Friday, March 26, 2010

Throw Out Your Lesson Plans

Preamble:  the Common Core Standards for K12 Mathematics are up and available for comment.  See  My two two word reviews: too much and too little.  They just couldn't focus.  And, there's very little attention to the processes.  In related news, as Congress considers the revamping of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the Forum for Education and Democracy put together a pretty nice little manifesto, er, recommendations.  I glossed over it once, but Dave Coffey repointed it out to me.  Worth a look.

We were talking about lesson planning this week, and I enjoyed the think aloud enough that I thought I'd post it.

It's easy and common to confuse lesson planning with a lesson plan.  When you ask preservice teachers about planning they invariably talk about lesson plans, and most usually, particular lesson plan formats.  Then they get more classroom experience and 95/100 supervising teachers tell them that they don't use lesson plans any more and the novice teachers decide they don't them either. 

Of course, they're right.  They probably don't need lesson plans the way we often teach them.  I used to require awful things.  Huge four column Japanese style lesson plans with loads of information.  Then I started just using those to capture a lesson.  Finally, I gave up making any kind of stink about the format.  I still share those, as a way to capture a lesson.  But I make no pretense that you would use them to prepare a lesson.  As a department (okay, Dave, Rebecca and I) we are trying to get away from planning without students in mind.  Real students.  Talk about sending a bad message!

But the lesson plans are the bathwater.  Helpful.  Bubbly?  The baby is the planning.  That is absolutely essential.  And every intentional teacher I know spends time, thought and energy planning.  We may not have enough time for it, and would probably like to do more of it, but it's a crucial part of the teaching.  That's why it gets a spot of its own on the Teaching Learning Cycle.  (Adapted from the Learning Network model.)

So to try and capture the difference, this semester, I talked about both as the questions I ask myself while thinking about them.  This feels more authentic to me, because I'm constantly adding to and changing the planning questions, which feels like when I'm planning. 

Plan vs Planning:  Essential Questions

Lesson Plan
  • What will help you organize your thinking?
  • What physical record would be a good reference while teaching?  What details, sequencing or answers would be handy to have available.
  • What record will help you keep track of what was done and what you learned from it?

Lesson Planning
What do you want students to learn?
  • What do they already know about it?
  • Why do they need to know this?  Or, what’s important about this?
  • Consider big, long term goals and specific lesson objectives.
  • Consider process goals as well as content goals.
  • What do they already know about this?
  • How will you be able to tell when they’ve learned it?

What experiences will move students forward towards the objectives?
  • What lesson structure will be good for this?
  • What mode (individual, cooperative) is good for this?
  • Have you tried it?
  • What’s engaging about this?

What support would help students?
  • How will you equip diverse students?
  • What are possible student responses or questions? Your responses to that?
  • What representations will you be using?
  • Would a demonstration help?
  • Are there math or life connections to this?

What data will you collect?
  • What does understanding look like?
  • When and how will you observe the students?
  • What record will you make of the data?
  • How will students consolidate or reflect on their work?

What other questions do you ask yourself while planning?  What's most important to you?  I'd love to hear about it.

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