How To Create A Year-Long Plan

I will be honest. There are never enough minutes in a day, but that’s probably no surprise! In times of increasing anxiety, I remember to list the must haves of the week. Keeping track of everything is a lot; being a teacher is A LOT! I am big on organization and if our classroom is a mess, my brain cannot focus. Before the year gets too busy, I plan ahead as many teacher tasks as I can in order to find more time in other parts of the classroom.

During my old lesson planning time, I was struggling to remember all of the activities, topics I wanted to cover, materials that I had, lessons I had to teach, along with expansion ideas of IEP and alternate curriculum goals. I have finally found a routine that works for me! In this post, I will share how I break down the entire school year and how I use my year-long planning guide and student data together while filling out my lesson plans.

In the last 10 years, I have spent my lesson planning hours many different ways. Now that I have a clear and consistent system in place, I spend less time trying to think of ideas and more time beefing up my lesson plans. I have collected a lot of materials and lesson ideas over the last several years. I no longer have to spend time trying to find creative ideas! I am able to stay focused during my lesson planning times by having clear ideas and expectations written down. I work with my team to modify lessons and adapt them to all of our individual learners’ needs. I create my weekly lesson plans a few weeks in advance which allows time for reflection and team debriefing. 

Year- Long Planning

The first thing that I do in the beginning of the school year is draft up our yearly planning guide. This includes the main lesson ideas and organization of topics we want to discuss and teach throughout the year. I am able to share this with my team members so we can all expand on lesson ideas where appropriate.

The following are ideas that I include:

  • Weekly dates
  • Days off or special events
  • Unit Theme
  • Nursery Rhyme
  • Letter of the week
  • Shape of the month
  • Color of the month
  • Number of the month
  • Core word of the week
  • Social/Emotional lessons
  • Social Game
  • Social Story/ Functional Routine Focus


An example of my Fall guide can be found here!

Planning Routine

With everything in its own place, I now have a planning routine which increases my time management abilities. 

  • First, I start with a bin of all of my unit materials. This bin is a large bin with anything that could go along with the assigned unit or theme.
  • After I go through the large bin of materials, I pull out the themed materials that can be used in any area of our classroom with any of our learners. The materials that I will use during this school year goes into a bin next to my desk which I use when I sit down to type up my weekly lesson plans. This is where I pull materials and ideas from. Everything that I do not think I will need to use this school year, goes back in the large bin.
  • After that, I look through my unit theme binder. This holds all reproducibles, art project examples, etc.
  • I look at everything that I have pulled and enter them into our lesson planning document. This is where we modify per student if needed, add expansion activities if time allows, and assign all of the materials to a center or time of day. After typing up our classroom weekly lesson plans, the materials go into a weekly divider split up by days of the week.
  • I want to keep the unit specific materials separate from toys and materials out on the shelves daily, so these go in color coded bins within the appropriate centers.

Having a routine with clear and consistent steps had been very helpful for me to stay on task and develop outstanding lesson plans. 


  1. Is there a link to your Fall guide? I am probably missing something…
    Thanks you

  2. Heather, you are a master planner! I learn so much from you! Awesome post as always!

    • Thank you!

  3. This is so helpful! Thank you! Curious – do you have samples of the full school year or only fall? I love how you have broken it down. It’s simple yet robust in lesson opportunities

    • Thank you for reading! I will be working on something to share for the whole year, soon! 🙂

  4. Awesome information.

    • Thanks for reading 🙂

    • Thank you for reading!

  5. Thanks for this! I listened when it first came out and now am going back to review and utilize the ideas. It is so very helpful!

    • So happy it has been helpful! Thanks for saying so!


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