It’s officially the first week of March and that means that we’re starting to think about spring!
After the dreary and blustery winter weather, the month of March always holds such great promise for a new start. What I remember most about this month from my childhood is that it was when my grandmother always spent time spring cleaning her house. No knick-knack was left unturned. When I started my teaching career, I distinctly remember doing an annual spring organizing of all of my lesson plans, just like my grandmother used to do for her home.
By spending a bit of time going through my lesson plans, cleaning them up, and filing them away, I saved myself so much time and effort throughout the spring and could leave my classroom at the end of the year with the confidence that I had excellent, proven lessons waiting for me when I returned from the summer. Let’s kick off our Spring Cleaning week with some of my top tips for organizing your lesson plans and cleaning off the cobwebs that may have accumulated this winter!
There is a Place for Everything
Every item on your lesson plan should have a purpose and a space. Your standards should be at the top, followed by your actual lesson and closing with a way to assess what students should have learned. There should also be a space for a list of materials and ways that you could differentiate the lesson. Much more than those items and you’ll find yourself lost in the document, rather than having it work for you. Make sure you have a sequence that is logical and easy to follow and then put your items in their appropriate spaces.
Remove the Clutter
I have seen lesson plans that have scribbles, some with extension ideas on sticky notes, and a whole slew of thoughts written in the margins. Once, I even saw a grocery list. This does not help to make you an effective teacher and it certainly doesn’t zero in on what’s important in the lesson for your students. Get rid of all that clutter! If you like the extensions, create a separate extensions page or folder that you can attach with your lesson. If you’re a note-taker, leave yourself a space at the bottom of your lesson plan page for reflections. Keep your lesson plan clean and simple – it makes it so much easier when trying to do the next step!
Alignment is Key
Make sure your lesson is aligned from top to bottom. You should have the standards for the lesson front and center, and then everything in the lesson should align to those selected standards. Don’t try to cram is 5 standards into one lesson – it’s not authentic and you won’t have time. Instead, choose the standards you want to focus on with care. Then, write and review your lesson so each element you teach and assess is driven by that standard. This allows for cohesion and greater chance that your lesson will be successful when implemented with your students.
By taking a few moments to go through your lesson plans and organizing them with these three simple pieces, you’re affording yourself the opportunity to reflect upon what your students really need and what you can realistically accomplish in a class. This reflection can lead to some powerful next steps in providing a classroom where all students can effectively learn together. Happy organizing!
Susan Riley is the founder and President of EducationCloset.com. She focuses on teacher professional development in arts integration, Common Core State Standards, 21st century learning skills, and technology. She is also a published author and frequent presenter at national conferences on Arts Integration and Arts and the Common Core.
Susan holds a Bachelor of Music degree in Music Education from the prestigious Westminster Choir College in Princeton, NJ and a Master of Science in Education Administration from McDaniel College in Westminster, MD. She lives in Westminster, MD with her husband and daughter.