I have a confession. First I want to ask you a question, have you ever sat down to Pinterest and your eyes immediately gloss over? Before you realize it you have a board with over 50 resources and you have spent 2 hours, but you really don’t have a plan.
As my cheeks redden, I am embarrassed to confess that I have. Maybe I am the only one that feels like calling a well known archeology professor with a hat and whip to find all of the time I have lost to finding teaching resources.
This is not a one time thing. In the past, I might even do this over and over for the same unit because I couldn’t find the resource when I needed it. Then I would complain about not knowing what happened to my time. Now I know that time went to Pinterest/ TPT/ or Amazon.
I decided enough was enough and developed a system to control the time suck that is finding teaching resources. This system is ideal for planning units on the fly. You should not be investing more time in planning than students are investing in learning. You can get some help in unit planning here.
Don’t Recreate the Wheel
Have a spine for each topic. I like a textbook or other reference book as a spine, but my teaching focus is science. Whatever works for you is awesome, but have a go to resource. Your quest for materials should start here, by creating a funnel for finding teaching resources that better relate to the topic you are teaching.
You can add lots of things to enrich your units, but be specific. Look at each learning module and pick what resources you may need/want for that module. Do you want a worksheet, individual project, demonstration, group work, lab, or something else?
You will be surprised by how much you already know that you want to do, if you stop and consider before turning to Pinterest. You can grab this checklist to help you quickly evaluate your resources.
Time is Not Free
Keep in mind what is available for free, but don’t spend hours perusing freebies. Your time is valuable. If you spend three hours looking for a free resource, it wasn’t free.
Set a timer so you are NOT perusing forever. I suggest spending no more than 20 minutes looking for resources (it may take you 30 minutes at first). As you do this more, you will knock it down to 10-15 mintues.
Keep in Mind:
- In most cases, 3 resources is more than enough (including the spine). This is going to vary by age, subject, and classroom dynamics.
- Watch out for Grecian Urns.
- Your units will improve over time. You will probably get the chance to teach the unit again and that allows for revision of that unit. You will also just get better at planning and picking resources as time goes by. This unit will not determine the educational future of every child that you teach. The first step is creating a unit that checks all the boxes. After it is created, you can refine.
If you are considering buying resources always think about what will give you the most bang for your buck. More open ended resources might be a better investment than a single lesson activity if money is really tight. Ask other teachers. Try to keep your browsing to a tight 20 minutes and use a timer.
You Need A Plan
If you are feeling hopeless, don’t be. I promised you a system for finding teaching resources in less time.
- Get a list of possible resources together. The checklist goes into more details. This will include everything that you think you might want to include up to this point. This won’t be an exhaustive list because you set a timer and didn’t just spend hours finding options.
- Use this checklist to refine your choices for your unit.
The checklist is going to provide the structure you may need in refining your resource list. We have all bought from Teachers Pay Teachers with regret, or pinned with no follow up action. This checklist provides the step by step process to:
- Quickly categorize the resources into maybe, maybe later, and not piles.
- Refine the maybe pile (considering time involvement, teacher interaction, and specificity of resource)
- Forces you to get real about your time and your unit.
The goal is to create effective units, that are efficient, and easy (to prepare, teach, and grade). You can be an amazing teacher that feels balanced and has a life outside of teaching, but you can’t do that if you are spending hours in the evenings and on weekends working on planning.
You need to use systems like this resource checklist. Creating a plan to plan moves you towards that life balance. Now relax your shoulders and remember that you got this. Keep your head up. I bet you are doing an awesome job!
If you want more help with unit planning, I have a free 5 day email course on unit planning with printables.