Tag Archives: lesson plans

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.

Videos on TeacherTube

15 Apr

I have a few videos on TeacherTube with many more to come. My first attempt was demonstrating the Qchord, which is a sort of musical instrument that I sometimes use in the classroom. A more practical video is one I made on the use of switches for students with severe disabilities to use for communication. There’s also an activity attached to that lesson, about 101 uses for using switches in the classroom. Then I did a couple of videos on positioning for students with orthopedic impairments that some might find interesting. And my most recent effort was a screencast about using the Boardmaker software program that special ed teachers frequently use for communication and language instruction. I have some more videos demonstrating that software that I’ll be uploading once I get the narration audio track finished. The problem is that I’m very seldom in a space or environment where it is quiet enough to do narration! There seems to always be noise somewhere around that can be picked up by the mic! Plus we are in full-IEP mode right now so I’m squeezed for time. A ton of folks are hitting my IEP series right now, so I know a lot of people are using that resource.

After talking with one of the new SID teachers in the county, I got a lot of new ideas for resources to add. One of the most common questions I get asked is about my lesson plans. They are not very good or satisfactory enough for my taste and certainly not for addressing state standards. However I do have a data sheet that sort of functions as a lesson plan that I’ll be attaching to a future video on discrete trials. Future features will involve:

-Discrete trial teaching (DTT)

– More Boardmaker overlays

– Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS)

– Para training

– Schedule/lessonplanning/curriculum

I’m presently looking to get permission from parents to include actual students in future videos, so that should be pretty exciting. Even if I only get one permission form, I can demonstrate quite a lot of what I actually do. So far, I don’t know of anyone else doing anything like this, but if there is I’d like to know about it!

I use TeacherTube because YouTube is blocked by our school and TeacherTube does allow unlimited uploads. You can also attach lesson plans and activities to the video which can really increase its usefulness to other teachers. The downside is that viewers don’t often leave very many comments or give very much feedback compared to what I see on YouTube. The most discussed video is entitled “Pay Attention” which has over half a million views but only 83 comments and the next most discussed has less than 50 comments. It’s not a very interactive community, which is why I see having a blog to support my efforts as being a useful thing.

That’s my weekly wrap up. We’ve only got about 6 weeks left of school! Where has all the time gone?!?

D.