Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Planning Practice

The Slice of Life Story Challenge runs every day in March.
Thanks to Anna, Beth, Betsy, Dana, Stacey, 
and Tara at Two Writing Teachers 
for hosting!
{Rough draft thinking ahead!}

"Good instruction takes time to plan.
If we do not take time to plan, how 
will we expect students 
to take time to learn? 
How will students get to the goals we set?"

My principal said that at our last curriculum leaders recently. I agree with her statement, completely. Planning is essential to instruction. My principal, new to our school this year, was updating and clarifying expectations about lesson plans. Teachers at my school are expected to upload unit (new) and daily lesson plans (new)  to a share point site (new). Administrators have been tasked with giving lesson plan feedback to five teachers a week. We began the practice last month (Feb. 20).

This type of accountability is not a new practice, but it is new to many of the teachers and administrators at my school. We are in the midst of learning. 

Our lesson and unit plans need to include the following: 
  1. unit learning goal(s)
  2. unit scale
  3. standards
  4. daily objective(s) or goal(s)
  5. weekly or daily plans
  6. accommodations for English Language Learners or Exceptional Education Students
Eventually our unit plans must also include: 
  • elements from the Marzano Framework by Design Question (DQ 2, DQ 3, DQ 4)
  • Depth of Knowledge learning targets
  • monitoring strategies
I'm adding the elements I was missing into the lesson plans I write for students and post online (sophomores and juniors).  I'm learning.  I reflected on my lesson planning process last March here. Since, I've been studying lesson planning with fresh eyes. I love Franki Sibberson's The Joy of Planning and I've gotten a lot of ideas by reading our shared plans at school. I have questions too.

Who is the audience? Who is the lesson plan written for? 
What does the audience  need from the lesson plan? 
Is there value or difference in plans written for different audiences? 
How are lesson plans written for students different from lesson plans written for teachers or administrators? 
What is my purpose (beyond instructional planning) in writing or sharing or publishing lesson plans? 
How does transparency of planning affect my instructional practice or professional knowledge? 

Aside from what's mandated, what are lesson plan essentials?
What do the changes in required elements say about our beliefs and values?
How do our beliefs match our practice as Sibberson says and how are they captured in our plans?
How do essential elements shift or change depending on audience and purpose? 

How can a lesson plan distinguish between what the teacher teaches and what the students do
How do lesson plans distinguish between the work/text being used and the standard or skill being taught? 

I pasted this post into Wordle just to get a sense of patterns and import. I don't like that, at the moment anyway,  lesson plans seem to usurp students. 


  1. Lee Ann, thank you so much for sharing your thoughts about lesson plans! We are grappling with many of the same questions you raise. It's good to know we're not alone, and I'm looking forward to hearing about your progress.

    1. Thank you, Catherine. It is good to know we are not alone. I'd be interested in hearing or seeing what your teachers plans (or questions) are too.

  2. Sounds like such thoughtful work, Lee Ann - so many aspects of learning and standards and long range planning to consider. I, too, will be staying tuned for where this leads.

  3. Wow, this is so much to do, Lee Ann. Do you think it's helpful? Will the administrators give feedback that is helpful? Will you have access to everyone's plans? We just don't do anything like that so I can't imagine having to do it along with all the assessment of work that is also needed for students. I always enjoy how you explain your practice, but these new expectations seem over the top for your time. I know that you can draw on years of experience, but what about the new teachers who don't have that base of past lessons? Whew!

    1. Thanks, Linda. I do think that planning is helpful. The new layers for me (!arzano elements and Depth of Knowledge connections) seem am bit redundant, but it could just be I'm still clumsy with them. We'll see, I do know that each takes me back to my practice for another look (as does including standards). I definitely see some struggle as teachers, newer and less reflective teachers, work to meet the expectation. Though some seem to still be ignoring it. One positive I feel is that we have a rich opportunity to learn. I think there is great value in learning anout teaching and lesson design from and with each other. We'll see!

    2. Please forgive the errors. The iPad is giving me fits this morning as I try to edit!

  4. I know when I'm creating assignments, or a series of assignments, I start to think quite carefully about what I want to see. But I don't really know if I keep an entire unit coherent down to the day. I find myself changing what I plan based on inspiration and reaction, but all of it is based in thought. This does sound like quite a bit of new, and your questions very thoughtfully probe at that. Like Linda, I wonder if the feedback you receive will be valuable.

    Also, I clearly need to get Franki's book. :)

    1. I am like you in that my goals for students crystalize as i work them out them in the plan. My days do not always go as scheduled either, Chris. That's why the plans change or are flexible. That has been fully acknolwedged by administrators, so I'm pleased we are not in a pacing, lock-step situation.

  5. So many thought provoking questions from a very reflective thinker and teacher. It does seem like over the top demands are being placed on you. I hope you are feeling that it is worthwhile and not just a chore to check off the list.

    1. Thanks, Betsy. I am feeling that it is worthwhile.

  6. Wow. That IS quite a bit to expect from every. single. plan. Our school does not require teachers to turn in plans, and as a result, some teachers do not plan, preferring to "wing it" on a daily basis. Seems like there needs to be a happy medium!

    1. Mindi your periods made me chuckle this morning, thanks. I would feel like I wasn't doing my best by kids if I mostly flew by the seat of my pants.

  7. Interesting - sounds labor intensive! I haven't had to turn in plans for years now. I know sometimes planning gets neglected in all the busy-ness of school, and it should be one of the top priorities. I love that you plugged the post into Wordl!

    1. I've always planned so it's just changing that a bit. I agree that planning should never get lost in the busyness.

  8. Such interesting questions. I have yet to see where collecting lesson plans resulted in something positive. I'm assuming that the result should be improved instruction and, therefore, increased student learning, but I haven't seen that. Still, I love that you are approaching it as a learned (like you always do).