What are your thoughts on writing lesson plans? Do you love it or hate it? The idea of writing lessons plans can make some people shut down and become so overwhelmed so today I want to share some ways to make lesson planning a much more simple process!
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I have a website on organization, so it’s safe to say that I have always been pretty organized when it comes to teaching. Organization is key to being less stressful and obviously being prepared. Early on I figured out a lesson planning routine that worked for me and I ran with it.
How to Write Effective Lesson Plans
Before I share my steps I want you to think about the following questions
- How much time it takes you to lesson plan?
- How long do you spend lesson planning?
- When do you lesson plan?
- Are you a “fly by the seat of your pants” kinda person? or Are you a “I have every single little detail figured out” planner?
I fall right in the middle of that spectrum. After six years of teaching it is definitely a lot easier for me to “fly by the seat of my pants” but I don’t really like to do it. But I also cannot bring myself to having three pages of lesson plans for each week sitting on my desk to have to read through while teaching.
You can check out the video I made on writing lesson plans OR read on. I have listed times in the video that corresponds with what I am talking about in the blog.
The free challenge, Prep for the First Day. is a great way for you to think through all the things you need as a first year teacher to plan for the new school year. Click the photo below to sign up and get the first email straight in your inbox!
Number One Rule for Planning
(0:54 in video)
I am going to get kind of bossy here for a second, is that okay?
Good, I think we are good enough friends that I can put my foot down every once in a while! 😉
I am totally throwing my friend under the bus but a teacher I work with and someone I have spent some time coaching once told me that she spends an average of FOURTEEN HOURS lesson planning each week.
I told my friend she was crazy.
The reason she spends fourteen hours planning is that her planning routine involves her getting to school early and prepping for the day at that time. She has a general direction of what she is doing each day, but getting materials ready and figuring out specifics is figured out then.
This is all on top of the daily tasks of checking email, filling out paperwork, RTI meetings, meeting with parents. You know the list, I don’t really need to tell you…
My NUMBER ONE RULE for planning is
Don’t leave Friday afternoon without having everything ready for the upcoming week! -Kelly
(It’s so serious, that I get to quote it.)
My planning routine usually takes me about two hours. But, keep in mind that I have been teaching a few years and I have spent the past three years in the same grade level with the same team. I also only teach two subjects. So that is going to make things a little bit easier for me.
I spend all my free time on Thursday planning. I use my conference for this, after school, lunch if I need to. In my first few years of teaching, I would even bring my team lesson plans home with me and read them in the morning before I got in the car to go to work and then think about them during my drive to work. Then, once my plans were done, I was able to spend my Friday prepping my materials.
This has not always been my “schedule.” In my first few years I taught all 4 subjects so I would have to stretch it out over a couple of days because it was much more material and I was less experienced.
During those years I usually brought my planner home on Wednesday night and sat in front of the TV while I planned. (It made it a little bit more fun.) As the years have gone on, I have been able to shorten my time planning. I have found that lesson planning like this opens up so much more time for me and ultimately makes my lessons more engaging, more involved, and thought out.
Now, I am not saying that the way my friend plans is wrong. But is not the most effective use of her time.
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Lesson Planning Materials
- Lesson Planner (I use this one from TPT but if you have it in your budget to splurge, Erin Condren planners are really just to die for)
- Unit Planning Documents (from the district or your team.)
- Teaching Resources- TPT open on my computer, Pinterest pulled up, and my computer files opened to the subjects I am planning (My favorite physical resource to use is my Kagan “Balanced Literacy” for grade 2, they have one for each grade!)
- A place to house materials (I use these drawers that I talk about below)
Team Planning Documents
(1:38 in video)
I have been on the same team for the past 3 years. We have only changed one or two people so we are fairly consistent and work together really well.
Our first year together was the year our campus hired Debbie Diller as a consultant for our school. Debbie spent an afternoon with us walking through a lesson planning format that allowed for deeper and richer lesson planning conversations. After tweaking it, this is what we have come up with.
Our district does require us to do some particular formats for our lesson plans and we complete those as well. But our team prefers this planning format over the typical “scheduling” of plans because it allows each member to share his or her ideas and encourages true collaboration.
