Should Everyone Use the Same Lesson Plan Template?

26 Oct

A typical Sunday ritual for me is to work on lesson plans for the next week.  I suspect this is true for many teachers. It helps me re-orient to where I’m heading and what I need to do to get ready for whatever is coming up after doing my best to NOT think about school for the past 48 or so hours.

I have struggled with lesson plans for the past 8+ years, but I finally have something that kind of works for me.  Unfortunately, I’m not in synch with all the other teachers in my building.  What else is new?

Basically, the principal wants everyone to turn in lesson plans every week.  At first, I had major problems with this, but I quickly realized it is not that big of a deal.  Like I say, it helps orient me to the upcoming tasks.  However, he is insisting that everyone in the building conform to one lesson plan template.  That is a problem for me.  The template takes up two pages and there are vast stretches of real estate that do not apply to me and my students.  I can get everything I need on one page per subject.  I teach the 4 basic subjects (ELA, maths, science, social studies) plus everything else they are going to ever need.  And their needs are considerable.  At least this seems to be the expectation that I have as a self-contained teacher.  With my own template, I stretch that to 6 subjects/plans to more closely align with the GAA.  With the template, I’m only doing the basic 4.  So the universal template matches a theory (a very flawed one, IMO) but not the practice, at least in my case.

I tried the template for 3 weeks.  It depressed me, because it includes spaces for remediation, homework, modifications, adaptations, activating strategies, assessment methods, enrichment, and a materials list that is totally inadequate for me.  It felt like having to write 4 IEP’s every single week.  I really, really wish my kids could do things the way the other kids in the high school do them.  I wish I could teach them all the same way with only a few (or many) accomodations and modifications.  But there is nothing that I do academically that is NOT some sort of modifaction!  It is 100% remedial! The template simply reinforces my feeling of being totally separated from the rest of the school in terms of its mission and improvement plan.  I’m not raising test scores or increasing the graduation rate.

Ironically, I was involved in adapting the universal template a bit to help other teachers be able to use it.  It necessarily involved hacking the template and then making a minor adjustment so that the 2 pages could be in a single document.  I kept it true to the original format and with some help from a tech person in the building managed to put it back together.  Teachers still can’t change the color, font or anything else on it.  I disliked it but decided to give it a try.  There was some discussion of the lesson plan when it was being developed, so the case was made that it was made with our input.  While that is somewhat true, I feel like there should ahve been a follow-up after everyone had a chance to use the thing for a few weeks.  The universal template was in a beta stage, at best, when we were told all of us had to use it.

One problem that I have (and it would exist no matter what I was teaching) is the utility of a uniform lesson plan template for every teacher.  I feel like this is simply taking us further down the road of conformity and stripping away more individuality and creativity.  I’m not sure why having everyone use the same lesson plan is important.  Are we still in a factory model where we are turning out machines that must conform to all the same standards with very small tolerance for deviation?  Is it critical for the English teacher to use the exact same lesson plan template as the vocational agriculture teacher?  Why?  Are the administrators who are doing the evaluating incapable of recognizing the presence or absence of the essential elements of the plan?  I’m just askin’!  Our economy is moving in the opposite direction as our schools, or so it seems to me.  Never in my relatively short life span have I seen a time where creativity held such a big premium in the work force.  With the emphasis on originality and the creation of new knowledge and content going on, schools are quickly becoming dated institutions.  Things like this just reinforce the stone age within which the age of low tolerance for diversity is set.  And low tolerance for diversity is the nursery of discrimination.  As if me and my students need more of that!

Is anyone else out there who deals with a population like this required to use a uniform lesson plan template?  How do you manage/cope?

Actually, I’m interested in hearing how all teachers feel about lesson plan templates.  Are they good?  Or are you indifferent?  Or am I making a big deal out of nothing?

I’ll attach my own template so you can look at it and then I’ll attach one of the new templates so you can see it.  Note that my own plan covers all 6 topics while the new template covers just one.  I just don’t like all the wasted space of the new one.

A. My Template (all subjects)

all-lesson-plan-102708

B. The New Template that principal wants everyone to use (ELA):

dage-lesson-plans-ela-929

Yes, my lessons are pretty simple and static, mostly because my students require hundreds and even thousands of trials to learn a new skill.

Which would you prefer– A or B?

D.

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4 Responses to “Should Everyone Use the Same Lesson Plan Template?”

  1. Erin October 27, 2008 at 1:18 pm #

    Hi Daniel, I looked at your lesson plans. I think those look great! It’s obvious you’ve spent a lot of time refining what works for your kids. I also teach severe and profoundly disabled students (PS-3rd grade)and am in my second year. There sure is a lot to learn. I would love to have someone to bounce ideas off of and would love to hear more about how you run your program. Email me? :)

  2. Daniel Dage October 28, 2008 at 6:41 am #

    Thanks for stopping by and commenting! I’m still refining these lesson plans to make them functional instead of just an empty exercise. Yes, there is a ton to learn in this business! And just when you think you might have it down, somebody comes along and messes with it!

  3. Brian November 4, 2008 at 3:43 pm #

    Daniel,

    As a former severe/profound teacher, I can see how your lesson plan template might fit the needs of your students more appropriately. I can also see how the other templates might be appropriate in some circumstances as well. Bottom line is that like learning, no one system is going to work for everyone. Too bad your principal doesn’t see that. I am interested in both templates though in my current position as an adaptive behavior teacher, would it be possible to get you to e-mail them to me?

    ~B

    ~B

  4. calliemae November 7, 2008 at 1:26 pm #

    once again we the dilemma of “universal”, students do not all learn the same way and teachers can’t teach the same way. Especially special ed teachers, of course the principle didn’t think about how you, Daniel, have to accommodate and modify every single lesson and standard for your classroom. Whats the big deal of having everyone write the same lesson plan template? OK so it makes it easier for the principle to read it , but if half of that template doesn’t help you plan out your day because your kids are on a completely different level, then at least allow a separate template. We are already separated from the school anyway whats one more difference.

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