All too often, as a teacher, Friday afternoon rolls around, and all you can think about are the lessons for next week that haven’t been planned and the assignments that haven’t been created. Just like that, your weekend plans are put aside in lieu of time spent scouring the Internet for the YouTube video that will get every student psyched for your next unit and for the perfect independent practice aligned to standards.
For the majority of teachers who have experienced some semblance of the dreaded weekend lesson-planning session, Sunday afternoon can feel like a ticking time bomb. Put an end to that stress this school year! Explore these five lesson-planning tips that will help you reclaim your weekends once and for all:
1. Start with the end in mind
Often referred to as “backwards planning,” this tactic starts with setting a specific and measurable objective and then building all elements of the lesson cycle directly from that overarching goal. Sometimes, even the most experienced educator can benefit from this simple reminder before a Pinterest search yields a lesson planned around a cute learning craft without considering the clearly defined learning goal. Planning lessons instead around an objective that is both specific and measurable ensures that the learner remains at the center of all instruction, practice, and assessment that follows, and it will leave you with actionable data on their progress. If you’re new to lesson planning, check out this video from the Teaching Channel to see the power of a strong objective in action.
2. Take stock of student learning styles
As you kick off a new school year, do yourself a favor, and poll your students’ learning styles and aptitudes from the very beginning. Every class has a distinct personality, and by determining what that is sooner rather than later, the direction that your lessons take can be directly aligned to the preferences and needs of your students. Edutopia offers an interesting article on multiple intelligences, as well as a self-assessment tool to help you get started. You can also take a look at the teaching blog, “Everybody is a Genius,” where 10-year veteran teacher Sarah demonstrates how she captures personality, learning style, and multiple intelligence information in her students’ interactive notebooks.
3. Find a solution that works, and stick to it
Online resources can help you locate countless ideas and templates for lesson planning. Too much searching, and your head will start to spin with ideas, leaving you overwhelmed and frantically changing your organization style month after month. Whether you’re mandated by your school or district to use a particular plan or you have the freedom to develop your own, do your research early to make sure that the planning style you select works for you all year long. In addition to perusing collaborative online forums, such as Pinterest or Teachers Pay Teachers, take a look at these two planning tools that offer some different, yet effective, approaches to becoming an organized teacher:
Common Curriculum - This site offers a free online lesson-planning tool that allows you to organize your lessons by days, weeks, or months.
Teacher Lesson Planners by Erin Condren - These colorful planning notebooks are loved by educators for their design and flexible organization. They’ve even inspired users to create their own printable inserts, often found on Teachers Pay Teachers.
4. Beg, borrow, and steal
It’s said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. So, why spend time creating your own PowerPoint presentations and exit tickets when someone else has already done the work for you? There are many open educational resources out there, but when sifting through the flood of options, it can be difficult find the quality information you need. Below are two recommendations for popular and robust online curriculum resources, created and vetted by educators:
OER Commons - This resource is a dynamic digital library of teacher-created curriculum dedicated to educator improvement.
BetterLesson - This site is a dedicated teacher resource community that offers free content and fully developed lesson plans.
5. Work smarter, not harder
This is a phrase too often used in education but one that’s still worth repeating. Embracing this mantra means doing the research to find resources that align to learning objectives and students’ needs in the beginning and then returning to those tools time and again throughout the school year. Finding solutions that you can embrace with fidelity also has the added benefit of allowing you to take back precious time in your day for working one on one with students, tracking progress, conferring with parents, and celebrating success.
Edmentum’s web-based program, EducationCity is one such solution, offering time-saving lesson-planning tools paired with standards-aligned student practice to help you connect teaching and learning for pre-K through 6th grade students. With EducationCity, you can create individualized learning paths and track student progress throughout the school year in an intuitive online environment specifically designed to help you work smarter, not harder.
Want even more tips to help make these year’s lesson plans a success? Check out this article from Edutopia on 9 Ways to Plan Transformational Lessons. You can also take a look at Edmentum’s 10 FREE Resources for Educators to help your classroom run smoothly!