In Your Classroom: 3 Simple Ways to Plan Smarter, Not Harder

If you’re a teacherpreneur who’s currently teaching in the classroom, running a small business on the side, taking care of your family, and trying to maintain some semblance of sanity and balance as you tackle #allthethings, you need to meet Chandra Verbic from C Jayne Teach.

This girl is on a mission to help you be more intentional about your time both inside and outside of school. She knows what it’s like to run a classroom, a business, and a family. Chandra is a first grade teacher turned college professor, blogger, business owner, wife, and mama of two littles. She’s an absolute pro when it comes to planning in the classroom and in all realms of life. Her passion for gracefully juggling it all is what inspired her to create the Teacher Anchor, an intentional lesson planner and student progress monitoring tool to help you stay on top of your time and your plans.

Today she’s here to encourage you with ways to work smarter, organize your plans, and focus on making each day count. In the interview below, I asked Chandra to share her top 3 planning tips and how the Teacher Anchor can help you maximize your planning time so you can free up more time for your business, your family, your friends, and yourself.

Teacher Anchor Giveaway

Annnnnd if you love Chandra’s Teacher Anchor as much as I do, you’ll want to enter our teacherpreneur GIVEAWAY inside the #TeacherpreneurTribe Facebook group before May 5th! In celebration of the launch of the newest edition of the Teacher Anchor, we’re giving away one Teacher Anchor planner and a teacherpreneur Goal Diggers Funbook to one lucky winner this week!

Plan Smarter

In Your Classroom: 3 Simple Ways to Plan Smarter, Not Harder

An Interview with Chandra of C Jayne Teach

What are your best tips to help teachers plan smarter in the classroom?

I teach at the collegiate level and I tell all my teacher licensure candidates that smart lesson planning is the key to a happy classroom I always give them these 3 core tips for smart lesson planning.

1. Don’t underestimate the pre/post-test.

You need to pre-test your students BEFORE you start teaching the lesson and I don’t mean immediately beforehand. You have to give yourself time to adjust the lesson based on the knowledge base of your students. I would typically pre-test during my morning work or at the end of the previous day’s lesson so I had time to group and plan for each level. For example, let’s say you pre-test and every student has mastery of that standard. You don’t want to waste precious class time and planning time around this lesson that isn’t benefiting anyone! Move on to the next standard and pre-test that one. Also, don’t forget to post-test and log student progress. The pre-test and post-test should be IDENTICAL so that you can measure growth.  (I have a convenient flow chart in the Teacher Anchor that helps illustrate how/when you should pre-test and also a pre/post-test checklist.)

2. Your assessment drives your instruction!

Use your pre-test results to separate your students into three groups: those who are above target, below target, and on target. Then differentiate based on these needs. If the majority of your students are below target, you need to plan the lesson around the prior standard or prior grade level. Then make an enrichment group with those students who are on/above target. Or you may be reviewing a standard and just need to pull a small group of students who aren’t quite there. I think the bulk of wasted planning time happens when we do the “one size fits all” lesson. We count on our resource teachers to hit the needs of those students who are below target and we give the students who are above target “busy work” or tell them to go read.  This drastically minimizes the intentional instruction and potential student progress that you could have in your classroom. (The Teacher Anchor is filled with small group forms and planners so that you can easily meet the needs of those students.)

3. Use your planning time for planning.

Sounds obvious, right? But so often I was using my planning time for chit-chatting, emailing, copying papers, or straightening up my room. When I organized my time so that I was using my daily 45 minutes of planning time properly, it made all the difference. I would plan on Friday for the following week. Then during Monday’s planning time, I’d take the first 15 minutes for analyzing pre/post test results, and the last 30 minutes for planning and adjusting. Also, on one morning per week and one afternoon per week I’d come to school early (around 7 am – the students arrived at 8:40) and stay “late” (students left at 3:15, and I’d stay until 5/5:30) in order to do all those other “things” around my classroom that needed to be done. If I was on top of everything, I’d use that extra time to continue to plan or grade papers or blog, etc. That way I wasn’t spending my time every night and every weekend in my classroom. And I was always home in time to enjoy dinner with my husband and to unwind after a long day.

Bonus tip // Set email boundaries. 

