Common Planning Time: Everything You Need to Know

During this blocked-out time, many teachers are required to work collaboratively to come up with specific plans. Common planning time helps to improve instruction by letting teachers look at students’ work, share best practices, and plan lessons and curriculum together. The purpose of common planning time needs to be clear, specific, and supported as a practice where teachers can personalize their professional learning and responsibilities. Several implementation strategies can be used to support and make common planning time productive, relevant, and effective.

When planning for the upcoming school year, common planning time should be included as a priority for subject-specific and grade-level teaching teams. Schools should create a calendar with one common planning time each week at a minimum. This allows instructional leaders to get access to some of the common planning time while still allowing teachers to have most of the control over it.

When setting expectations for the common planning time, schools should focus on creating a balance between providing teachers with autonomy and ensuring that the time is well spent. They also need to consider the demands on teachers. When putting new expectations on teachers like a new initiative or curriculum, something else should be taken off. Schools also have a tendency to execute multiple initiatives. It’s the school leader’s responsibility to weigh and review all the initiatives because teachers may not be able to effectively focus on multiple initiatives simultaneously, particularly in the demanding and dynamic school environment. Once the main priority has been determined, the next step should be determining the lowest priority and whether or not it can wait.

At the school year’s beginning, schools should establish the primary and secondary focus areas for the new curriculum, professional learning, etc., in collaboration with teachers. For instance, a school tells the teachers that the year’s primary initiative is working with coaches to improve personalized student learning and that they’ll get personal coaching on some specific weeks. Then on those particular weeks, there should be fewer professional learning or faculty expectations.

When it comes to maximizing the time and resources for common planning time, schools can take several steps. For example, building a planning website can provide additional support for the planning process. Schools can share lesson plans, unit outlines, and resources among the team. It’s also important to ensure that the families of the students and the school community understand the objectives of incorporating common planning time into the schedule.

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