Tested lesson plans

First-year teachers shouldn’t be writing lesson plans from scratch, writes EdWahoo, a first-year Teach for America teacher working with fourth graders in Arizona.

Teachers have been teaching multiplication for decades upon decades, some of them quite well. Surely, I can be handed a template for teaching multiplication that is battle-tested, instead of my ad hoc, I-hope-this-works system.

Online data banks with lesson plans — and a rating system to indicate which plans work — would help new teachers, writes EdWahoo.

Alternatively, recruit a small group of top educators — 10 or 15 from each grade/secondary subject — and cull their lessons and start from there.

I think the second idea makes more sense, since master teachers will be able to point to evidence of their effectiveness. A commenter suggests Teach for America develop such a site.

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Comments

  1. The Calvert School in Baltimore has sold complete lesson packages for years to the Foreign Service and others in remote areas. Now they sell to home schoolers. The cost is quite reasonable. They also sell these to schools as complete curriculum packages. These include lesson plans, tests, workbooks etc.

    It is quite possible to have a complete template for many courses today.

  2. We have a battery of MBA students teaching for us, most of whom have zero experience teaching (and I fear, zero interest). We therefore produce a packet of daily materials, step by step, so any idiot can teach the material just by following the packet. Also, this ensures that all the sections of the class are covering the same material at the same time, which is crucial since we give departmental, and not section, exams.

    I’m surprised primary and secondary schools haven’t done something similar for teachers with less experience.

  3. New teachers are much more likely to use the lifeline of a textbook or other instructional materials. This is not necessarily a bad thing, if the materials are good. But how do we know they are good.

    The suggestion that 10 to 15 “top educators” review the activities and give their judgment does not solve the problem. The key, according to the research in evaluating materials, is to compare the activities to solid criteria using a collaborative process.

    This takes a lot more time and money than Teach For America can do all by itself. Every district in America claims it has an evaluation process for reviewing instructional materials. I can tell you that the “intended process” and the “enacted process” are two, very different things. The same would likely be true for TFA, unless they were willing to make the proper investments.

    Thanks for the interesting post. I love your site.

  4. I can think of a very good reason why teachers should write their own lesson plans: this is how you develop an effective teaching style, along with the ability to put something of yourself into the work. For me, just being told to read from the template would be demoralizing.

  5. Wayne Martin says:

    There is another dimension to this issue — who pays for the time that the teachers spend doing lesson plan development? I asked my local school district this question not too long ago, and found that the answer was effectively: “the teacher”. The compensation package was designed to anticipate some off-site work, although teachers who claim to be underpaid never seem to want to speak to the nature of their compensation packages.

    Many teacher claim that they spend 55 hours a week on the job, which seems really excessive. Trying to find out where the hours are spent out of the classroom proved to be elusive. Some teachers claimed “grading papers” and others claimed “doing lesson plan development”. Certainly the points made in the link at EdWahoo are reasonable about last year’s lesson plans being more-or-less valid this year stand on their own merit. The consequence is that the teachers would then be expected to put in few hours off-site, and hence, would not be “victimized” by the school districts where they work. Given automation in grading papers (such as spelling checkers, syntax checkers which benefit students and teachers alike), it’s difficult to see teachers still putting in 20-30 hours a week off-site, unless they want to. Sharing lesson plans is a clearly effective way to reduce teacher off-site work load.

    Lastly, this topic came up in July. One poster claimed that teachers owned their own lesson plans, and were free to sell them as they see fit. I contacted the Admin of my local school district, who indicated that this was not true here. All work product (such as lesson plans) was the ownership of the District, I was told.

  6. rwp…what are these MBA students teaching? Business classes, I assume? Do they not understand that 70% of their job, out in the world, will be communication, and that teaching could be excellent practice for this?

  7. Brett Pawlowski says:

    In response to boo, who felt it was more important to “put something of yourself into the work,” and that “just being told to read from the template would be demoralizing:”

    It’s not about your self-expression or your feelings. It’s about whether the kids learn. And given a choice between you winging it so that you can feel creative, or instead working from materials that have been proven effective, I think any taxpayer – and any parent – would opt for the latter.

  8. At the risk of becoming a broken record (I write this every time Joanne posts on the subject), I’m organizing a site that will do something very much along these lines. We should have a beta up within a week or two. Teachforward.org

    Two years ago, while I was in Teach for America, I started a wiki to do something similar, which Joanne kindly helped publicize (http://teacherslounge.editme.com). The new site builds on that experience but with an expanded feature set, a better interface, and a nonprofit organization behind it. 5-star ratings, tagging by content, photos, profiles, and social networking. You can sign up for an announcement list at http://teachforward.org, or email me at teachforward at gmail dot com if you’d like to talk about it.

