One of the most common phrases I hear teachers say is, “If I don’t get it done in the holidays then it will never happen!”, and while that’s not entirely true, the summer break is undoubtedly a perfect opportunity for any teacher to prepare for a new academic year.
While the holidays give us that much-needed relaxation and recuperation – something we all dream about as we stagger to the end of term – it’s easy to quickly switch back into work mode as soon as we see our ‘to-do’ list in the first week. So my first tip to be prepared for September is to take a well-earned rest and make sure you recharge your batteries before kicking things off again.
Secondly, one of the most important aspects of ensuring your lesson planning gets off to a good start is preparing your learning profiles. Who are you teaching in September? What are their learning needs? How do you need to adapt your teaching to meet their needs? This could be as simple as ensuring that you have good planning in place for any LSA or TA staff who you will be working with, or redesigning your schemes of work to ensure that more able and talented students are stretched further. Additional learning needs have greater differentiation and support, depending upon your cohort.
Next, get your data and tracking in place and ready to go. Look at the childrens’ prior achievements and target grades and have a clear understanding of the journey you need to take your pupils on in September. This will mean that there are no surprises for you in September and you can work with your colleagues quickly to support, challenge and stretch the children in your classes – setting the pace and challenge for the year.
Perhaps the simplest idea, but worth every effort, is to update your diary with all the important dates and deadlines for the year. I do this with a week’s warning of school deadlines for things like reports; deadlines or parents evenings, so I am never caught short!
Finally, make sure you have a clear understanding of the challenges put forward by your School Improvement Plan. What are you going to be expected to do; drive forward; or contribute to across the whole school and in your classes from September? Have that clear in your mind as you plan your lessons and think of the children you are going to be teaching as the two should go together well.
‘Have a clear understanding of the journey you need to take your pupils on in September.’
Of course, it’s not just the teachers who need to prepare for the start of term. I find one of the best ways we can help our students get themselves ready is by planning a summer project linked to their learning in September. This is particularly useful when focusing on their literacy and numeracy skills in primary and key stage three.
Ensure the pupils have a reading list that will engage them and not just be related to their studies. We all know how important it is for the children to actively engage their mind over longer holidays, rather than relying on the XBox for stimulation.
With this in mind, giving children a holiday ‘bucket list’ works really well. Try handing out scrapbooks to the children and set ten challenges they need to complete by their return; whether it be climbing a local mountain or finding different examples of fauna or flora, the challenge can be linked to their House Points or Challenge Board.
Most importantly for the children, give them a clear list of instructions and expectations for September. Setting the context for their return will mean that lessons will start promptly and the pace of learning will be right from the start.
Paul Norton is Principal of Kings Monkton School in Cardiff.