During the Stone Age, when teachers were etching lesson plans on a tablet, the audience for those documents was clearly defined. The LP was produced by the instructor and for the instructor. Today the UTF still feels so strongly about a teacher’s right to lesson plan ownership that in 2014 an arbitration ruling upheld the 1990, Article 8 UTF contract component which states, “…the organization, format, notation, and other physical aspects of the lesson plan are within a teacher’s discretion” and further stressed, “Lesson plans are for the personal use of the teacher.”
But when discussing lesson plans you have to recognize that a few years ago, the teacher’s audience suddenly burst at the seams with the onset of online accessibility. Now students, parents, and administrators have the capability to view the educator’s lesson plans 24/7. This is not necessarily bad, but with the adaptation of common core standards by some schools and districts, the teacher suddenly becomes at risk of losing some or all of his or her power over one of his or her greatest tools. In the article, “The Problem with Lesson Plans” by Nancy Flanagan, the author clearly defines what the teacher really wants, “Teachers want a steady supply of good ideas for teaching, but they also want the responsibility of choosing the best strategies for their own classrooms.” They also want the right to convey their plans in the matter in which they choose within the parameters of professional behavior and norms. So the question becomes, how do teachers remain true to themselves and still fulfill navigational highway requirements and the transparency that accompanies them? Here are a few suggestions, certainly not a cure-all, but some usable ideas, – avoid templates and professionally generated plan books if possible, keep in mind that deep reading, such as with a lesson plan, is a skill, and consider using my LP recipe suggestions.
Avoid Templates and Lesson Plan Companies
It is understandable and expected that administrators wish to offer certain courtesies to students and parents. I’m from the South, I know all about manners and customer service. This desire to accommodate combined with technology is how the lesson plan has moved from a personal writing for the teacher to a missive with an audience. But in the haste to make the reading and comprehending of lesson plans easier for the audience, templates for plans are being used and some people are buying entire programs from businesses. Your teachers are unique and special; you hired them for their talents, do not make them cookie cutter robots. I am lucky that I am able to use a form that lets my personality shine, but still delivers the information that my principal wants. However, I have worked in places where I was hired because of who I am and then told to present something other than who I am in my LP. If you have a choice, and I am aware many of you do not, consider using Google Docs. This is the tool I use. It provides a platform to please the teacher, administrator, and student/parent. The teacher is pleased because he or she can change plans with one swipe, let their personality shine through, and navigate the doc easily. The administrator is pleased because the sharing capabilities allow him or her to gain instant access. The student and parent are pleased because they can find the work assigned in case the child was absent or forgot to write it down in class. In all my years using it, not one parent has ever emailed or voiced a complaint about it to me. It is uniform in the delivery and what the admin requires, but allows for teacher autonomy. Additionally, when a child has to read and process different formatted lesson plans, he or she is learning a life skill. Lesson plan reading and comprehension are skills that help cut-down on spoon-feeding our students.
Lesson Plans and Life Lessons
Larry Ferlazzo at “Response: Close Reading is a Life Skill” proposed the question: what is close reading, is it important, and if so, how should I teach it? Authors Sonja Cherry-Paul and Dana Johnson hit the nail on the head when they answered, “ Close reading is a life skill, not a reading strategy confined to the classroom. As adults, we close read every day. We slow down to reread certain emails, advertisements, maps, and articles. We do this in order to gain important information, interpret a message, and reflect.” Simply put, learning to read and interpret a lesson plan is an important life skill. We must not remove this learning opportunity by mandating a lesson plan template for a teacher.
LP Recipe Ideas
If you are allowed some freedom in creating and formatting your lesson plans, use these tips to help you tighten up your plans. They are free of educational jargon, as I have had enough for ten life times. Remember, your plans need to benefit you and your electronic audience (with the emphasis on you):
- Include the Nitty Gritty-make sure you have your name, the date, and the subject at the top of the plan. This seems obvious, but in our haste to include bells and whistles, we often overlook the obvious.
- Keep the Objectives Simple-neither you or your students/parents care if you are covering 16.2 of the English standard of the second tier of the third phase of your particular state. No. They really do not. Just tell the audience your daily and/or weekly goals. If the students are going to make medicine bags while studying the short story “The Medicine Bag” in order can understand the significance of them, then simple write that. Numbers, codes, and educational jargon will just confuse you and everyone else involved.
- Tools-just bullet point what text/pages, apps, movies, or worksheets you will be using. Upload or link any tools that a sick child staying at home might need.
- Looking Ahead-look a week ahead and indicate to your audience what is coming down the pipe. Include page numbers for readings and links for any online materials. You do not need to keep this a secret. Some teachers do not want the children to look ahead. Why? Are you afraid they might prepare ahead?
You do not need more than this on your lesson plan. As stated at Strategies for Effective Lesson Planning, “To be effective, the lesson plan does not have to be an exhaustive document that describes each and every possible classroom scenario. Nor does it have to anticipate each and every student’s response or question. Instead, it should provide you with a general outline of your teaching goals, learning objectives, and means to accomplish them. It is a reminder of what you want to do and how you want to do it. A productive lesson is not one in which everything goes exactly as planned, but one in which both students and instructor learn from each other.” You need to keep it simple, easy to read, and easy to use. Stop being your own worst enemy.
It’s a Wrap
I am aware that the tips presented here cannot help all educators. Some teachers no longer have any control over the contents of their lesson plans. This is sad. But as I tell my students, if I have managed to assist, educate, inspire, or remind even one you in some way with this blog, then my job here is complete.