How I make curriculum outlines & use my Erin Condren for year planning

Hi Friends!

It’s been a while. Truthfully, this summer hasn’t been the most stress-free time. The first month of summer, Brandon was in the home stretch of studying for USMLE and COMLEX while we were moving. It was pure stress if you ask me, and I’m glad that time in our life is over! I then found out that I won’t be teaching Biology II- Ecology this year. I was extremely shocked by this initially. This is the class I get to teach about the Monarchs and do Whale Day. It’s bittersweet to let go of my Ecology course, but I think this will be better in the long run. Now I only have two preps (whereas I would have had three), one of which being for Anatomy & Physiology, which is an entirely new course I am teaching at our school. Lastly, I found out the beginning of July that there was a high chance I would be rotating classrooms all day long while teaching my classes that are heavy into project based learning and labs. This stressed me out SO much that I was losing weight  (lol but I’m not kidding). I had HUGE plans to create an amazing classroom this year with marine inspired decor (to go with the marine mural students painted a few years ago in my room). I was hoping to get into the classroom mid July, however I was forced to wait until a decision was made about the classroom situation. Nothing is official, but it looks like I will have a classroom this year. However, we go back for teacher work days next week and the students follow soon after, so I won’t be able to do any major class decorations now, which is a huge bummer.

However – I have been able to start lesson planning, which is what today’s blog post is about! The first thing I do is map out what topics I will be teaching and for how long (I call this my curriculum outline or map). If you are a seasoned teacher, this may seem simple and like a no brainer. However, no one taught me how to do this when I started my first year teaching, and I wish someone had! So today’s post is for the readers who are new to teaching and have no idea of how to do this (just like I was as a new teach)!


I find that creating a curriculum outline helps me stay on track throughout the year. I know exactly which units I will be teaching and that I will be hitting the standards throughout the year, no question. For one of my classes, the sophomore biology class, those students will be taking a state test that they must pass for graduation…. no pressure. This test always happens a month before the end of school, so it’s key that I map out what we are learning so I know I will make it through the material in time.


The first step is pretty easy – make a list of your units in the order you want to teach them. For seasoned teachers, this is simple. Each year I tweak the order a bit, but it mostly stays the same. For new teachers, or if you are like me and are teaching something completely new, this may be harder! Talk to your colleagues or the wonderful IG community to find out what other teachers in your state do. You also always want to check your state standards to make sure you are teaching those. Also, don’t be afraid to use the textbook your first year! I personally don’t like to teach from textbooks, but for your first year teaching, having the textbook there is a great guide to figure out how you want to structure your units. For my A&P (Anatomy & Physiology) course, I referred to my state standards and also the A&P textbook we will be using. Though I don’t plan on using the textbook for too many assignments, I will use it as a guide for teaching content and for the diagrams.


I don’t care who you are – this is difficult! This will change each year based on how your kids learn, unannounced assemblies, snow days, etc. Even seasoned teachers struggle with pacing. Going into my third year, I can estimate how many weeks I can squeeze topics in for my sophomore biology class. However, for my A&P class, I totally guessed. I have been keeping a running list of activities to do with A&P and made my pacing guide based upon time-heavy projects. I recommend typing your weeks or writing them in pencil… you will see why below.



The next thing you want to do is make sure your pacing guide works with your school calendar.  What I mean by that is that you don’t want to be in a situation where you are short a month of instruction or you have planned too many weeks of instruction. Go back and make sure that you have as many weeks worth of instruction as your school calendar has built in. I typically am always over and have too many weeks of instruction planned. So I go back, erase my timeline, and rework it a bit. Don’t be afraid if you have to edit this a few times, you’ll be glad you put the time in now! I print my school calendar off and put it in my Erin Condren planner in the back cover sheet pages, and I mark the days we don’t have school in the front “2018/2019” tab. This way I always have the school calendar to refer to.

My “2018/2019” tab with our school calendar days written in.
Once I have established a pacing guide I like, I put the curriculum outline in the back of my Erin Condren planner in the cover sheets. I will refer to this throughout the year. I also give my students a copy of this with their syllabus (without the weeks, just the order of units).


This is the step that is most valuable to me! I then go to the “Year Plan” tab in my Erin Condren and write in (with pencil) when I will be teaching each unit. I did not like how the year plan is laid out this year- it started with January instead of August. So I used my stickers in the back to put the year plan in an order that made sense to me. While looking at my year calendar, I write in when I will be teaching each unit. Things to remember: your winter months and spring months are full of holiday breaks, spring break, work days, etc. Pay close to attention to those holidays and plan around them. For example, in November you really only have 3 weeks of instruction, not 4 weeks. So make sure you plan for that here.

The reason I love this step is that this is what I refer to throughout the year. This helps me know if I’m on track, too slow, or too fast. Note: you will get off track. There’s going to be a unit that you just LOVE and the kids LOVE so you spend an extra week, or maybe a unit the kids struggled with so you went back and spent extra time on some topics, or a unit that you planned would take 3 weeks but the kids caught on so fast that it only took 2 weeks. The point is – this is just a guide you are making. You will get off track, but somehow it always ends up being okay. Don’t freak out if you are off track in October, you will figure out a way to catch your kids back up throughout the year.

My “Year Plan” tab! I will refer to this throughout the school year!
A close-up showing how I plan out each month. I put sticky and wrote in “August.” Then I write my Biology Class units on the top, while I write my A&P units on the bottom.

I hope this has been helpful to someone out there! Please reach out if you have questions. As always, thank you for keeping up with my teaching journey.




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