Building Solid Planning Habits



Lesson Plan Development



Burnout & 








Building Solid Planning Habits: 

Three Activities for Effective  Classroom Planning

The effective teacher uses both time and strategy productively.  When the pacing in a classroom gets out of balance, students quickly lose interest. Successful teachers are fully aware of how they allocate time.  They also understand that every class session has a rhythm: It can be ponderous, lively, disjointed, hyperactive, etc.  Even the most enjoyable activity can become dull when it is dragged on too long or overused.  Hence, careful teacher planning involves thoughtful time management and sensitivity to the flow of teaching activities.


  • To understand that each class session has a particular rhythm and flow

  • To assess time management

Activity One: Reflections   Write a short answer or response to the following questions and statements. Note: You may want to probe these questions with your mentor or a discussion group.

  1. What does it mean to you to manage classroom time productively?

  2. When your teaching gets out of rhythm or time balance, what generally is the cause?

  3. How do make sure that your teaching stays in “time balance”?

  4. When effective teachers talk about the importance of classroom rhythm, what do they mean?

Activity Two: Time Management Awareness

In the grind of day-to-day teaching, it is hard for teachers to sit back and look at how they actually use class time.  For example, is too much time spent watching visuals, or too little time allotted for student “hands on” work?  It is often very helpful to make a detailed blueprint of your teaching day or class period.  To do this, create a Time Log by taking the steps below.

Step one:  Create a time log by noting what you do in class for three consecutive days.  Fill in the types of activities that you do and the time spent on each. Example: attendance/10 minutes; Gave instructions/15 minutes; etc.


Activity Type

Time Spent

Time Mode

 Time on each Mode

Day One








Day Two








Day Three








Step Two: For each entry on your time log, identify the type of class time it represents using the following seven time modes: 1. bureaucratic time, 2. mechanics time, 3. teacher focus time, 4. work time, 5. Interaction time 6. passive time, 7. down time.  Time Modes are defined as follows:

  1. Bureaucratic time is spent on management activities like attendance, classroom management tasks, school information tasks (school forms, directives, information, etc.)

  2. Mechanics time is spent on anything dealing with classroom procedures like handing in papers, giving instructions, discipline, rule setting, etc.

  3. Teacher focus time is any time spent where the students must stay focused on the teacher: lectures, teacher-led discussion, teacher demonstrations, etc.

  4. Work time is time where the students are doing their own work individually 

  5. Interaction time is time where students are connecting with one another through discussion, group planning, brainstorming, etc.

  6. Passive time is time spent watching TV, films, or video, listening to an audio, watching student presentations, etc.

  7. Down time is any time that lacks focus: time spent setting up a video, wait time, unfocused free time, Etc.

Example:  attendance/10 minutes/Bureaucratic; instructions/15 minutes/Mechanics

Step Three:  Calculate the total amount of time spent on each time mode; then calculate the percentage of time spent on each of the six time modes:

Total Bureaucratic time/ Total time (Three teaching days or classes) = Time Mode Percentage

Step Four: Place your percentages proportionally on a pie chart so you can see how your time is spent graphically.

Step Five: Assesses your time allocation percentages by the following questions:

  1.   What do you think is an effective distribution of time?  Does your chart reflect that distribution?

  2. Research indicates that the most productive learning results from time that students are engaged—work time.  Is your percentage or work time adequate?

  3. Too many teachers spend too much time with the focus on them---teacher focus time. Are you surprised at the amount of time spent where you are the focus?

  4. What modes of time must be reduced or increased?

  5. Show your pie chart to other teachers, your mentor, and your principal.  Ask them for comments concerning the balance of time in your classroom.

  Activity Three: Strategy Distribution

Teaching has a rhythm. This rhythm has a lot to do with the types of strategies that you employ and the frequency of their use.  It may be helpful to chart the distribution of your classroom strategies. 

Complete the Distribution Log below for five consecutive school days and then answer the questions that follow the chart.

  Instructions:  For each five days, every time you use one of the strategies put a check in the box for the day/class that you used it. If you use a strategy more than once in a day/class, put a check for each time you used it.

Groups or pairs

Day  1

Day  2

Day 3


Day 5


Solo work







Research time







Video or visual





















Reading time







Student presentations



































  When your rhythm log is complete, answer the following questions:

  1. Are some strategies overused? Underused?

  2. Does the distribution surprise you in any way?

  3. Does the distribution say anything about your teaching preferences?

Professional Development Activities (Select a category listed below)






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