Practical Planning Tips: Creating a Semester Schedule

holly-mindrup-73446Your syllabus has been created, proofread, and is ready to be posted or passed out. Your book has been selected. Now, you can begin lesson planning. What will you be teaching every day?

Remember…students are paying to take this course. The knowledge they gain from you by taking this course will impact them as they progress though the program. They will need this information to be successful in future courses and as a professional. Therefore, it is your job to prepare and teach. It is unprofessional let student’s go early, because you are unprepared.

Dividing Up the Material

This may take a bit of practice. First look at the topics and objectives. Are there some topics that are heavier (include more content) than others? Are there more objectives associated with some topics than others? How much time will be needed to present all of the information in each chapter – half a class period? several classes? What activities will you include? How much time will be necessary to complete each activity?

I like to make a document that includes every day the class will meet during the semester. I begin by inserting any holidays. Then I determine how much information I need to cover – usually by looking at the number of topics that are included (in the course or by checking the chapters of the textbook you are using). You may find that there is a chapter or two in the textbook that you will not be covering – again, you must consider the objectives you have developed to determine what chapters in the textbook complement them. As you review the course topics and the textbook chapters as well as the number of classes you have to cover the information, you can begin to divide up the material. Below is a sample of my course schedule from several semesters ago.

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Revise Lessons

As I move through the semester, if I am teaching a class for the first time, I tweak things as I go. I also make notes of adjustments that I need to make before teaching the class again. This may include small changes to presentations or activities. I write them down or make them right away. If I rely on remembering that those changes need to be made, and I don’t write down the changes or make them right away, then I forget.

Self-Reflection

I like to reflect on lessons after I present them. Self-reflection is a great way to improve your practice, whether you are new to the profession or have been teaching for years. Use a journal or notebook to jot down notes after each class. I consider time management; how much time it took to complete the activity. Will more time be needed in a future semester? Did it take less time than I expected? Perhaps, more examples need to be provided. How did the the lesson flow? Did you cover everything that need to be covered? Was there enough time to complete activities? How did students respond to the lesson or activity? Are there things that need to be reinforced in the next class? Are more examples necessary? Do you need to make any changes to this lesson in future semesters? If things did not go as smoothly as I expected, I begin to do some research and planning to determine how I can make the presentation or activity better in the future.

Student Feedback

I also rely on student feedback. I often ask my students for feedback on lessons or activities. I ask them if I should use the same material in a future class. I ask them how I can improve the lesson or activity. They are often more than willing to provide useful feedback on how I could make improvements.

Final Thoughts

Adjust as you go – make notes or make corrections right away; don’t rely on your memory and plan to make the changes after the semester ends or while prepping for the next semester. You will forget! Remember teaching is an art. It requires preparation and practice.

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