Why I stopped writing lesson plans

img_1409This sounds like  some sort of “confessions of an experienced teacher” that I’m hoping my principal doesn’t read, based on the title. But, actually, I would hope that my administration would support this idea. I know what you’re thinking….how on earth would it be okay with your principal that you don’t write lesson plans?

So, I am a 100% type A personality — I love organized binders with pages in sheet protectors that are all typed out. I love Sudoku because it’s satisfying to fill in boxes with numbers. I write in my daybook with coloured pens and take notes by hand using coloured markers, and, despite the appearance of my house, I love things to all fit together the way they should. Up until the beginning of this year, I always followed my high school teacher training, writing up unit plans, and then writing out detailed lesson plans with objectives and curriculum expectations and assessments and questions and….so much detail. I did this so I had a record of what we were going to do, and then I shared them with colleagues, and never worried about being away. It was satisfying. It was like laminating stuff–It made me happy to see all those pages in sheet protectors in my binder. 🙂

But here’s the thing — I would do all that work, and then I’d look at it before I’d teach, and then, instead, I’d just go with the flow of my classroom, talking and discussing and learning together organically. Don’t get me wrong, we were still covering my learning objectives and working on the task or idea that I had written down, but it didn’t always go with the flow that I’d carved in stone in my lesson plans. And then I’d have to go and adjust them and re-write the next ones and print them out again and so on…. Even though I was planning all that with my students in mind, it still felt really…restricting.

So, I made a change. Instead of writing out lesson plans, I started creating slide decks that were my daily plans — math warm up activities, problems, records of student thinking, collaborative slides written by my students, and we go from there. The kids all have access to the slides, so they can go back and refer to something, or look at a problem again, or see each other’s work. If I don’t like the order of something, or I find another activity that I think will work better, I just slot it in. I shift things around. It’s organic. It’s always changing, its active. It’s real life in my classroom. And then I share the slides with my grade partners, whom I continue to mentor, and they work from them too. So now my planning involves creating a unit scope and sequence — what concepts do we want to cover? What big tasks do I want them to do, what problems do I think will work here? What assessment pieces am I looking for?  And we go from there. It changes all the time based on my students and what they need.  I keep notes of what worked and what didn’t work in my Bullet Journal (If you haven’t used a Bullet Journal, and you’re a notebook person, check them out here: http://bulletjournal.com/get-started/) and take pictures on my iPad of student work that I then reflect on. (And the rubber duck keeps me company…. 🙂

I don’t have a binder full of page protectors this year. I don’t have neat organized lesson plans. I have a messy, always changing, authentic record of our learning together. It’s unsettling sometimes, but it’s also exciting. It feels like what learning is supposed to be.



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