“We don’t really do lesson plans.”
“Oh yeah, we don’t do lesson plans. We do unit maps.”
I hear this a lot when I’m working with educators. We are debriefing about a lesson or collaborating and co-planning, or in the middle of a coaching cycle, and organically, the topic of planning a lesson arises. I will often ask teachers to share that thought-process with me.
So when I hear teachers explain that they don’t have a structure that outlines their instruction, my inner thoughts go, “What? If you don’t have a daily plan written down, how do you know what to teach and how to teach it and which students need what?”
PS, unit plans and curriculum maps are not lesson plans.
Lesson plans provide structure for a single lesson. They provide the roadmap for meeting standards. They provide clear goals and accessibility strategies. They allow teachers to think in stages and blocks of time: what can I accomplish within this 45 minute period?
Lesson plans are part of the cure to meeting our diverse learners’ needs. With a plan of action, teachers can collect data and do something with it. Responsive teaching can occur within the moment, not at the end of the lesson, or the day, or two or three days down the road.
If we want teachers to be intentional, and we want our students to be accountable, teachers should be making lesson plans. They are a blueprint. Think of any profession, from a personal chef, to a trainer, to a lawyer, to an interior designer. Having a written plan is part of their job- and they submit these plans to their clients. If you want to change the structure of your house, are you going to select an architect with a blue-print? Or the one that says it's all in their head?
So, why is teaching any different?
Now, I get it. No one likes lesson planning. Having to write out the nuts and bolts of the teaching plan every day is burdensome and quite frankly, annoying. But lesson plans do not have to include all of the fluff.
Instead, think about the core components of what it is you need to know on a daily basis. For example, I met with a few teachers recently, and after a collaborative planning session, we walked away with the non-negotiables:
Lesson objective: What do I want my students to be able to do by the end of this lesson?
Mini-Lesson: How am I teaching the content or skill? What will my students be doing at this time?
Check for Understanding: What are my students doing here that will demonstrate their understanding of the content I just taught?
Student Task: What are my students doing to explore, work with, practice the content or skill?
Teacher Role: How am I responding to the Check for Understanding?
So, instead of nixing lesson plans and using unit plans to guide the everyday, let's think about the core pieces that would be included in that lesson roadmap. Have those conversations with your co-teachers. If you are a principal or administrator, start thinking about what you believe your teachers need to create more productive and intentional decisions on a daily basis.
I taught in NYC for nearly a decade. Lesson planning was ingrained in us. It was an expectation.
But these days, lesson planning seems to be a thing of the past, an archaic teaching tool similar to those pencil sharpening thingies that were attached to the wall, you know what I mean.
Teachers are burning out. Covid accelerated the need to relieve teachers of unnecessary duties- but who thought making lesson planning an option was a good idea? It is the foundation of all good teaching. Let’s bring it back.