The Tedious Art of Lesson Planning

One of the more tedious things you will do as a teacher is lesson plan. It is a necessary evil. Lesson planning looks different from school to school; even schools within districts. Principals or curriculum and instruction heads tend to develop the lesson plan template for the school or district to follow. These templates are heavy on standards, levels of questioning, outcomes and assessing knowledge attainment. These templates are composed of boxes and labels that will make your head spin, and these templates are for daily lesson plan reporting. It can get overwhelming when your principal or instructional lead asks for lesson plans ASAP or on a day in the middle of the week. It is hard to do the daily work of teaching, grading, calling parents, classroom management, up keeping your room e.g. word walls, posting student work and room grooming; you have to lesson plan on top of all that. How do you do it? Even more, how do you write lesson plans – good lesson plans?

First thing you have to realize is that there are rules that you have to follow when putting together your daily plans. There are actually two sets to rules. The first set of rules have to do with the conditions surrounding lesson planning – the “who, what, where, when and why” of lesson planning. These rules are the most important; they help you get your mind right. You must take care of you for you to take care of business. These rules focus on you. The second set of rules is that of engaging with the actual writing of plans. It is the “how to” of lesson planning; those discuss exactly what to write. This is the more technical aspect that address what you will actually teach and how. This is where all the magic is. I know I said that lesson planning is tedious and a pain in the butt, however lesson planning is the time for you to draft the blueprints of learning. At this moment, you become the gatekeeper of all knowledge and information. It is a gargantuan responsibility, so you must get it right. Let’s start with the rules of conditions:

RULES OF CONDITIONS

  1. DON’T PROCRASTINATE. Waiting until the last minute to do lesson plans is the enemy of lesson planning. You will always be behind and you will violate rules 2 through 5
  2. DON’T LESSON PLAN AT HOME. There are too many distractions at home, especially if you have a family. You have to carve out time after school to get your plans done. It may be tough to find time if you work in a charter school with an extended school day. But you must arrive a little earlier or stay a little later to preserve your sanity by getting your plans done at work.
  3. WRITE TWO LESSON PLANS. This may seem like more work but it is not. It is important to do. One set of plans will be what you post. These plans will include the items and process your administrators are looking for – these are to be posted in your room. The second set of plans is for your eyes only. The second set of plans is the game plan/playbook for the actual lesson. This will include all the info you need (not included on what you’ve submitted) to teach the lesson and teach it well.
  4. CUT AND PASTE WHEN POSSIBLE. By cutting and pasting, I mean general items that do not change – specifically the standards that you use. If you go looking for different standards each time you plan, you’ll be planning for hours. Find the standards specific to your content and grade level and save it on a word document… then cut and paste what you need. Make it easy on yourself.
  5. PLAN BACKWARDS. Planning backwards is setting academic objective(s) and outcome(s) first, then writing the lesson plan and finding resources to meet the academic objective(s) and outcome(s) you’ve listed. Working backwards is a great way to move your classroom forward. The most important part of a lesson is whether or not a child learned what you taught. Starting backwards gives attention to figuring out how you will find out, before you even develop what you plan on teaching.

RULES OF ENGAGEMENT (Planning Backwards):

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  1. DECIDE WHAT IT IS THAT YOU WANT TO TEACH. This is not simply following the lesson according to the scope and sequence or the unit plan i.e. the civil war or quadratic equations. This means specifically choose what aspect about the topic do you want to teach. The civil war, quadratic equations or the periodic table can theoretically be taught in one class period, but you cannot fail to factor in the conditions of teaching these lessons during a 35 to 45 minute class period or block e.g. issues classroom management or time of day to be taught. If you have a 60 to 75 minute, you may lose student engagement because a block that long might be too much time. Lastly, you don’t want to overload students with information that may or may not be able to internalize in a way to achieve the outcomes you will lay out. Choose as aspect and do that well with the time you will have under the conditions you will face.
  2. DECIDE THE GOAL(S) OF YOUR LESSON: THE OUTCOME(S) YOU WISH TO ACHIEVE. What are you looking to do with the lesson that you are teaching? What are you looking to achieve with your lesson? Decide what you are seeking to achieve and do not overload your goal – meaning don’t try to take Rome in one day.
  3. DECIDE HOW YOU INTEND ON ASSESSING WHETHER OR NOT THE GOAL(S)/OUTCOME(S) WERE MET. How do you plan on measuring whether or not your students met the goal of your lesson? Here is where you will decide exactly how to measure achieving student outcomes. You can do an exit ticket, quiz, test (if you really want), or a skit… you can do whatever you wish in order to find out if your students met the desired goal(s)/outcome(s). Just make sure that whatever method of assessment you choose that it is a clear and accurate way to measure to find out if your students learned what you taught.
  4. DEVELOP YOUR LESSON OBJECTIVES. These are the aspects of your lesson that you desire to teach. If you teach on the Civil War battle of Gettysburg, decide what three to five pieces of the information are points of knowledge that students must know to meet the objective of knowing the battle of Gettysburg.
  5. DEVELOP YOUR STRATEGY FOR TEACHING THE LESSON. You must decide here the game plan for teaching your lesson. Will you lecture or have students read a document? If you choose to have students read, will you use first person accounts or will you read a textbook? If you lecture, will you use a powerpoint or prezi? What sorts of questions will you ask? Will you go with a more Socratic method of questioning or will you ask for volunteers? Will you use Bloom’s framework to develop tiered questions or will you develop questions that lead into the next lesson objective? You have to develop the right game plan so that you can ensure that your students walk away having met the goal(s)/outcome(s) you’ve set forth.

Lesson planning is an art… a beautiful art that is a labor of love. You may figure out how to meet the requirements of your district, but it may take you years before you perfect the art for yourself. At the center of all that planning is making the lesson an awesome experience for the students you teach. My wife loves to plan events, especially birthday parties for our children. In all the planning that she does, she remembers that it’s about making our child’s day. We know that she achieve that outcome because the child rehashes what happened and can remember the day with some detail in the coming months. Make sure that your lesson makes a child’s day, so that they remember it for years to come.

Let’s continue to press towards the mark!

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