your lessons. That’s when I really think about how I plan to differentiate for my students, because it’s hard to plan that in advance. I also like to use my informal assessments to help guide my daily plans, because I just never know what surprises my students will have in store for me!

I’ve created a document with all of the forms I mentioned above, and you can click here for a copy! Here is a PowerPoint copy that you can edit!




  1. says

    I wish my brain worked this way :)! Amazing! I would be interested in hearing a little more about what your informal assessments look like. Are they part of your units? Just wondering…

  2. says

    Thank you so much for sharing! Are the weekly plans supposed to say "weekly social math", "weekly social writing", "weekly social language arts"? Did I miss something? Haha

  3. says

    Thank you so much for sharing. …I was already starting to worry about my units for next year and you just made it so much easier! Thanks!!!

  4. says

    Thank you for sharing. I have a really hard time organizing and remembering what products I have for what. How do you organize them so that you can find them? I have begun by putting them according to subject then I thought maybe by standard to make them easier to find? Do you have a system that works for you??

  5. says

    Wow!! I wish I taught with you! You are amazingly organized! Thank you SO MUCH for sharing your hard work! I am so incredibly inspired by you. (and I'm in awe). I am definitely going to use these! You are a rock star in my book!

  6. says

    As usual, you are awesome!! If I ever need an assessment or idea, I think, "Ashleigh!" and you come through every time. Thanks for sharing.

  7. says


    This post was AWESOME! I'm going into my second year teaching, so I didn't do much pre-planning last summer because I wasn't completely sure how to go about it, the scope & sequence at my school, etc. But, I've started thinking about next year and this seems like such a great way to do it! I definitely am the kind of person who has to start with the big picture in mind.

    Thanks so much for sharing!

    First Grade Stampede

  8. says

    You are soooo organized!! My 3rd grade co-workers and I (Tunnel Hill Ele.) have started teaching the heat unit during the first 9 weeks so we can make solar ovens from pizza boxes during the last of the warm weather. We do little sausages, s'mores, and tea in big glass jars. The kids love it!!

    Thanks for sharing your brain!!

  9. says

    Thank you for sharing your plans. I like your approach and will use it as I start to plan my year with the new standards (I teach Second Grade). Thanks a bunch!

  10. says

    This is great….especially for an "umbrella thinker" like me. I too, find the daily plan challenging, because it pins me down to the specifics…and I like the generalities.This is SO organized, I will definitely try it.

  11. says

    I am spending my summer working on our new Reading/ELA curriculum and trying to integrate the other subjects as much as I can! This planning guide will be SO helpful! Thank you for sharing!


  12. says

    Thanks so much for sharing your planning ideas. This is exactly what I needed to help me plan for the year….and I've been teaching a loooooong time. I truly appreciate you sharing!!!!! Have a great year!

  13. says

    Your blog consists of everything I've been looking for, for quite some time! It is absolutely wonderful! I am so hesitant to start math workshop because I'm not sure I'm ready, but after reading your posts, I think I am going to buy some of your resources and dive right in! Thanks so much for sharing – even the basics like planning/where to start are SO useful! Those are things that bloggers/teachers fail to acknowledge but I am always curious to see what goes on behind the scenes. Thanks again! You're wonderful :-) – Ali

  14. Suzana Somers says

    Do you have a copy of this on word? I would love to be able to work on this on my computer instead of handwritten.

  15. Amy says

    As a first year teacher…this will be such a huge help as I go into my second year this fall!!! This is a huge Blessing!! Thank you for sharing your gift of teaching!!

  16. Lesley says

    Hi Ashleigh!
    Your pacing documents are AWESOME!! I l would love to use them. However, when you click on the link at the bottom of the post it downloads a pdf file. I would like to be able to edit on my computer instead of hand write everything. Am I missing something?

  17. Leslie says

    Thank you so much for the editable version!! My team loves them! Now they look nice and neatly typed.

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