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Lesson planning choices

We should start from this fact: I drive myself crazy when I’m creating lesson plans.

I do this because I see every lesson plan as a compilation of an almost infinite number of choices, all of which affect how well the lesson reaches its goal – and reaches each kid.  I will spend hours asking myself two questions, over and over: what’s the point of the lesson? and how can I best teach that?

Those may seem like simple questions, but when the state standard you’re trying to address is something like “students will establish central idea, unity, and tone in their writing,” figuring out the point of the lesson and how to teach it can be a challenge.  How does one teach an eleven-year-old to establish tone in his writing?  There’s no obvious answer, especially once you realize that you’re not teaching an eleven-year-old, you’re teaching 20 different eleven-year-olds, all with their own skills, strengths, and weaknesses.  So I sit and think about every one of my kids and what I know they can do and can’t do right now, then I sit and think about how I can teach to all of them in just 45 minutes, then I write a lesson plan I feel okay with.

Then, I wake up the morning I’m supposed to teach the lesson and realize that everything I planned is crap.  It will never work.  It was a stupid idea.  I got the point of the lesson wrong and my idea for teaching is terrible.  I need to change the entire thing around.

And so I worry and fret and make last minute changes.  And the lesson is fine.  And because the lesson is always fine, people around me tell me I need to lighten up – everything always works out, so stop getting so wound up about it.  Except I think the reason the lessons work out is because of all the thinking I put into it.  When I’ve thought about my students and the material, I can make changes as I teach the lesson, because I always know where I’m trying to go.  Without all that thought ahead of time, I just don’t see my lessons being as directed, as tailored, or as rich.  So I choose to drive myself crazy.

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