You should hear some of us Constructive Learning Design people when we start talking about lesson plans over a drink or a zoom call. We get passionate. A lot of people do. Why? Because we want to design powerful learning experiences for our students, we want to continuously improve those learning experiences, and we think lesson plans can help us do that. And that’s what got us—Lance Bledsoe and Liz Beck, in this particular case—started writing a series of posts about lessons plans, lesson planning, and lesson plan documents.

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We’ll be covering what lesson plans are (and aren’t), who they’re for, what makes a great lesson plan, lesson planning as a classroom management tool, what to do when your lesson plan flops in the classroom, why principals requiring lesson plan documents from teachers CAN be valuable (psst, Liz is married to a principal), and more. We hope you’ll get something valuable out of the series.

Lesson Plans & Planning Myth 1: A lesson plan and a lesson plan document are the same thing.

They’re not. You may have a plan for mowing the lawn (I’m going to do it on Tuesday, assuming it doesn’t rain), but you probably haven’t created a lawn mowing document. And while there might be cases that call for a lawn mowing document (maybe professional landscapers use them?), it’s not something most people need. The same is true for lesson plans and lesson plan documents. There will be times in your teaching career when you implement a lesson without creating a lesson plan document, but chances are, you at least have a plan.

Lesson Plans & Planning Myth 2: Everyone agrees about WHO a lesson plan is for.

Constructive Learning Design facilitates professional development sessions on lesson planning, and one of the questions we sometimes ask early on is, “Who is a lesson plan for?” It turns out that there’s a fair bit of disagreement on that question.

Here are the top four answers we hear:

  1. Lesson plans are for the students
  2. Lesson plans are for the teacher
  3. Lesson plans are for the principal
  4. All of the above

There are good arguments supporting each of the above answers, but if you’re going to have a productive conversation about lesson plans, it’s good to be clear on who you think the plan is for.

Lesson Plans & Planning Myth 3: There’s one best template to use for a lesson plan document.

There are plenty of teachers who think there’s one best lesson plan template, and (surprise!) it’s usually the one they use. While disagreeing about the best template to use for a lesson plan might seem like a variation on the “What’s the best sports team?” question, it’s a question that can have a strong effect on teachers, especially if someone like your principal or your department chair has already decided on the best template, and has further decided that you are required to use it.

We’ll be talking about principals and required lesson plan documents in an upcoming post in this series, and you might be surprised at what kind of angle we have on the subject, too. 

Lesson Plans & Planning Myth 4: A lesson plan has to be ____ minutes long.

If you work in a school that has an 83-minute class period, the assumption is that lesson plans should be 83 minutes long. But a good lesson plan can be shorter or longer than a class period. It’s just a plan for how students are going to learn something, and it takes students different amounts of time to master material, so putting a specific time length on a lesson plan is somewhat arbitrary.

Lesson Plans & Planning Myth 5: There’s one best way to create a good lesson plan.

Perhaps not surprisingly, we don’t think there is one good way. There are many ways to plan lessons that support powerful teaching and learning. But there are lots of people who disagree. We’ll be tackling the elements that go into creating a powerful and effective lesson plan in an upcoming post. 

Lesson Plans & Planning Myth 6: A lesson plan must have ____ in order to be effective.

There’s a long list of possible “must-haves” for a solid, effective lesson plan. Plenty of people ascribe to Wiggins and McTighe’s Understanding By Design model (probably because it’s great). There’s also the “Read, Write, Think, Talk” model, frequently used among North Carolina Early College High Schools, which suggests that teachers plan for every student to do all four of those activities in every class period every day. Other folks believe the Madeline Hunter 6-point lesson plan is the only way to have an effective class.

But when we try to break it all down, a good lesson plan—at the very least—ensures that all of the students learned something worth learning, and their teacher knows for certain that every one of them learned it. 

Dig in with us!

There’s never going to be a one-size-fits-all model for lessons, and asking teachers to put themselves into a prescribed mold detracts from their autonomy and their professionalism as educators. But we can and should focus our conversations around students and their needs, interests, and goals.

In this series on lessons and planning, we’ll explore how to change this conversation to benefit our kids and make our classrooms a place for powerful learning experiences. 


Photo by Christina @ on Unsplash