Why teachers hate lesson plans and how to fix them.

In many schools, including mine, teachers are required to submit their lesson plans (which we call “learning plans”) each day.  The template we use has boxes for everything from essential understanding and essential questions to real world connections, literacy components, relevant vocabulary, preparation, teaching and concluding activities, homework, differentiated learning, and assessments.  Of course, many of these things are important, but I think it is quite overwhelming for most teachers to tackle all of this on a daily basis.  The sheer number of boxes, 21 to be exact, represent a lack of priorities and myriad competing interests for teachers’ to address in every single lesson.  This is why teachers hate lesson plans.

It is daily, dreadful drudgery.

The exercise of completing the lesson plan is more about checking boxes and copying-and-pasting information from curriculum guides rather than thoughtfully crafting a quality learning experience for students.

So here is the question.

Can we create a lesson plan template that focuses on only the vital parts that produce the most learning gains?

Or, in other words, can we make the exercise of completing a lesson plan a way for teachers to reflect on their instructional methods and create activities that engage, empower, and challenge students as they learn the content?

The 80/20 Rule for Lesson Plans

The Pareto Principle, better known as the 80/20 rule, states that “80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes.”  What are those 20% items that can be leveraged for 80% of the gains?  What does a stripped down lesson plan template look like?  A lesson plan that really helps teachers create deep learning experiences for their students.

Here is my list of priorities that I think teachers should consider when creating their lesson plans — the 20% piece of the pie:

  • Reflection on the efficacy of the previous lesson
  • Clear learning target/objective that aligns with standards and is stated in student-friendly language
  • A lesson hook that gets students excited about the content in the first 5 minutes of class
  • Incorporation of at least 2 of the 4 C’s — Communication, Collaboration, Critical Thinking, and Creativity
  • Student voice and choice in path, place, pace, or product.
  • At least 2 forms of assessment
  • Teacher feedback during the lesson
  • Student reflections on their learning
  • Building teacher-student relationships

The Lesson Plan — Reimagined

Here is my attempt at a reimagined lesson plan (Google Doc) for teachers today.

Teach with Tech Lesson Plan Template

As you can see, it fits on one page including the two optional questions at the bottom!

Why does it look so different from probably any other lesson plan you’ve seen?

Well, it’s because I believe in the power of questions.  Humans are built to answer questions, so I think asking teachers “How will you incorporate communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and/or creativity?” is way more meaningful and productive than 4 checkboxes labeled “communication”, “collaboration”, “critical thinking”, and “creativity.”  Remember, the goal is to get teachers to carefully plan lessons based what we know helps students learn best (20% of what is included on a typical lesson plan) in order to produce 80% of the desired learning outcomes.  This will save teachers a ton of time writing their lesson plans as well as help them reinvent their lessons around what works for students.

For those of you who don’t think teachers want to type out all these sentences each day, introduce them to the Google Docs voice typing feature.  This tool will allow teachers to create text by speaking into their computers.  The words magically appear on the screen so that what used to take an hour to do can now be done in less than 30 minutes.  To learn how to use the Google Docs voice typing tool, read Alice Keeler’s (@alicekeeler) excellent blog post.

The Reimagined Lesson Plan — Explained

Here is the reimagined lesson plan explained (Google Doc) a little more in depth so that you can understand my reasoning behind each question and the order in which they appear.

Teach with Tech Lesson Plan Template Explained

Your comments are welcome below!  And of course, feel free to use and modify this template if you think it would be useful.


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