I told the parents of my students on Open House night that I would only respond to their email immediately before or after school. If they needed something during the day, they would have to call the office. My first two years of teaching, I swear all I did was email parents. And I wasted all of my precious small group and planning time doing so! Also, I shut my email down every night when I left school and I DID NOT open it until the next morning. This helped keep me focused and not distracted in the classroom. I’ve found that parents can’t really argue with this, seeing as how you can’t answer them because you’re spending valuable learning time with their children.  🙂


Organizing, Systematizing, and Maximizing Your Planning Time with the Teacher Anchor

1. Why did you create the Teacher Anchor?

I created the Teacher Anchor® when I was in the classroom in 2011-12.  Up until that point, teachers almost never created lesson planners and they were nothing more than a pretty calendar (some still are!)  I needed something with meat and content that could keep me organized and also meet the needs of my students.  So I started piecing together the forms and checklists that I used in my classroom weekly.  That formed the Student Progress section.  Then I added more practical pieces to the weekly and monthly calendars and also included classroom information that teachers needed in their every day lives.  The original Teacher Anchor® launched in 2013 and looks different than this year’s edition, but the heart of the product has remained the same.

2. Who is the Teacher Anchor for?

The Teacher Anchor® is for teachers who feel overwhelmed.  It is for teachers who feel like they can’t meet the needs of all the different groups of students in their classroom.  It is for the first year teacher and the veteran teacher.  It is for teachers who want to be organized and intentional about their time in the classroom so they can still be home in time for dinner.

3. Why is it different than other lesson planners on the market?

The Teacher Anchor® is different in a few ways.  First and foremost, I am a teacher.  I’ve been teaching for ten years at the elementary and now the collegiate level.  I evolved this planner each year based on the feedback from my teacher licensure candidates that are in the trenches, who tell me where their problem areas are and where they struggle in their own classrooms.  I’m able to have this unique perspective as I work with my students who are new teachers in the field and can then craft something that works to fill in those target areas where we all struggle.

Second, it is different because of the student progress monitoring portion of the planner.  The last section of the Teacher Anchor® includes over 30 sheets and forms for working with your students in whole group, small group, and individual conferences.  Also included are IEP progress forms, pull out/push in documentation, parent meeting notes and logs, graphic organizers, schedulers, and more!  These blackline masters are meant to fill in the gap between when we lesson plan and where we see progress as our students move to hit those standards and benchmarks.  I truly think this is the key and the sweet spot to a successful and happy classroom.

4. I understand that the Teacher Anchor is a system. The planner is meant to work with a student data binder.  Why is that so important?

The binder and the lesson planner serve each other by providing information on both whole group and small group lessons that you teach.  As I mentioned before, the student progress monitoring aspect of your classroom is the glue that holds everything together.  Once you’ve pre/post tested, you need to gather with students in small groups or individually so that you can help them meet or succeed those benchmarks and expectations that you are assessing.  Detailed notes and documentation of this process are important (and included in your Teacher Anchor®!) but what do you do with them?  That’s where the binder comes in.

 The binder serves as the home for all of your student documentation.  I would make a tab for each individual student in my classroom.  I also had a tabbed section for whole group pre/post tests and small groups.  So once I had documentation from my pre/post test checklist or my small groups for the week (also included in the Teacher Anchor®), then I could hole-punch them, file them in the binder, and move on.  Every quarter, I would clean out the individual tabs and file the contents away into my main filing cabinet for student portfolios.

I was able to refer back to my binder to gauge student progress and see where the deficits were and use this information to plan my future lessons and alter my scope and sequence in the spiral portion of the Anchor.  I would also take the binder to IEP meetings, parent conferences, and PLC meetings in order to have the evidence to support any student concerns I may have had.  It was an invaluable tool.   

5. What other products do you offer to help teachers manage their time?

It’s important to plan intentional time with your students.  Our student conferencing notepad and dry erase clipboard help keep you on track of your schedule of individual and small group meetings.  The notepad measures 8.5×11 with large spaces to allow for you to write the names of the students or groups you plan to meet with each day and it can be easily hole-punched and added to your Teacher Anchor® for easy reference.

The clipboard is dry-erase which makes it super easy to track your students’ goal progress.  And as a teacher you typically don’t do work at your desk. So, whether you’re working with a student on the floor, at their desk, or in the hallway, you need a hard surface to take notes on, which gives it duel functionality!

Also, my 11×17 desk pad is a shop favorite for time management and organization!  Divided into four sections: to-do, email, meetings and copies, this notepad is the perfect size for keeping track of all of those lists swirling around in our brains!

I also offer notepads and notebooks for professional development or anecdotal note taking and tote bags, coffee mugs and gift cards which make great gifts for your colleagues or children’s teachers.

Teacher Anchor Giveaway

Don’t forget to enter the GIVEAWAY inside the #TeacherpreneurTribe Facebook group before May 5th! We’re giving away a Teacher Anchor and a Goal Diggers Funbook to one lucky winner this week!

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