"Lesson" Planning Level 2: "What's the best way to teach this content, concept, or skill?"
After a few years in the classroom, you’ll find that you’re no longer struggling to know what tomorrow holds. You’ll probably have a few go-to lessons and tricks up your sleeve. You can probably name the units you teach and the order that you teach them, and know roughly how long each one takes, and what major project or assessment marks the summation.
Why is level two so comfortable?
Level two has a stress-free planning timeline: 3-5 days, or in teaching, about a week. By this level you have some go-to lessons to fill the odd Friday for a class that’s a bit ahead, and plenty of online resources to search for enrichment materials if you need them. At this point, chances are most teachers have reached some semblance of a logical, planned progression, like “teach, practice, perform,” or any other logic-based teaching approach.
A week is a comfortable time for which to plan: it’s punctuated by weekends, there’s a definitive beginning and end, and you never need to look too far to see the horizon. Each weekend, teachers at level two plan about a week’s worth of material, and ask themselves “what’s the best way to teach this content and skill this week?” They know what strategies seem to work, and which strategies don’t, and have some materials to draw on from years past to refine, or copy into a new year.
Students' standard of learning improves markedly as well at level two of lesson planning, because at this point they spend their time learning important content (not thrown together content,) learning important skills for a predictable final assessment (not generic skills that generally apply to the subject area,) and working towards a stated, obvious, short-term goal: Friday. Because teachers at level two have the week planned, both they, and their students know what to expect when Friday comes around, and learning requires an important and precarious balance between comfort and discomfort.
The higher the planning steps you climb, the less important the emphasis on the daily lesson plan becomes, because with each higher step, you continue to distill the essence of learning, which cannot be contained in a 42 minute period. Which is the last reason so many teachers live on planning step two their entire life: the calendar, and administrative expectation, and clock all reinforce that it’s the correct way to punctuate time. Flying in the face of convention requires innovation, which is inherently uncomfortable. We’ll examine the nature of that discomfort in our next post.
How do we blast out of that comfort zone to continue progressing down the path to planning greatness
This is an actual picture of my actual Google Classroom Gradebook. Notice the three author's names on the right? Those were individually assigned passages for individual students working on answering their own self-written essential question. Then what did they do? Connection tools connecting the different texts. What next? Students wrote an essay publishing their connections, of course! Streamlined beauty reflected in a logical gradebook free of indulgence and excess.
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So much of the writing published about education is published by people who don't teach. I figured it was time for a teacher to write about teaching. I've been proud to teach 8th-grade ELA in Dunkirk City Schools since 2007, and to serve at Fredonia State University as an adjunct professor, teaching educational technology since 2017.