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During the past three years, I diligently and repeatedly practiced planning, drafting, editing, and redrafting extremely detailed lesson plans that I never taught. Although this process was exhausting and seemingly pointless, it forced me to consider all the factors that I need to consider when I student teach and, eventually, have my classroom. But let me be clear! I will not be writing ten-page lesson plans as a student teacher or as a fully licensed teacher in the future. This is an unnecessary waste of time.
That being said, I am still required to submit lesson plans and reflections for each lesson I teach -- whether I am formally observed or not. Since student teaching began, my lesson planning process has evolved into much simpler steps that work for me, my schedule, and my mental health. Before I start planning, I ask myself: "What do I need to write and consider to feel comfortable teaching concepts and expectations the next day?".
My answer to this question varies with each lesson. For example, I will write out questions and vocabulary prompts for read-alouds, but not for the morning meeting. If an activity requires a handout or small-group work, I'll prepare one for the next day (my favorite tool is Canva because of its wide assortment of personalized templates, images, and documents).
Although my daily lesson planning is much more informal, I still approach each plan with an assessment of students' skills, required accommodations, and needs. I think carefully about behavioral objectives and use them to guide lessons and follow-up activities. This "informal" process guides my more formal lesson planning required for the observations from my supervising teacher.
So, I wanted to create a resource with samples of previous lesson plans and templates to reference (if you are currently in the field). I'm continuously striving to authentically represent my experience, so I wanted to share some of the critical behind-the-scenes work and reflection that goes into teacher education programs.
***All these lesson plans and checklists are created with elementary and early childhood standards in mind. The lesson planning process will look different for future secondary educators.
Portfolio documents and templates
As a student teacher, you will likely be required to create a portfolio of lesson plans, reflections, checklists (and more!) that you will submit at the end of your program and/or in job interviews. It is a great resource and evidence of your teaching! In this post, I have included a handful of pieces of evidence that may need to be included in your student teaching portfolio. (There are likely many more pieces, but these are the pieces that are currently in my portfolio).
1. Lesson Plan Template (Observation)
This template is required by my university. Formal lesson plan templates will likely differ between each university and institution. However, it still may be helpful for you to see what a formal lesson plan template looks like.
2. Lesson Plan Template (Everyday)
Yes, this example is four pages long. To clarify, these plans cover an entire day of teaching lessons, including guided reading groups. Do not feel like you need to copy or follow this lesson structure or length! I am aware that I typically write more than I need to. However, this system works for me and helps me feel prepared going into a day of teaching.
Right now, I still need to think through lesson procedures, questions, and prompts. I like adding little notes for myself about materials, character introductions, or clarifications. These examples are not scripts and are open to change and students' varying responses. As I gain experience taking control over a classroom, I hope to limit how much I need to write for each lesson.
3. Checklist (Small-Group)
4. Checklist (Whole-group or Common Assessment)
I have included (first) a more informal whole-class observation checklist I used when planning for a formal observation and (second) a more formal common assessment checklist I used for an edTPA lesson.
I cannot stress this enough: my lesson plans are not perfect. Much of the detail and detail is likely unnecessary in the general picture. However, I am still developing skills and strategies to successfully teach concepts and relay information to young minds. The purpose of this post is not to show you "the right way" to lesson plan; instead, this post demonstrates one example of the lesson planning process from a future teacher.
I am open to growth and making mistakes. Student teaching is a safe space to mess up, stumble, learn, and make changes. So, if you have any tips or strategies for planning lessons, preparing for observations, and preparing for the edTPA, please leave a comment below! As a community of educators, we must build a space built on the creative exchange of ideas, not competition. Thank you!
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Meghan Hesterman (she/her) is a child advocate and education blogger. While a student at the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD), she created Journal of a Future Teacher to share her journey in becoming an early childhood teacher.