It took me a long time to plan and determine class lessons for the year. And, they will probably change again! I always try to keep some of the topics the same, but for others, it depends on the class. Below are a few tools and ideas I use to determine my class lessons.
Follow or Reference a Curriculum
While we aren’t completely following a curriculum right now, I use Strong Kids and Character Counts as a reference. When I originally tried to implement Strong Kids, I felt the lessons weren’t age-appropriate and the curriculum itself wasn’t enough to last the entire year. So now I use it more as a reference, to help me make sure I am addressing different aspects.
Like I do with Strong Kids, I often reference the SEL competencies and ISBE SEL standards (I’m in Illinois, but they are used in other states). This way I am providing well-rounded and equal amounts of lessons for different categories and not heavier on any. Occasionally I also have to provide information on our SEL education to the state, so referencing that I am following this and being able to say everything has been addressed is helpful. You can review the SEL competences here and the ISBE SEL standards here.
Consult with Teachers
I frequently check in with teachers about students but also class lessons. Our year is based on quarters, and I have quarterly check-ins with teachers built-in. I also follow up after class lessons to determine if we need to spend more time on that topic, if they have any requests for the future, and potentially any requests for the following lesson if it’s not something that is a priority to me. When I am looking to revamp lessons, I will send out a survey at the end and beginning of the year to assess which social-emotional areas were a concern for them that year or so far. It always provides me with a lot of good information and could easily be done every year.
Collect and Review Data
Meeting with teachers is helpful, but collecting and reviewing data is a great tool to use in addition. Last year we started using the BASC-3 BESS to assess students. From K-2nd, each teacher helps me fill it out, but for 3rd and up, students can complete it themselves. The BASC-3 BESS consists of 20 questions to determine strengths or deficits for each student across different social and emotional areas. After assessing each student, you can view results by class, which helps you see which areas several students are struggling in. For example, in one of my first grade classes last year, 5 students were showing a deficit in adaptive skills. I decided to add more adaptive skill lessons for that class, and went over the data with the teacher so that we could pinpoint more specific adaptive skills she might have been seeing as an issue. Because it was something new I was piloting and not free, I was only able to assess once, but to use this data properly, assessing a 2nd time after providing more lessons for an area would have been beneficial. You can also use this data as a baseline for individual and group services.
Look Back at Previous Years
When all else fails, look back at what you’ve done before! There have been many times I looked back at my plans and found lessons I totally forgot about, especially from my first few years of experience. Sometimes referring back to the basics can reveal some gems!
P.S. Looking for more tips about planning and scheduling? Check out my post about 8 Tips for Creating a Social Work Schedule