  9. Walter E. Wallis says:

    Somewhere in the baggage of the 303rd Signal Service Battalion are 3 months of lesson plans for radio equipment maintenance I wrote 54 years ago. I thought then that more than a month ahead a lesson plan is just wishful thinking.

  10. Wayne Martin says:

    > I thought then that more than a month
    > ahead a lesson plan is just wishful
    > thinking.

    If you were on the Korean peninsula 54 years ago, not thinking ahead more than a month might have made sense to you at the time. Probably not a good lesson for today’s America.

  11. —I can think of a very good reason why teachers should write their own lesson plans: this is how you develop an effective teaching style,

    You MUST be kidding. The reason teachers should do something is to benefit THE TEACHERS? not the STUDENTS? What hogwash. If they need to develop an effective teaching style, do it BEFORE THEY BECOME TEACHERS.

    –along with the ability to put something of yourself into the work. For me, just being told to read from the template would be demoralizing.

    Again, are you serious? In every single other field, professionals –certainly newly minted ones–are expected to read from the template. Plumbers and electricians do it—it’s the code they must conform to. Lawyers do it–it’s the code they must conform to when writing something binding. Engineers do it when they design hardware circuitry, write testable software, or make pieces of the space shuttle. Medical doctors do it–it’s how a differential diagnosis has meaning. It’s the basis for all scientific inquiry. It used to be the basis for journalistic reporting as well.

    This comment reminds me of the gentleman who claims that teaching isn’t a profession. He’s right. Until teaching is a profession, with actual standards and templates, it will continue to merely be a trade performed by varying levels of craftsmen.

  12. —I can think of a very good reason why teachers should write their own lesson plans: this is how you develop an effective teaching style,

    You MUST be kidding. The reason teachers should do something is to benefit THE TEACHERS? not the STUDENTS? What hogwash. If they need to develop an effective teaching style, do it BEFORE THEY BECOME TEACHERS.
    —-

    Developing an effective teaching style is not something that you do for your personal entertainment and pleasure – you do it for the express purpose of helping your students learn better. How could you possibly develop this before you actually teach? Credential programs provide minimal value. Pretty much everything is learned on the job.

    I agree that a first or second year teacher should not be required to develop a curriculum from scratch. They should work with a mentoring teacher and/or an established curriculum so that they can learn how things are properly done. However, once a teacher has learned how to handle the first-year types of issues (classroom management, working with parents, getting grades done, etc.), the only way they can improve as an educator is to begin to develop their own curriculum – again, using models as a spring board is a great idea, but not sufficient.

    Teachers don’t work in a vacuum – a curriculum that is tried and true elsewhere may not work for your students, depending on many factors. And even within the same school, from year to year, students are different. They have different needs and different abilities, depending on what happened in their earlier schooling (which clearly shifts around frequently). So, to be effective, you must be able to adapt. You also must be able to analyze student ability levels and deficits, and provide adequate support to meet those needs.

    As a parent, would you rather have a teacher who religiously follows a given curriculum, no matter how your student is doing? Or would you rather have a teacher who pays close attention to the students, and has the ability to adapt both the daily lessons and the longer term plan accordingly?

    I work from 8 am until at least 6 (often later) each day, plus at least half a day on the weekends. A brief list of what I do outside of the classroom:
    – plan lessons (huge amount of time)
    – grade
    – meet with parents
    – meet with students for individual help
    – plan our ACT prep classes
    – run two clubs (hiking and poetry)
    – collaborate with other teachers
    – meet as a department to discuss school wide math issues
    – go to discipline committee meetings
    – engage in professional development workshops
    – read and research best practices and new ideas
    – BTSA (mandatory professional support)
    – hmm, this could go on, but I have to get to my weekly staff meeting at 7:30!

  13. “rwp…what are these MBA students teaching? Business classes, I assume? Do they not understand that 70% of their job, out in the world, will be communication, and that teaching could be excellent practice for this?”

    Yes, business classes. But they’re on grad appts, and they’re full-time MBA students. I doubt that they think much about the possible applications of teaching to their careers, when they have countless presentations, projects, and exams to worry about.

    Did I just stick up for the MBAs? Wow. I don’t believe I just did that.

  14. Walter E. Wallis says:

    I was back from Korea, at Camp Cook, when this occured. Most of the plans were for maintaining the WWII junk we were stuck with that would soon be dumped.
    In Korea, nor even MacArthur planned more than a month ahead. As soon as a plan is apparent to the enemy, the enemy changes his plan.