The Perfect Lesson
It’s time to start writing a lesson for Tuesday. What do you use as a basis for planning? Is it:
a. The lesson the day before. What was covered? What was missed? (Sometimes this is it- an arrow in the book. “Do this tomorrow instead.”)
b. The manual. Monday was day 19. Tuesday must be day 20.
c. The standards. 5.2.7? Check. Did that one already. Let’s move on to 5.2.8.
d. The content. First we do the planets in order by size, so next it’s time for planets in order from the sun.
e. The skill. After students learn the within-word pattern, they are ready for syllables and affixes. We can introduce that on Tuesday.
f. The students. Well, student x was really struggling with subtraction with regrouping yesterday and I am sure the rest of the class could use a review. Let’s do a quick kahoot quiz right at the start of the lesson and create a small group of “not-quite-ready” kids and compact out those who demonstrate mastery. They can work on a real-world performance task related to making change. Maybe they could design a store and sell each other goods using only $20. I know I have a set of old grocery toys in the garage somewhere… The kids who were “just ready” can have a review activity- I will print a sheet of 50 facts and they can choose any ten to demonstrate mastery. I will make sure they all include two levels of regrouping so it does not matter which ten they choose. When they finish, the can go shop in the grocery story. My “not-quite-ready” group will meet with me- we’ll do the first row of the 50 facts sheet, demonstrating on the first one, heavily modelling on the second, then allowing each student a chance to use the “magic pen”. I will grab some manipulatives just in case there is a conceptual issue. The kids can work on the next 10 in front I can monitor, then I will turn them loose for an additional 10. If they finish them accurately, they can go shop in the store. Otherwise, they will come back to me for some one on one practice. Ok, that’s the first 15 minutes of a 60 minute block. What’s next?
g. All of the above.
Which is the “correct answer”? It’s g. All of the above.,(Pro tip: It’s ALWAYS all of the above.) although we beat ourselves up when planning is not based 100% on F, the students. The truth of the matter is, all the other factors matter to someone in a public school. Someone is checking our plans for continuity, another person cares about fidelity to the new, expensive resource. We may be checked for coverage of standards and we probably have a colleague with strong opinions about the correct order for the content. The skill development is likely based on developmental research we are only vaguely aware of and the students? Well, we are the expert on them but it is sometimes difficult to get anyone to remember they are our most important charge and sometimes… well sometimes we plan for them last too.
Planning is hard. It’s REALLY hard. No one tells you this. You learn about Madeline Hunter’s lesson plan template as an undergrad and start creating 42 page lessons. You teach your first lesson as a student teacher and make it to page 3 by the end of a 45 minute period. You have a moment, just before your first day of teaching when you do the math: 42 pages times 5 45 minute periods times 180 school days and the panic sets in. By day 3, your lesson plans fit on a post-it note unless your principal is coming to observe, in which case you quickly write and photocopy a backlog of 42 page lessons.
I have a secret: No one is good at planning. Some people think they are, but they probably forgot about f. If they are decent, they are busy feeling like they are not doing enough still. There has got to be something we can do about this!
I believe this is the part of the blog post where I am supposed to give “3 Tips for Lovely Lesson Plans” and make a meme out of it, probably something that looks really tidy and organized. Sorry. This is not that kind of blog. Lesson planning is hard. Instructional design is hard. Teaching is hard. That’s what makes it wonderful.
The perfect lesson.
They say it doesn’t exist.
But Tuesday still comes.