I have a lot of issues with “scheduling” being called “planning.” Scheduling (or sometimes called calendaring) is scheduling out when you will teach what. Planning is digging deep into the standards and discussing what works and doesn’t work in the classroom. What the kids struggle with. What they did well within previous years.
Our team plans, not schedules.
Yes! Scheduling is important! Obviously you need to know what you are doing when. But after two years of spending time in meetings “scheduling” out our plans week by week and then each teacher going into their room and creating their own version of the plans with ideas that no one even shared, I was sick of it.
Our team ventured out and tried this and it has stuck. We keep planning as planning and each teacher can schedule on their own since they’re gonna do it anyway! We also plan unit by unit instead of week by week. That way we have an overview of where we are going in the coming weeks.
(Okay, I’ll get off my soapbox)
How to Write Lesson Plans
(3:54 in the video)
I have my journal and my little blue sticky notepad. (These things are seriously the best!) I’ve got my unit plan from the team. I also have Pinterest and TPT opened up. Teaching resources are close by.
If I’m feeling really motivated, I’ll look through the End of Unit test beforehand, but I’m not really much into teaching to the test.
- Step 1: I write in all the crucial stuff; library time, computer time, assemblies, etc.
- Step 2: I fill in my Morning Work activities because those are pretty consistent.
- Step 3: Next I’ll go subject by subject and plan out the whole week. These notes are not super extensive. This is where the “fly by the seat of my pants” comes in. I know where I am going with the lesson, but I don’t always write out questions or specifics- unless I know that I really want to be intentional about something in particular.
- Step 4: Once I’ve got all my lessons planned out, I take my blue notepad and go down my plans (usually day by day) and write down every little material I will need. If I need to make a powerpoint, I list it. Any copies I need to make, I list them and how many. Printing from a packet off TPT? I write the exact page numbers I need. I basically try to make this as easy on myself as possible.
- Step 5: Organize Lesson Plan Materials (see below!)
Organizing Lesson Plan Materials
(6:05 in the video)
I try to leave Thursday having my plans outlined and written in my planner. Obviously things happen and this doesn’t always get down. There is room for grace here. But my intention is to be done on Thursday before leaving so I can come in Friday morning and get all the preparation work done.
I try to hustle during my conference on Friday and make all of my copies, anchor charts, etc. The list is so helpful because I don’t have to go back and look up what pages of the packet I need to print, or how many copies of that specific worksheet I need to copy.
Most weeks, by the time I leave Friday afternoon I have my lesson plans all written out and the majority of my materials ready to go and organized into the appropriate drawer.
If I am super overwhelmed with stuff going on, I will at least prep stuff for Monday and then take care of the rest of the week when I get in on Monday.
Once I make it back from the copy room, I paperclip my copies together and put them in these drawers according to the day of the week I will be using those materials.
These drawers are pretty cheap, at least considering how much use I have gotten out of them over the past five years.
Each drawer has three folders in it. One for reading, writing, and math because those are the subjects I teach. I also have a green folder that rotates between drawers and that is where I put any notes or flyers that need to be passed out at the end of the day. (Also, I recorded a video about how I use my Material Drawers)
This makes it super easy for me to find my materials when I am ready to teach. It is also really helpful when I am out last minute, my team members can easily locate anything my sub may need. I guess this would be my NUMBER TWO RULE! 😉
But Kelly, what about anchor charts? Where do you put big things that don’t fit in the drawers?
I am so glad you asked me!
Anchor charts I make get clipped into a magnet and hung on the side of my filing cabinet. Any construction size papers lay on top of the white drawers. Remember when I talked about everything having a home in the classroom cabinet organization blog post? This is what I am talking about!
Our job is to teach. I know that. You know that. I know that we could go into a really long and heated debate about all the things we have to do that take away from teaching. But ultimately, our job is to teach. My number one priority is to love those kids and prepare them for the next grade level. If I am not intentional in my lesson planning, it will be reflective in my teaching.
Put your lesson planning first on your priority list and watch to see how it transforms your teaching. I know it will!
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Until next time,