One of the things we talked about in our Top 6 Myths About Lesson Plans and Lesson Planning blog post was the difference between a lesson plan and a lesson plan document. This post focuses specifically on the lesson plan document, and more specifically on who that document is for. After all, if you’re going to spend time creating a lesson plan document, it’s good to know who exactly is going to be using it, and how exactly they’re going to be using it.
Let’s take a look at a few different potential audiences for a lesson plan document.
1. The lesson plan document is for the students
For many teachers, it seems obvious that a lesson plan document is for the students. After all, the whole point of what we do is to provide powerful learning experiences for our students, right?
I tend to think that while I wrote my lesson plan documents for the benefit of my students, I never intended that my lesson plan documents would actually be read by my students.
My colleague Liz created her lesson plan documents differently. Her lesson plan documents (which were typically much longer than mine), contained not only things like essential questions and learning targets and notes to herself, but also instructions specifically written to her students. She would frequently direct her students to read some portion of her lesson plan documents as part of their learning experience.
And of course, I had instructions and other learning resources that I made available to my students as well, I just didn’t include them in my lesson plan documents. Those things were available to the students elsewhere, because I have always been a firm believer that the lesson plan document is primarily for the teacher.
2. The lesson plan document is for the teacher
When I think of the lesson plan documents that I created as a teacher, I’d say more than 90% of them fell into this category. I created them for me. I certainly had no objection if someone else wanted to read them, and in fact I often shared them with teaching colleagues, principals, and others. But I created those documents for me.
They were primarily a way for me to remember all the things I wanted to do during a particular lesson with a particular class, the order I wanted to do those things in, the amount of time I wanted to spend on each part of the lesson, questions I wanted to ask, and other reminders to myself. After the lesson, I would often make notes on my lesson plan documents about things that worked well or not so well, things I wanted to do differently next time, or other thoughts I had about how to improve on the lesson.
3. The lesson plan document is for the principal
This is one we hear a lot at Constructive Learning Design. Plenty of teachers work with a principal who has made it clear that teachers are expected to provide copies of their lesson plan documents for all of their lessons. These lesson plan documents are often expected to be made available as hardcopies in a folder near the teacher’s classroom door, or in a digital format in a shared online folder, and often the expectation is that the lesson plan documents will be created using a specific template, and often that they be made available up to two weeks in advance of the time the lesson is to be taught.
While I have a lot of objections to this practice, I also understand at least part of the intent behind it. Many teachers do not provide particularly powerful learning experiences for their students, and at least part of the reason for that, for many of them, is that their lesson planning practices are poor (or non-existent). If a teacher provides their lesson plan documents to their principal, then their principal could at least (in theory) have a place to start a conversation with that teacher about some ways to improve on their lessons.
We’re going to address this issue in a little more detail in a future post, but for now I’ll just say that if your principal wants you to provide lesson plan documents to them in a particular way, or using a particular lesson plan template, then by all means do so. Even better, invite him or her to visit your classroom so they can see the actual lesson and so the two of you can have a conversation about that, including how the lesson plan document does (or doesn’t) contribute to powerful learning for your students.
4. The lesson plan document is for my colleagues
I’m a HUGE fan of teachers sharing their lesson plan documents with each other. It’s a great way for teachers to get ideas from their colleagues, and it can often be a big time-saver (especially for new teachers) if it means you only have to make a few tweaks to an already-existing lesson plan from another teacher rather than create one from scratch on your own.
But don’t stop there! I’m an even bigger fan of teachers sharing feedback with each other on their lesson plan documents, and an even bigger fan of teachers actually visiting each other’s classrooms while those lessons are being taught so they can share even more feedback with each other about things they saw, questions they have, ideas they came up with, etc.
But even though I did all those things with my lesson plan documents, and hope you do as well, I still don’t think that lesson plan documents are primarily for your colleagues. They’re primarily for you, to help you provide powerful learning experiences for your students. So when you do share your lesson plan documents with your colleagues, you’ll be able to say, “This document is a pretty good representation of the learning experience I provided to my students for this lesson; what do you think?”
A good lesson plan document can be a valuable tool
Teaching is a tough job, and doing it well is even tougher. If you’re going to provide powerful learning experiences for your students, you need all the help you can get, and a good lesson plan document can help. So create lesson plan documents that are as helpful as possible for you.
Just remember that the point is not for you to create an awesome document. The point is for you to provide powerful learning experiences for your students. If your lesson plan document helps you do that, then you probably created a pretty good one.
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