When to lesson plan

20 February, 2016

My first few years of teaching, I sat down for hours at a time, on Saturday or Sunday, and planned all my lessons for the next week…by hand. Now, having kids at home, I really prefer for my weekends to be family time, and make sure to have time during the school day or right after the school day, before I go home, to write lessons (and I do them all by computer!)

I realize that some music teachers have little to no planning during the day (as I’ve been there) so today, I’m writing a blog post with different options for when to lesson plan.

When to lesson plan: Thoughts on when to fit lesson planning into your busy schedule!

During the weekend
Like I wrote above, you could simply take a chunk of your weekend, sit down with a few cups of coffee, and knock them all out for the next week! It can be great to not have to worry about lesson planning during the week—especially if you have little to no planning. Another benefit is that once you’re in lesson planning mode, it sometimes goes faster. The disadvantage is that you lose a decent amount of your weekend. And if you have kids at home, you may not want to go this route!

During a big planning period
A few years ago, on my Fridays, I had a big planning period. This is when I tried to do my lesson planning, or at least a big chunk of it. I liked that I only had to worry about it on one day, but the disadvantage was that if I were sick on a Friday, I had to write the lesson plans on another day, likely on the weekend.

As you need new lessons
For much of my career, my schedule was all over the place. I’d have one first grade class on Mondays and Fridays, another first grade class on Mondays and Wednesdays, and another on Tuesdays and Thursdays. So, because of snow days, assemblies, and missed days,  one class might be four lessons ahead of another class. Back then, I’d write lessons as I needed to. So if I had a new lesson on a Wednesday, I’d write it on Monday or Tuesday so it was ready for that class. I had to be careful to track which class was on which lesson and make sure to look at the list every day so I didn’t miss any new lessons, so it felt a little hectic.

A little every day
At this point in my career, I am on a rotating ABCDE schedule (which you can read about more here.) I see everyone once each rotation for 50 minutes (and Kindergarten for 35 minutes.) Although I miss seeing them more, it evens out a little bit in that when we have a snow day and that was an A day, the next day becomes an A day! Now, except for in cases of sick days or assemblies, all of my classes are on the same lessons, which really makes my week feel much more seamless! And now, it’s much easier to figure out when to lesson plan.
On my A day, I just feel out the new lessons and don’t write any lesson plans. On B day, I write lessons for Kindergarten and first. On C day, I write lessons for second and fifth. On D day, I write lessons for third and fourth grade. And on my E day, I print out all my lessons and put them into my binder, make sure all my materials are ready, and type up all my agendas (you can read more about my agendas here.)

This is by far my favorite lesson planning schedule, as I know exactly what I’m doing each day. I also love that on my A day, I don’t have to worry about lesson planning, and on my E day, all I have to worry about is getting the lessons ready.

Something to consider when choosing your system is how long it will take you to write each lesson plan. This depends on each person, on your training, on how many details you include in your lessons, etc. I find that it takes me around 25 minutes to write each lesson plan if I'm writing it from scratch, so that can really add up when you have several lessons to write each week! (If you’re wanting more information about lesson planning, see this blog post, which includes a YouTube tutorial.) I do sometimes re-use lesson plans from previous years, but always tweak them for this year's students. In that case, it may only take me 10 minutes to write a lesson.

You'll also want to consider how far out you want to lesson plan. For example, some people may not be comfortable writing a lesson plan for the next day's lessons--and in some buildings, your administrator may require you to turn in your lessons a week ahead of time. I prefer to have taught the previous lesson before beginning to write the next lesson, as sometimes you think you're going to get something and it just doesn't happen, or there are gaps in the students' learning that you didn't anticipate! Again, this is a personal decision, which is sometimes affected by outside factors, such as if you're required to turn in lessons.

Whichever system you choose, it’s of course one that has to work for you, your teaching schedule, and your life! Which system do you use? Feel free to comment below, and happy planning!


  1. I am SO envious of your ABCDE schedule! My first teaching job was that way, and it worked out so nicely--that way the kids with Mondays/Fridays (where we seem to have the most early release or holidays) don't seem to get left out. I go in spurts with huge blocks for planning and doing a little each day. I think doing a little each day is best!

  2. Thanks for making lesson planning sound like NOT so much of a loser's game. Im not married yet or do I have kids but the stress of writing lessons plans is making me think seriously about finding another job before I do any of those. But you have renewed my hope that its possible still have a life, with lessons plans looming over your head.

    1. I'm so happy to read your comment! You can totally have a life and write lesson plans...you just have to figure out how to balance it in your life. :) Good luck and thanks again!

  3. I find my lesson planning goes in phases - it depends on the mood I am in. Sometimes I plan a week in advance (like when my kids spent the whole specialist hour doing Jump Rope for Heart) but that is a lot to plan!
    I am on a 5 day rotation too, although I see my kids 3x during that rotation which complicates planning. For example, I just had Day 1, and now on Monday it will be Day 2. Some of my students will still be on Lesson 1, but I will have 3 classes on lesson 2! So, between Days 1 and 2 I plan for only those 3, and then on Day 2 for the 2 or 3 new lessons I will have on Day 3. That spreads it out easy enough. Then, on Day 4 I plan some Day 1 lessons because planning 6 lessons on Day 5 is way too gruesome! So, I guess it works itself out.

  4. Wow! I never thought about how much easier a five day rotation would make your planning, but I also love getting to see my kids more frequently through the week. I see kids either M/W or T/TH and then Fridays it rotates, so some weeks I will see some classes 3 times and others just twice. I have to write three lesson plans per grade each week.

    My first year teaching, I saw the same kids every day, and when I came to my current school, I noticed that they didn't sing as well or in tune, and I really think that the daily singing at my old school had a huge impact. It was a planning nightmare though because I had to create new lessons plan for each grade every night.


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