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Procedures for Short-Range & Long-Range Instructional Planning

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Instructor: Amanda Robb

Amanda has taught high school science for over 10 years. She has a Master's Degree in Cellular and Molecular Physiology from Tufts Medical School and a Master's of Teaching from Simmons College. She is also certified in secondary special education, biology, and physics in Massachusetts.

In addition to the subject being taught, teachers need to plan for short- and long-range instruction. Discover tips for effective instructional planning by setting standards-based goals, laying out timelines, and putting together customized units. Updated: 01/24/2022

What Is Instructional Planning?

When you tell someone you're a teacher, what's the first follow-up question they ask you? ''What subject do you teach?'' The definition of our jobs as teachers often comes down to our subject and curriculum.

However, even one subject, such as math, is quite broad. What is the grade level math? What is the ability level of your students? How many students are in your classes? Do you have to meet state standards for your course? To answer these questions, we as teachers engage in instructional planning.

Instructional planning encompasses both the long-range plans (i.e., the overarching objectives that we carry through the year) and the short-range plans (i.e., the day-to-day objectives we plan for each class). Both are essential to having a well-planned curriculum for the year. Here, we'll talk about strategies for both long-range and short-range planning.

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  • 0:04 What Is Instructional…
  • 0:56 Long-Range Planning
  • 2:53 Short-Range Planning
  • 4:07 Customize Your Planning
  • 5:30 Lesson Summary
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Long-Range Planning

Let's start with long-range planning by stopping to imagine that we want to build a house. What's the first step we might take? Would we decide on the overall structure of the house first, or would we just start assembling parts right away? In this example, it's easy to see that having an overarching goal is the best way to complete a project. The same is true for our classrooms.

When you're a new teacher, it can be easy to become overwhelmed with the loads of responsibilities that come with teaching. Sometimes we find ourselves just planning lessons day to day in an effort to stay afloat. However, like building a house, it's important to remember what you want to get out of your curriculum long term. This is where long-range planning comes in.

Long-range planning is the scale planning we do to meet goals for whole units and the entire school year. It's great to have a vision, but how do you know what goals to pick? There are lots of skills students could learn each year.

To start, turn to the state or national standards for your subjects. You can use these to figure out which goals to choose for the year. Yearly goals are often skill based or relate different topics to each other. For example, writing a five-paragraph essay might be a year-long goal practiced throughout different units.

Once you have your yearly goals, you should again use the standards to create a curriculum map for your units. How long do you need to spend on each unit? What do students need to know by certain dates in the school year?

If possible, try to get assessment data for your students to understand their prior knowledge and skills. For example, if your math class has already mastered graphing, you might need to allocate less time for this in your instructional long-term planning. If your students are English Language Learners (ELL students), you can look at their state scores in English proficiency to judge what reading level they need to be successful and how much support they will need to achieve the state standards.

Short-Range Planning

Once you've established your long-range planning, it's time to get down to the details. To transition from long-range to short-range goals, you can use a strategy called backward planning. In backward planning, you start with goals established during your long-range planning and work backward to design weekly and daily lesson plans. The planning of these smaller goals is called short-range planning.

Think about how to break down a large goal into smaller parts, such as understanding the relationship between structure and function in cells. For example, you might want to first teach students the structure of cells. How long will that take? Which parts do they need to know first? Think about exactly what steps need to happen for you to reach your unit goals.

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