Timesaving Trick: Making Time for Weekly Lesson Planning

How often do you sit down at your desk and make a date with your lesson plan book? Wait. Sit down? For most art teachers a typical day involves quick glances at the lesson plan book, darting around the art room preparing and grabbing supplies, and then more quick glances…

In order to stay organized mentally, it’s important to carve out desk time each week to sit and really look at your lessons, glance ahead at next week’s schedule, and wrap your brain around the physical materials you will need for upcoming lessons or units. You simply can’t do this while running around the art room with clay on your hands.

What you need is a weekly “desk date” with yourself and your lesson plan book!


I recommend choosing one prep period each week devoted strictly to planning at your desk. For me, the day of choice is Friday. Friday works well because usually I am wrapping up one week’s lessons and getting ready for something new starting on Monday. It also helps to go into the weekend feeling organized so you can relax.  Really whatever works for you is fine. The whole point is you have a system that WORKS for YOU.

Carving out quiet time for lesson planning and looking ahead will ease your anxiety. You will know what materials to gather, what types of power points to create and posters to grab out of your storage room. You won’t be scrambling to get everything together as students are walking in. Things must be put down on paper first before our physical world can come together and align. Teaching art requires a delicate balance of managing paperwork AND supplies, and if one ball drops, the other will follow.

How do you carve out time to make a “date” with your lesson plan book and get ahead?

What planning schedule works best for you? Monthly? Weekly? Daily?

Jessica Balsley

Jessica Balsley is the Founder and President at AOE. She is passionate about helping art teachers enhance their lives and careers through relevant professional development.


  • I have my weekly planning date on Friday afternoons during my prep, and sometimes again on Wednesday afernoons. I think it can be very difficult to plan out the whole week at a time, so it helps for me to reflect on student progress and learning on Wednesday as well. When I plan on Fridays, it allows me to know that when I walk in on Monday, something is planned, even if I don’t remember exactly what it was!

  • I really like this idea Jessica. It’s hard to make time to plan on a busy schedule – but if you ‘include planning time’ as a part of your schedule….cool idea. Thanks!

  • artofed.dev

    You guys are so lucky to have a midweek or Fri. plan time on a regular basis. Most small districts think the art teacher has to find her own block of time somewhere within a fluctuating block of maybe 30 min. here or there. I would end up the day(s) staying afterschool usualy scrambling to write down full page lesson plan with materials and objectives clearly stated, with examples, before I moved on to the next school. We had to leave the lesson plan there and I had no computer…so often took lesson plan copy home to revise or had to change.Often because of some unannounced program or mtg. that took place the next week for students and schedule changes or abbreviated lessons were supposed to be inserted, my plans would have to change anyway. I liked to think I was accomodating and flexible(.I constantly put up student art displays, took pics of student artworks for local paper, had art shows, art classes,collaborated with classroom teachers, etc)..but sometimes it just felt inconsiderate. I did talk to administration and teachers about the importance of art education time but it was not easy; I am retired now but still substitute. With the emphasis on Common Core Standards…now all the teachers(including art) are finding it hard to get things done in the classroom, as they are constantly attending “school improvement meetings, etc.” Boo Hoo..I know some of you are saying..but can we use a litle common sense approach here also!!!???? I am still passionate about improving art and education in the school system.

    • We feel your pain! Art teachers all over the country have similar struggles and we hope to continue to be here for support and to help provide solutions to your issues- I appreciate you sharing your story. I also lived a schedule with only 2 preps per week because I traveled and was the art department facilitator. Not fun, but we will all find the positive and keep advocating.

  • Leah

    I do the paper part at home every weekend. I plan for the next week and beyond if possible. I create my coordinating smartboard resources either in the morning the day I need them, or after school the day before. I know working on it at home is probably not a popular choice, but I can take my time, research if need be, find the supporting materials I need, and just wrap my head around what I want to get done.

    • Leah – Getting your head in the game is the first hurdle, so I say, do whatever works best for you.

  • karen

    I like my sketchbook as my plan book, lists of each grade so i can see the flow of activities. This year I have to slide all of these projects into planbook edu.com where there is a template. and then the arduous task of aligning benchmarks. I find benchmarks worded so vague. So perhaps I need to create my own, which seems to be what I do in my head already. Now I just need to prove it all. Laying my brains out on a computer screen. time consuming.

    • karen French-hall


  • Beth T

    I plan my lessons in the same kind of “all subjects” lesson plan book that the full time teacher usually uses. I blot out most of the areas and add my own titles, or I might glue my own printed titles over the ones all ready printed in the plan book. I teach 7 classes a week at a private school (grades K-6), so there are enough rows of squares going across a two-page spread in the plan book for me to give each class their own vertical row of squares. Each two page spread covers a week of classes. At the top of the pages I list the quarter of the year, week of the quarter, week of the year, date, day of the week and grade. I divide my individual class sections up with subtitles: Unit, Topic, Project, Medium, Materials, Procedure. (There’s also usually room to jot down notes or reminders, etc.) Then, I just fill in details after the subtitles as I plan my lessons. So I don’t have to get too detailed in the plan book, I usually have an extended lesson plan that covers the instructions for doing an entire project. Then, instead of writing details in my plan book, I might just say, see extended lesson plan. Even though I probably could use the same plan book every year, I fill out a new plan book every year, as gathering new art projects for new lesson plans keeps me motivated and educated!

  • Roderick McDonald

    Honestly, nothing to see here.