Teaching Backwards Topic Planner

  • Based upon the thinking processes detailed in our best selling book Teaching Backwards
  • A planning process designed to focus teaching and assessment sharply on achieving desired outcomes
  • Using the topic planner ensures teachers avoid the time-wasting pitfalls of poor planning

Get your free topic planner

It’s made me approach planning in a much more logical and thoughtful way. In particular, I pay much more attention to defining the desired outcome of the module more clearly. As a consequence my lesson planning, questioning, and feedback to learners is much more precise. My children are more motivated, because they have much greater clarity about what success looks like, where their own gaps are, and how to close them, and this is reflected in the improved progress they are making.
Primary Teacher, Year 1
As a department we are using the topic planners to collaboratively plan with impressive results. For example, we’ve discovered huge value in pre-assessment. It’s helped to identify students who already knew what we were planning to teach them. It’s also flagged up misconceptions and areas of confusion that we can unpick through our modelling/explaining. We’ve focussed our efforts on addressing gaps that were highlighted by comparing our existing planning with the thinking steps in the topic planner.
Head of RE
Use the topic planner to ensure you avoid the time-wasting pitfalls of poor planning Get your topic planner today

Ofsted Feedback

“On this visit, teachers and children talked about improvements with knowledge and enthusiasm. Teachers now know their roles in the action plan, how it affects work in the classroom, and the impact on children’s progress. As several said: ‘We see the bigger picture.’ Through case studies of pupil’s learning, and thoughtful feedback from senior staff, teachers have begin to shape their own improvements with confidence. Teachers set targets, gather evidence, and share successful strategies.

Teachers explained how they have re-planned lessons and taught in different ways, starting from what pupils can do already and the knowledge and understanding they need to achieve at the end of a unit of work. In school, this is called ‘teaching backwards’ with the end for the pupil in mind. Half-termly meetings between the headteacher and each class teacher have become professional conversations about learning needs if pupils and the best teaching techniques to meet needs. All teachers have a personal development profile which relates to the action plan.”

HMI monitoring inspection visit to St Aidan’s Catholic Primary School, Knowsley
July 2015 (Section 8 inspection report)


Request your free copy of the Topic Planner


What do you mean by ‘topic’?
Very simply we are using ‘topic’ as a generic term for a sequence of lessons that are linked together. Rather than thinking about planning the one-off showcase lesson, which is flawed for so many reasons. After all, it will take a sequence of lessons to ensure learners have had the chance to practise and then demonstrate that they’ve made real progress.

Do I have to shoehorn my planning into this template?
You don’t have to, however if your planning doesn’t answer all of the questions in each stage of the template, you are likely to run into problems when the teaching of the module gets underway.

Do I have to complete the template in a particular order?
Yes. For example, it is difficult to determine the learning destination before you’ve securely established the starting points of your class. Similarly until you’ve determined what proof you want learners to demonstrate, it is difficult to design the challenges that need to be used in the lesson.

Doesn’t this mean my planning might need to be adapted each time I teach a topic?
Yes, but we see feedback from learners driving what we need to teach. If you don’t, then there is the risk that you could end up teaching learners things they know already, or start at a point far in advance of learners starting point.

Any suggestions about the best ways to use the planner?
Planning collaboratively brings huge advantages. It enables teachers to develop a shared understanding of the subject knowledge and skills required along with the ingredients/thinking steps needed to achieve the desired outcome. Teachers can discuss how they have approached teaching similar topics in the past and what might work best with the one they are currently planning. Finally, it reduces workload when it comes to producing resources.