Planning Day is a Big Plus for Alabama Middle School Teachers
What teacher couldn’t use more time to plan? And what school wouldn’t welcome better instruction and improved student learning?
Minor Middle School in Jefferson County, Alabama, provides teachers with one full day a month (known as “plus days”) for intensive planning, and the results have been remarkable for both teachers and students.
“The planning time has afforded our teachers the opportunity to improve their instruction immensely, and consequently, as indicated by our data, student learning has improved,” said Minor Principal Taki Sarhaan, who plans to continue the program.
How Does It Work?
Each academic department takes one Wednesday a month to plan and participate in professional learning. This gives teachers the opportunity to collaborate, brainstorm and build assignments with the Literacy Design Collaborative framework that will challenge students to analyze complex texts and comprehend discipline-specific content.
A teacher leader or curriculum supervisor leads the meeting, and Minor’s administrative team monitors progress throughout the day.
On the school’s first plus planning day in October 2016, science teachers discussed the five major standards they wanted to cover, brainstormed, built literacy mini-tasks and presented their work to the administration team.
Teachers across grade levels and subject areas are calling the extra planning day a great success. “Plus days have allowed me to collaborate with my colleagues and develop lessons that will actively engage our students,” teacher Karla Hinkle said.
While teachers are planning, students are still learning. Collaboration is key, because every Wednesday a team of five teachers known as the Plus Team goes into classrooms to teach while their colleagues are planning. If a department has a planning session, students will be greeted at the classroom door by a Plus Team member instead of their regular teacher.
“I have gotten the opportunity to teach nearly every student in the building,” says Minor’s librarian, Shuntae Richardson. “Plus days allow me to teach library skills and to build a rapport with the entire student body, which has resulted in more students visiting the library and developing an interest in reading.”
Students Win, Too
The students receive rigorous lessons from Plus Team teachers. The school’s physical education teacher, for example, teaches the 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens on planning days. School counselors use Wednesdays for instruction on counseling topics. On every day of the month, then, students benefit from teacher collaboration and creativity on plus days.
“We feel that if we allow teachers serious time to collaborate and develop quality assignments,” says Principal Sarhaan, “students will benefit from rigorous, relevant instruction that ultimately makes them college and career ready.”