By Bethanie Tucker
When I was in a previous teaching position, my colleagues and I took our seventh-graders on a field trip to Washington, DC, every spring. Being the conscientious teachers that we were, we planned where we would stay, which sites we would visit, even what and where the students would eat. But we had forgotten one crucial detail—to involve our students in the planning process. We had not planned the planning process, which would have increased the educational impact on the students.

Planning to Plan

Doing the work ourselves was, of course, the easiest approach. Looking back, however, I realize how many skills our students could have developed if they had done much of the planning themselves, guided by comments like the following:

  • “What time of year should we take the field trip?” reminds students of the importance of thinking ahead.
  • “Which sites would you like to visit?” involves them in setting priorities.
  • “Oh, so you’d like to see the Washington Monument. What a great idea!” shows a student that she is an individual and that her ideas have value.
  • “Let’s make a plan” shows the importance and the satisfaction of planning.
  • “Let’s make a list” demonstrates the value of organized planning.
  • “We can check each item off the list as we complete it” illustrates the need for organization and procedures.
  • “First, we need to list options. Then we need to look at a map” demonstrates the necessity of breaking a task down into parts and beginning with Step 1.

Planning to plan requires us as educators first to stop and think about which activities lend themselves to student involvement in the planning process, then to engage students in the planning process. From kindergarten through college, the opportunities are many, including: 

  • Assignment or syllabus options
  • Where to put assignments, notes from home, etc.
  • Where and how to store personal items
  • Taking breaks
  • Field trips
  • Classroom activities
  • Celebrations
  • Special guest/visitor/speaker
  • A joint venture with another class or group of students
  • New interest centers
  • Art activities
  • Cooking activities

I’d be interested in knowing how other parents and educators have planned to plan (how they involved students in the planning process) and what the results were.