Prioritizing Your Teaching Life (Part 2) – Lesson Planning

Article by Christy Vacchio

You want to go on a vacation during the summer to see you best friend in Colorado. What do you do first? You call her to coordinate a date (you don’t want to get there and find she went home to Minnesota to visit her mom!). Next, you map from your home to hers to see how many miles it is. You will probably have to decide if it is worth the money to fly or worth the time to drive. Then you plan which activities you want to do while you are there and budget your money and time to save before you go.

Map Your Year
So what does that have to do with a lesson plan? You have to think of your year as your vacation destination. Looking at the standards that are assessed on the test, whether it be state, district, or semester exam, you will determine where the students need to be at that time in their understanding of the particular curriculum. That is your endpoint. What do you want students to be able to do by that time on the calendar?

Next, you will determine which standards are going to require more time (you need to drive and spend the time diving deep into those standards because they are harder) and which ones may be better in shorter bursts (you can fly by because students get them easier or there has been a foundation built in earlier grades). Sometimes you may not know this until you give a pre-assessment but you can get an idea from district curriculum maps, mentor teachers, and even by searching lesson plan units around the web.

Adding in the Activities

After you get your basic outline done for the year, you will want to start planning the activities you will use to teach the standards. Some standards may take a few weeks so you may have several activities to break it down for students into smaller, more manageable parts. Some standards may only take a few days and will require only a couple of activities. In our analogy of the vacation, this is the point where you plan your budget. Just as you need to budget money and time for the vacation, you will have to budget money and time for teaching your curriculum. Which materials will you need to teach the activities? Where will you get the materials? Is there money you have allotted for materials or do the students need to bring in some items? How much time will it take?

Keeping Your Life In Mind

As you are doing this year-long map and planning for the activities to teach the standards, you want to keep your own life in mind. Just as you wouldn’t plan a week long trip to Colorado right at the same time as your daughter’s 5th birthday, you don’t want to plan for a huge, two week long team project at the same time as semester exams. So after you have your basic map for the year outlined, get out your personal calendar. As you plan the activities, assessments and projects, keep in mind that you don’t want to plan the huge STEM lab, culminating writing project, math probability carnival, or history project during the same week you are going home to be in your cousin’s wedding.

Of course, we can’t plan for every contingency. But you know that life is going to happen, so planning some margin into your week or month will help you have more time when the unplanned events come up. Planning for a review day once a week or once every two weeks will allow for time to meet with a group who still needs more work on multiplication or comprehension. It also allows for those unexpected “interruptions” to not derail your whole timeline. Snow days are built in. Your son was in the hospital so the review day can be a built in substitute lesson plan. That can keep you from having to plan for 4 hours after school just so you can take a sick day

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