Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Planning for What?

This is slice 17 of 31 for The Slice of Life Story Challenge hosted by the talented team at Two Writing Teachers--thanks TaraStacey, BetsyDanaAnna and Beth. Click over to the Two Writing Teachers' comment stream for seconds or to serve up your own slice.

Today I am thinking about lesson plans {and grades}. Our third quarter ends this week, so it seems natural that I reflect on planning {and grades are due Friday}. I've written about my own lesson planning processes a few times. I wrote about what teachers at my school are required to include in their plans here and I wrote about audience, feedback and lesson plans here. "The Evolution of Lesson Plans: Throwback Thursday" is probably my favorite post on lesson planning though because I took time to look back ten years or more and see how my planning process changed.

My understanding about what and how I am teaching shifts year to year as I continue to learn and hone my craft. That's part of what I love about teaching--tinkering with what will work even better with the next group of students.

Today I am thinking about what. What is being taught? What am I teaching students --is it a concept or a process? Am I teaching them how to __ in order to__? Am I teaching students a work (insert piece of literature here)? Am I really teaching a standard ?

One of my mentors used to say that language arts is a content area. She would describe how content area teachers looked down on the language arts. We're not as "hard" as math and science. We don't have as many concepts as world history or anatomy and physiology. Sure we do. But our students have had more years of practice in English than they have with other content areas. Our processes help students learn the world.

Not to short change our concepts. Concepts, of course, include all of the nouns you find in the standards. Looking at the first two reading standards we find a host of nouns: evidence, analysis, text, inferences, theme, central idea, development (of a text), specific details and summary. My lessons should address those concepts if I am teaching the standards. Here I am reminded that students cannot make an inference or discuss implicit meaning of  a text if they do not know what an inference is.

One thing I like this year about our lesson and unit planning requirements at school is that it forces me to re-examine my practice {and think about what I grade--participation, behavior, standards, knowledge, some or all of the above?.

We are at the point in our analysis and word choice unit where students are refining their understanding with practice and performance. I am not teaching explicit lessons this week--though I have modeled the writing (and performance) students are doing. Our first  learning goal (analyze how authors' choices affect meaning, theme and or tone) comes straight from our unit plan--it's a big goal that we've worked on all quarter.

Week nine's lesson plans; plans are posted online with each week linked to each tab. Find this week  here

I am not sure if it makes sense for me to carry that goal day to day (repeatedly). That is something I've been thinking about lately. Do I need to parse it more or does it naturally come back to the big picture after we've examined all of the parts of the standards we're currently working with and from?

I'm just thinking about that this afternoon {as I  put off grading the papers from yesterday that I've got to get done}. What do you wonder when it comes to your lesson plans? I'd love to hear your thinking.


  1. Hmm... I have to say that we aren't required to do all of that in our planning. I know I am always looking ahead to the "what's next"? I teach gifted kids, so I'm always looking a grade or two ahead and the standards and expectations. Sometimes, when the standards change (as they are shifting now) I find myself at a loss. The things I've been expecting are now "Grade level" expectations. So now where do I go?

  2. Each year adds a layer of knowing, doesn't it? I am very much a big picture person, and my school (thankfully) gives me a lot of latitude in planning and executing the curriculum. I love following your thinking process, Lee Ann.