Teaching Opinion

Are Procedural Lesson Plans Worth it?

By Starr Sackstein — October 02, 2016 2 min read
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In the first five years of teaching, writing lesson plans was absolutely necessary for me. Meticulously I planned the period, minute to minute insuring that everything was covered... just in case.

Fearful of deviating, even a little, I wrote down questions with the exact answers I expected. This way I could tell if students were getting what they needed.

I look at those early lesson plans and shake my head now, but I needed to be rigid until I found my teaching voice.

As time went on, I became more confident and flexible in the classroom, spending less time on the day to day planning and more backward planning of whole weeks or months based on projects and formative assessments. This way I could adjust the lessons daily based on the specific needs of the kids in front of me.

In the system I work for, lesson plans are required. They say what it looks like doesn’t matter, but sometimes it doesn’t feel that way.

For the last decade, I’ve been using a plan book and a syllabus to pace myself, but writing in the focus and activity is enough for me know where I’m going and what materials I need. Plus, I change what I’m doing so often, that writing a full procedural lesson plan now feels like a waste of time.

A few years ago, an administrator walked into my newspaper class and queried about my lesson plan. There were menus of production choices on the walls and every child in the classroom was engaged in some element of the news room. She even walked around to see what students were doing and asked them how they know what to do. Students were able to answer quickly and share the production process and the expectations.

I still got written up.

Meanwhile, I sent that same administrator a lesson plan via email with the standards and a learning target with the variety of activities happening at any given time and how I taught students one on one based on needs that arose while they worked. Although these imminent learning needs weren’t documented in a lesson plan, there was evidence of the conference learning in their Google docs and I kept a log of whom I met with and what we were working on which was also uploaded into our online communication system.

With the mounting expectations put on teachers every day, it is necessary for a middle career or veteran teacher to write full procedural lesson plans? Or should it be a personal preference after you’ve been rated highly effective more than once?

I’d love to hear the thoughts of administrators and other educators on this topic. Please share.

The opinions expressed in Work in Progress 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.