In an ideal world, we would all have perfectly written lesson plans that are timed to a tee and seamlessly fit into the exact amount of teaching days. In an ideal world, we would have everything planned and scheduled for the upcoming school year ahead of time. We could glide effortlessly from the fun of summer break to the exciting hustle and bustle of a new school year with a stress-free smile on our faces and wind at our backs.
This, however, is often just a sweet daydream for us teachers. If you are like me, the end of the year is filled with absolute craziness! Students have cabin fever, schedules are changing rapidly, we are busy packing up supplies and frantically trying to remember to turn everything off while cleaning out refrigerators in the fear of coming back in August or September to a smell that would peel paint off a wall.
Lesson Plan Tip: The Note to Self Strategy
Because of the insanity that the end of the year can often bring, the last thing on our minds are future lesson plans and organization. Throughout the years, I have developed a strategy to help me recall information from one year to another directly on my lesson plans. I call it “Note to Self.”
During the year, I will type up very short lesson plans. This is especially the case if I have not taught a lesson before. The reason I keep it short is because I know that it will change the next time I teach it.
While teaching, I take notes. Sometimes I take notes directly on the lesson plan or I even scribble on a post-it and attach it directly to the page. One thing we don’t have much of, as teachers, is time. By doing this, I can document my thoughts quickly while they are fresh in my mind.
What I Document
Here’s just a quick selection of some of the things I take notes on in my journal. You may want to consider these things for your process, too!
Timing/Pacing: How long did the lesson take?
- What might seem like a 5-class lesson might take my students 10. I will note what is completed at the end of each day. How far did my students get during one class period? This gives me an idea of how many days to schedule the following term, semester, or year.
Chunking/Instruction: What information helped my students understand?
- Figure out what information can be chunked together for better understanding. Also consider what prior information students might need to be successful. Did the order of instruction help or hurt the lesson?
Effectiveness: Were the materials successful?
- As a visual arts teacher, we often need to change our materials. In our heads, oil pastels might be perfect for a lesson about color and value until you realize that the paper needs to be folded and the artwork becomes a muddled or smudged mess.
Student Feedback: Did they like the lesson?
- Observe your students and take note of their reactions. Were students engaged? Were they interested? Did they learn skills that they can build on and from?
The list might seem like a daunting amount of information to document, but it is manageable when you jot it down quickly and when you take a moment to reflect on the lesson at the midpoint and at the end.
Ideally, you will have time later to go back and edit your original lesson plan using your “Notes to Self.” If not, you will at least have these comments or Post-its to reference the next time you teach your lesson. You won’t have to worry about remembering those little tweaks because they will be documented directly on the page.
During these crazy days near the end of the year, wouldn’t it be nice to not have to worry that your summer brain will erase all those lesson changes you need to make?
How do you document changes to your lesson plans? Let us know in the comments below!
Lauren Hodson is a middle school visual and computer art educator in Plymouth, Massachusetts. As a mentor teacher and professional development presenter, Lauren is passionate about creativity and making art accessible for everyone. Her passions in STEAM and Arts Integration are at the root of her goal to collaborate with classroom teachers everywhere.