I'm in a unique position right now in my teaching career. In some ways I should totally be prepared for homeschooling my son, but in so many ways I'm feeling inadequate. When that happens, I fall back on what has worked for me in the past.
On the NSTA listserves, I recently responded to a request for suggestions on how to plan for an entirely new class. In this case, it was an experienced teacher looking for direction on designing a new course from scratch. But it could apply to a first-year classroom teacher, or to a first-year homeschooling teacher, like me! I posted a version of what I am going to share with you here, and got an overwhelming response. While my organizational tactics may seem old school, there's something very tangible and do-able that has a strong appeal!
I got this idea from an elementary school teacher. Buy one of those cheap poster boards (can you get them for under a dollar any more?), divide it into 4 quadrants, each representing one of the grading quarters. Then use post-it notes to put in the over arching topics (units) you want to cover each quarter. With different colored post-it notes add the labs you want to do, fieldtrips you want to take, speakers you want to bring in..etc... Play with the post-it notes until you feel like the conceptual order makes sense, and provides a thorough examination of the course objectives!
Again, I feel better planning the big picture first or else my units last too long because I get so excited about a single topic. It focuses me, and helps me know where I am headed. If you don't plan the actual lessons during the summer (like you might be saying you will do) that's OK. You'll feel prepared to teach this fall just having the big idea of your course conceptualized. And if you know what topics you want include, you can keep this in mind as you gather ideas for activities and labs. Consider using Pinterest as a way to keep track of the cool ideas so you can find them again quickly throughout the school year.
Here's my suggestion:
- Purpose: Determine the purpose of the course. Look for course descriptions and talk to anyone who has previously taught the course to get a feel for its goal's.
- Standards: If the course is associated with specific standards (Common core or otherwise), make sure you know which ones!
- Audience: Who takes this course? Whether its your first year teaching, or its a new course or grade level, determine the types of students with whom you will working. What have they learned in previous classes on which you can build?
- Topics: Knowing the purpose, standards, and audience prepares you for beginning to determine the sequencing of the topics you'd like students to learn. Place post-it notes (I suggest the Super Sticky Notes if you plan on keeping the poster board around all year, which is what I always did!)
- Activities: Once you have the big ideas in place, as you come across ideas, you can jot them down on a post-it, and place it in the appropriate quadrant so remember to revisit the idea later!