The long term plan is the single most important document for a teacher.
Unpacking The Term
In Effective Medium-term Planning for Teachers, Jerome & Bhargava (2015) explain that teachers plan for the short, medium, and long terms. Jerome & Bhargava (2015) define short-term planning as "the practical daily planning that helps us to manage our time and the learning activities through the day" (p. 13). Killen (2006) explains that medium-term planning covers "several weeks of instruction on a single week or topic (sometimes called a unit of work)" (p. 66). While short-term planning is lesson planning for the day and medium-term planning is for a unit, long-term planning focuses on the whole curriculum. According to Killen (2006), "[t]here must be a direct and obvious connection between what you do lesson-by-lesson and what the syllabus suggests students should learn in the long term" (p. 66).
Through my own experiences, I have found the process of long-term planning to be one of the most crucial components of planning, especially in terms of support daily and unit based planning. The long-term plan supports the process of 'designing down' because it outlines all the end goals that daily and unit planning should aim to achieve. Although there is no "right" way to design a long-term plan, here is one sample that I created in my third year as a teacher. I use this long-term plan and explain the process in three simple steps.
Planning A Schedule:
1) Time, content areas and date:
The first step is to make an agenda or a schedule for the whole year. It sounds daunting, but a clear and consistent schedule is something students appreciate. It shows that the classroom is on task and organized. In order to make the schedule, you require three pieces of information: the amount of time available in the week, the content/subject areas that need to be taught, and the average classroom data.
The amount of time allows you to set the days that are available for teaching and the number of hours per each day. Then have in mind the content areas that are required. You have to think about everything from major areas such as writing to a small sight words drill. And lastly, use the classroom data to figure out how much time each content area deserves.
2) Make a schedule (go to the first tab labelled "schedule" for this part):
You can tell from the schedule that the whole day is listed out. This is useful because it allows you to know exactly what happens and when. More importantly, there are three major takeaways from this schedule:
The schedule is based on a block method of scheduling where math/science and language arts are taught in two separate blocks. You can decide whether this works for you or not. I personally enjoy using the block method.
The content areas are spanned out based on common sense. A spelling lesson only requires five minutes for me while a writing lesson takes a lot more time. Hence, it is allocated 30 minutes of the schedule time. The major areas such as math and reading, for example, should be allocated more time as well with activities/drills getting less time.
Each minute of the day is used efficiently and wisely. There is no time to waste in our classroom.
It is worth noting that this schedule does not include language courses taught in our school. We had those on a Saturday. You have to work around changes based on your classroom and school requirements. You can do more research on making a schedule, especially because you have to be ready with the schedule to complete the rest of the long-term plan.
Breaking Down the Units:
1) Learn about thematic units:
I have come across several ways to plan units in the long-term plan. The one that I find the most useful is based on thematic units. I would suggest reading on thematic units first before making the individual units plans.
2) Start to plan out each unit (go to the "unit sample" tab for this):
Once you have an idea of thematic units and have a set schedule, you can breakdown the LTP into units. In the unit sample, I have focused on teaching the students about the rainforest. Each unit is divided into the goals, vision, and grades:
The goal section is around academic content areas, so this space allows for the integration of emotional and social intelligence. I breakdown the unit (e.g. rainforest in the sample unit) into three or four concepts. I want my students to learn about the following concepts: the layers of the rainforest, some animals there, some plants there, and about problems regarding deforestation. One concept is covered per week, so the number of concepts is based on the number of weeks that are in the unit. In this sample unit, I have planned for four weeks. Again, refer to the thematic units section to understand how to breakdown the theme into concepts. Then I plan for the major content areas. I do not plan out smaller activities and drills in the LTP because those do not require much time when planning on a daily/weekly basis. For example, if you go back to the schedule tab, you see morning meetings and spelling. I do not plan these out in the LTP because I already have set structures for these and they take me very little time to plan on a daily basis. As an aside, not all of the major content areas have to be linked to the theme (i.e. rainforest in this case). You can tell right away that I have not linked environment and math to the theme. This is because those two content areas follow textbooks, so I did not want to spend them connecting it to the theme.
As per my vision for students, I want them to be caring and responsible individuals. In each unit, I think of ways to get the students closer to that broad vision. In this sample unit, I focus on teamwork because responsible individuals work well in teams. However, there is so much to teamwork, so I am going to focus on a few aspects of teamwork. This includes, but is not limited to, giving positive feedback in teams and active listening. In another unit, I can move onto another aspect of teamwork. I would probably focus on teamwork for one or two units and then move towards another strand that leads to the broad vision of being caring and responsible. You get the idea.
