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The Dirty Little Secrets: The Trouble with Lesson Planning

LessonPlansI absolutely love working with new teachers because they are enthusiastic, head strong, and new! They are a much needed breath of fresh air each school year. At the beginning of the year they have all of these neat ideas about how they are going to decorate their rooms and most of the time their classrooms are the most attractive classrooms in the building. After the excitement of decorating their classrooms and buying all the cute little baskets for their classrooms has been taken care of, it’s now time to write lesson plans! I have seen new teachers write booklets for lesson plans because their professors never told them that lesson plans are just that, a plan.

I have never met a teacher who loved lesson planning because school districts have made it so time consuming that it has become a royal pain in the you know what. I am most certainly one of those teachers that do not like writing lesson plans. It’s not that I don’t want to write lesson plans but many administrators act as if lesson plans are some kind of magic pill and if they aren’t done instruction automatically ceases. Truth be told my lesson plan could be written on a napkin and turned in. Lesson plans are just that they are a plan. They are actions and activities that the teacher plans on doing with the students.

When I taught in Louisiana I thought it was interesting how they would want to write you up because your lesson plans were not turned in on time. Don’t get me wrong I know that writing lesson plans is my responsibility but I’ve been teaching for 15 years and for me lesson plans are a formality. What happens in the classroom is really what matters to me. When I was a Master Teacher I never pulled a teacher’s lesson plan because I believed that I could go into a classroom and immediately tell whether or not a teacher planned the lesson or is flying by the seat of their pants. I used to love it when I heard administrators tell teachers who were struggling with classroom management that “Classroom management begins with a good lesson plan.” I hate to say it but that’s the biggest lie that I have ever heard.
late lesson plans

Every year I notice that the emphasis on lesson plans becomes greater because the administrators are younger or may have never been a classroom teacher at all. This is a silent issue with teachers because we don’t have time to prep for the activities that we are going to actually do with the students because we are so busy writing these elaborate lesson plans that many teachers don’t look at anyway. My co-workers are always amazed at how my classroom works and I take everything in stride. When I write my lesson plans I only write what is necessary, which is the modeling, practice, collaboration, and the differentiation piece.  The rest of the lesson plan is in the classroom.

If I am supposed to be an “effective” teacher how can I be effective if writing lesson plans takes 3 hours? I think many administrators should re-think the value that they place on lesson plans because I have seen good teachers with horrible lesson plans and horrible teachers with stellar lesson plans.

10 thoughts on “The Dirty Little Secrets: The Trouble with Lesson Planning”

  1. THANK YOU, THANK YOU and GRACIAS! I am non-traditional student teacher and have had so many worries and concerns that I may never pass my program due to my inability to properly ‘plan’ a lesson. It is important to know the standards we need to teach and then “plan” how we are going to execute the teaching. Lamentably, not many alternative teaching programs offer this as a part of their curriculum.

  2. Loved it.

    Lesson plan is and should be a self testing device of our knowledge of the content and enough ways/ methods/ techniques to transfer that knowledge. With lesson plans one can pass B.Ed., but, not handle class nor teach..

    For me, though, I enter my class room with mastery over subject matter and a way with the students, which keeps changing according to their needs.

    So, finally, a lesson plan is just a plan.



  3. I like to think of lesson plans like a flight plan. The standard tells me the destination. The rest are certain details about how to get there. Altitude is important – where am I “pitching” my instruction for the class as a whole, my groups, and individual students? Speed (pacing) also matters. What’s being “served” in the cabin today? And if the flight plan changes, that’s okay too. There’s a good reason you’re piloting the class onto a course change.
    At first, the flight crew probably thinks pretty hard about all these elements, but then some start to come more naturally as skills are acquired and adjusted over time. Simply by virtue of experience and strengths, the areas of focus can be different for each person and change over time.
    The administrator angle here is really interesting. Should we “file the flight plan”? I think that depends, too. When an administrator asks you for lesson plans, wouldn’t it be interesting to find out a little more? She might be thinking differentiation will really help the students, so she wants to find out more about how you’re planning for that and where she might be able to help. Or maybe she’s been mandated by the district to collect them. By finding out what’s on her heart and mind, (and sharing what’s on yours – your hopes and dreams for your students), you might even be able to come to an agreement that actually lightens your lesson planning load and supports your efforts to focus on certain parts that will make your classroom instruction even better.
    Good luck and happy teaching!

  4. I’ll agree, from a teacher’s point of view, lesson plans can be a pain. They should be the outline that lets you come into the classroom with everything you need for the lesson. Current, lengthy, dreaded lesson plans do, however, have a place. In our litigious society, the provide the armor for the lawsuit which a parent could choose to bring at any time. They are also the armor for discussions with and audits by state and national authorities. All those statistics and revisits/rehashes and reteach plans for struggling schools and students provide the all important legal documentation. Knowing that helped this teacher who hated lesson plans to prepare them to school district standards.

  5. Maria Fernandez

    I agree totally. It usually takes me hours to write my lesson plans. I would prefer spending the time getting all the materials needed in oder to have a great lesson.

  6. Thanks for this article. When I was a student the emphasis on the lesson plans was paramount. My school had a very detailed template that made it difficult to plan and I felt I had to follow it to a tee. During student teaching I learned that it was just a plan, that sometimes you needed to deviate from that plan to ensure that the students really got the material. It was only then that I became comfortable in the classroom.

  7. Love, love, love this article! I have been a National Board Certified Teacher who has taught for 26 years. I can spend 4-6 hours over the weekend writing lesson plans that would make anyone proud, or I can do a brief outline on paper, but know myself how I will flesh it out, and spend those remaining 3 or 4 hours on the activities that will either make up the lesson, or go along with the lesson. I agree with the comment that was made about the age of the administrator seeming to have something to do with what they require from us. There also appears to be a little age discrimination from the younger administrators to the more seasoned teachers on the faculty and the expectations with regard to lesson plans, etc. By this point, I am over the hoop jumping and strictly into just teaching children.

    1. I think some of the younger teachers feel like the ideas of the veteran teachers are outdated which causes some of the discrimination and resistance. When I served as a Master Teacher this was evident with some of the younger teachers until they encountered a situation that a novice couldn’t handle.

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