Ugh, lesson planning.
It’s almost as worse as grading.
Just kidding, nothing is worse than grading.
Lesson planning can be an enriching and empowering experience that allows you to let your creativity shine. If you allow it to do so, lesson planning can be one of the most fulfilling parts of this job. But, you have to be organized and flexible in your development of these lessons. Don’t let the lessons, or the students, plan you – you are in charge. Here are some ways to stay on top of your lesson planning, even while being a new teacher.
1. Set up your plan on a pre-made template
I am NOT a list maker. I am totally Type B, or whatever, but I’m able to mask as a Type A person who seems like a list-maker. I think a lot of teachers are list-makers and hyper-organized, therefore you might be reading this saying, “yeah, duh I would have a template,” but for those of use who need a little guidance, need to hear that templates are key. No teacher or adult is going to do it for us. We have to be the teacher in the situation.
Setting up your day, lesson, and week is pivotal in you getting ahead on your lesson planning (and life). Teachers do this in a bunch of different way, so find the template and the way that works for you.
Teacherspayteachers.com has a bajillion templates (many for free!) that are pretty and editable.
Here is a link to my friend’s page – who is a high school English teacher. She has that perfect balance between pretty graphics and rigor. She’s definitely a Type A.
If you don’t care how pretty your lesson plans look (cough, high school history teachers), then check out some of these templates. I plan my lessons by the week, and keep it pretty basic, but many teachers like the templates that require more details. It’s up to you, but do it!
2. Set realistic expectations, and trim the fat
As educators, we sometimes get so excited about our lessons that we start planning a million things to be completed in an hour. It’s great to have goals and high expectations of our students, but many activities should be broken down across a few lessons. You don’t have enough time in the school day (or year) to teach every little thing – and that’s okay – so trim the fat and get to the parts of the activity or lesson that get the overarching point across. You are not a college professor; you are a teacher.
Your expertise in your subject matter is nice, but your cocktail party informational facts and ability to explain nuance in your subject loses effect in the classroom. That is one of the things about this profession that you have to accept – at first. As you get more seasoned and comfortable, then you can start branching – but remember, you’re new here, you need to find balance, now. Inclusively, when you try to be fancy and flex how much YOU know about something has no benefit for your students. Nuance is not going to get the students to learn the skills they need outside of the classroom. If you teach your students correctly, they can learn new information on their own and can be self-reliant in their research and extracurricular studies, but you have to get them there first.
When you make lessons and you really wish you couldn’t kept that one thing, or include this activity, don’t delete everything. Just set it aside on the S.S. Abandoned Lesson Plans, and during your reflection you can add (or remove) from this boat for next year.
3. Set aside time to lesson plan each day
I was (and sometimes still am) in the habit of lesson planning on Sunday night right before the new week starts. Although this works to keep the information fresh in your mind, it is not sustainable, and leaves your feeling burned out quicker.
Setting at least 20-60 minutes a day to lesson planning – even if it’s just looking up templates or ideas – allows you to free up your weekend, and allows you to get in to bed before midnight Sunday night.
Everything you look up, every idea you have, every lesson you see a colleague teach, write it down and come back to it for tweaking during your prep period. Freeing up time during your week allows you be a more balanced teacher.
4. Always write a reflection on your lesson at the end of the day
You’re like, “wha? but it’s the end of the day, have YOU felt what the end of the day feels like after the days I have?”
Yes. I have.
The feeling at the end of the day is terrible, but seriously, at the end of the day, no matter how tired or exhausted you might be, just type up a brief reflection – nothing special – in a section of your template reserved for you to analyze your lesson.
This is the thing that will elevate your teaching. There are reflections that I wrote a year ago that are completely different than my memory serves and it helps my lessons thrive.
5. Steal ideas (and lessons) from other teachers and sprinkle them with YOU glitter
You are not an island, nor a lone wolf, nor a singleton in this profession. It is impossible to do this alone. You need other teachers and their brains. Teachers are incredibly creative and smart, so use them in your first years of teaching to build your foundation.
Teaching is a big huge puzzle and you have to move components around until you get a clear picture of what you need to do for your students. Just like a hard puzzle or math problem, you have to take a step back and see the full picture from a different perspective. Seeing other teachers teach, plan, and organize provides various perspectives that you can incorporate into your own lesson. Don’t compare yourself to other teachers; identify the strengths of others, and figure out how you can make their ideas work for you.
It’s okay to steal ideas. You are not plagiarizing, or infringing copyright laws* because teachers want to help you. They know what it feels like to be a new teacher, and if they’re a fellow new teacher, they want to collaborate and pick your brain, too!
When you adapt a lesson for your classroom, there is no magical “no-prep” lesson. Many lessons advertise as this on TpT or other placed Online, but it’s actually impossible. Every class is different, and if you’re in secondary, every period is different. Take ideas and lessons and then adjust them to work for your classes. Then put your own pizzazz on that shit! You are an individual with your own teaching-style, make that lesson work for you and your students, even if it’s origins are elsewhere.
*Some teachers or districts do not like it when you steal their ideas, so if it’s something online, shoot an email asking permission. They’ll probably be down and flattered that you asked.
Lesson planning can seem daunting, but it is a part of this industry which can elevate your practice as an educator and make your students learn information in new and exciting ways. Now, get out there and lesson plan like a pro!