You can refer to the grading ideas for suggestions and figure out what system to implement. You have to think about what makes most sense for the grade level as you plan this out. Personally, I prefer to use the same grading scheme for the whole year. Grading in itself is time consuming, so a structure for the whole year is ideal. 3) Further breakdown the content areas in the goal section:
For environment and math, I just look through the textbooks and span across the topics based on the chapters. It is as simple as that. On a daily planning level, I think about how to deliver the lesson and what assignment or homework to assign. This makes planning so much more efficient. It allows me to focus on actually figuring how to teach the lessons instead of what to teach. In the long term, it cuts down on time. For language arts (reading comprehension, reading fluency, speaking, and writing), I link everything back to the theme of that unit. Let us zoom into Week 2 (animals of the rainforest) to go through it together.
I breakdown each of these concepts even further. Let us look closer at reading comprehension below. In Week 2, we are learning about animals in the rainforest. There are so many animals to teach about, so I have narrowed it down to three or four animals. The students will learn about the anaconda, jaguar, sloth, and toucan bird in the texts that we read. These are listed under the TEXT part. You can write the titles of specifics texts if you have them. I made stories on my own, so I did not have the texts at the time; I only had an idea about the animals that I wanted to make the stories around. The STRUCTURE indicates the reading framework I used such as reading aloud (RA) or shared reading (SR). The TOPIC is the reading strategy that I used. You can decide those strategies based on the organisation or school that you work with.
At this point, there are probably a thousand questions surrounding us. How do I select the correct structure? Where do I find the topics? How do I figure out what to focus on for writing? This all comes from your training and experience. You have to explore the rest of this website to learn about what worked for me, but it is most important to base the LTP around what is required for your classroom and school. This LTP is simply a framework for others to organise their own ideas around.
4) Integrate the vision into each unit:
Once the academic goals are set, think about the vision in terms of the emotional and social intelligence you want to build in students. In order to do this effectively, you have to do an analysis of the students and their background to plan forward. I found that my first set of students knew a lot about hospitality because that happened (and still happens) to be a major facet of the Indian culture. However, they lacked knowledge around teamwork. You can build knowledge and practice around this in two ways:
Build it within the lessons outlined under the academic content areas.
Build it in a separate space that focuses on solely emotional and social intelligence.
The first one need not be mentioned in the long-term plan. You can weave it into the intricate schedule as you plan on a daily/weekly basis where it makes sense. Do not add it in places where it just does not work. You do not want to teach a math lesson thinking about building emotional and social intelligence while also planning how to teach circumference at the same time. Teachers are already overwhelmed, so learn to keep things in priority.
The second one needs to be mentioned in the long-term plan. Technically, you can choose not to include it, but that would defeat the purpose of having the long-term plan in the first place. Here, you have to think about and research what exact space you want to create to reach the vision. In the sample unit, I want the students to give positive feedback and become active listeners who take turns while speaking. To make this happen, one idea is to have a feedback space at the end of the day or a mock professional meeting to discuss a topic. These are spaces for us to provide our students with easy and simple lessons that help them grow both emotionally and socially. By providing positive feedback, for instance, we teach our students to appreciate others and also focus on something good about a team member.
5) Plan the next unit:
After planning one unit, you can sit back, and, wait for it, plan the rest of the units. This is an immense amount of work, yet it is totally worth it. Each unit should take an hour to plan. It would be a bit longer if you decide to make a new template that better suits you.
The Finish Line:
The LTP is all about details, details, and more details. A well planned and thought out LTP makes for a strong finish line. Moreover, it actually saves time in the long-run. By planning the topics for each of the major content areas ahead of time, I had time to plan the smaller daily/weekly activities without trying to think about what topic to teach. Of course, you can make changes to the topic if they do not make sense or do not work for the students. However, the LTP, for the most part, should be a treasure trove where changes are not really required. That is why the emphasis is on details and taking the time to add those details. If you do not believe me then believe in the words of Walt Disney, "There is no magic in magic, it's all in the details."
Jerome L, & Bhargava, M. (2016). Effective Medium-term Planning for Teachers. SAGE Publications.
Killen, R. (2006). Effective teaching strategies: lessons from research and practice. Thomas Nelson Australia.