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For New Teachers: Lessons From Motown on Lesson Planning, Part 2

By Megan M. Allen — June 30, 2016 3 min read

Ready for more tips on lesson planning simplicity, despite the complexity of multiple standards? Part 2 is below. (And click here for yesterday’s tips!)


  1. “Stop in the name of love!” As Diana Ross and the Supremes said, stop! Put a hold on those worries, mister or missy! Don’t stress out or get overwhelmed. I remember sitting after school my second year teaching (yes, this happens to teachers beyond their first year), feeling like I wanted to just crawl under my desk because I was so overwhelmed. I am thankful for great colleagues who waltzed in, scooped me up, and switched my brain out of the anxiety zone a bit. Their advice? Don’t sit and stew. That’s not productive.
  2. “Reflections.” The Supremes weren’t just talking about mirrors! But reflecting on how lessons went after you teach them. One big moment in my teaching career occurred when I was reflecting on a math lesson with my principal during my first year teaching. The lesson was all over the place. I had tried to integrate multiple standards and objectives on math, reading, cognitive skills, and the arts, and it was all too much. It was scattered and not cohesive. I didn’t know what happened in the moment, but when I had the chance to peel back the layers with my principal after the fact , I could reflect on what I needed to do differently.
  3. “Step by Step.” The Crests offered great advice in this not super-well known song. The best advice that I can give is to not try to accomplish everything at once. Do you know the movie “What about Bob?” Bill Murray plays a man who is agoraphobic, with Richard Dreyfus as his therapist. One technique Bill Murray’s character uses to take his first steps out of the house is by telling himself to take baby steps. It’s the same thing with figuring out the complexity of lesson planning and toggling the standards: do it in baby steps. First, build your expertise in your state standards for your particular grade(s) and content area. And don’t expect that to come quickly...it takes time. Then be intentional with your next steps. What is your next goal with your learners? Take those baby steps as you expand your learning and practice.
  4. “I can’t get next to you,” The Temptations. Well actually, we CAN get the standards next to one another! And sometimes, it is already done for us. Standards such as the Common Core are vertically aligned, so they stand next to each other and even offer great resources to help us explore the progression. As a new teacher, I’d also recommend leaning on the instructional coaches and content teams to tackle this problem (watch the Teaching Channel video that demonstrates this). Ask the question about alignment, then collaborate with peers to look at the data, discuss, and adjust any alignment issues. Honestly, I think I’d spend my time somewhere else in my first few years in the classroom. This goes back to step-by-step. Many times I find myself spinning because I am overthinking a problem, and spending my time focused on the wrong thing. A better use of my time as a growing new teacher? Thinking of the student experience during the lesson, possible questions that may arise, or potential misconceptions.
  5. “Blurred lines.” Oops, that’s not Motown. Robin Thicke, T.I., and Pharrell Williams showed us the non-example of this point. But here’s the take away: Don’t do what blurred lines did (I’m not talking about ripping off a Marvin Gaye song). But stay focused. Focus on the faces of those students sitting in your classroom. Yes, we do use the standards to create learning experiences for our students. But standards are our guide, where we want to go, but not our main focus. Our focus is on our students. I’m not the first to say it and won’t be the last, but we teach students, not content. Focus on their learning and what they need to succeed. Keep those faces in the forefront of your mind, and the rest of the pieces will fall into place. Our students are the most important part of everything we do.

So don’t get overwhelmed! Take a deep breath, think of these tips from Motown, and keep your students’ learning experiences in the forefront of your mind. You will get there...just take it step by step!

Veteran or new teachers: What other tips can you share? From Motown or beyond...

Photo courtesy of Tomovox

The opinions expressed in An Edugeek’s Guide to K-12 Practice and Policy are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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