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This month, we are diving back into the archives looking at episodes from March of season one. So this was last year 2021. Taking the most popular episodes from our mini planning series and revisiting them because this is relevant information for any year. Any year of your practice, even if you want to re-listen, this is content that folks have said, they have actually gone through my course on this several times and found extreme value in looking at it at different parts throughout the pandemic, different year to year, just having a different planning process, teaching different things, or just needing a refresher on what that content reminded them to do.
So I hope you enjoy, from the archives, our planning series. This is gonna be five episodes in March. It includes how do you spend your time, all of the tips on planning, the beliefs that get in the way, advancing wellness and efficient effective lesson planning. Be sure to listen to them all or if you're just using a refresher, listen to the ones that you think a refresher would be incredibly valuable for you and inspiring for you to paint that picture of what it looks like to take less work home, be more efficient effective and really your best teacher or educator or leader self.
Welcome to our last part, Part six of our mini planning series.
This is episode 23 of the Time for Teachership podcasts and we are talking about lesson planning faster, how to become more efficient and effective with our lesson planning. So it doesn't take up so much time that we don't have time to be well.
Hi, I'm Lindsey Lyons and I love helping school communities envision bold possibilities, take brave action to make those dreams a reality and sustain an inclusive, anti racist culture where all students thrive. I'm a former teacher leader turned instructional coach, educational consultant and leadership scholar. If you are a leader in the education world, whether you're a principal superintendent instructional coach or a classroom teacher excited about school wide change like I was, you are a leader and if you enjoy nerding out about the latest educational books and podcasts, if you're committed to a lifelong journey of learning and growth and being the best version of yourself, you're going to love the Time for Teachership podcast. Let's dive in.
Before we get into the step by step, I want to first talk about a necessary mindset shift from personal experience.
I know the following to be true. Covering content and the mindset around covering content lowers student engagement and student achievement. I believe the fastest way to actually amplify students engagement and build student's skills and achievement is actually to stop trying to cover the traditional curriculum map that's often overloaded with content and instead creates four justice centered units that enables students to dive deep, explore their skills, make mistakes, revise their work, resubmit, learn from feedback, collaborate, dive into the sub topics and niche topics within what we're doing as a class and really learn deeply.
That's what's engaging to students and what ultimately moves the needle or what I've seen. Move the needle for my students towards massive skill development and ultimately a student achievement. So before doing anything else, the most important shift we can make is to move our lesson planned goal from cramming a bunch of content into one lesson to developing independent learners to enabling students to go deeply into a topic to explore what's interesting to them, to make mistakes, to revise, resubmit and build up their skills.
I found when I use terms like cover content, even if I wasn't speaking those terms out loud, even if I was just thinking them to myself, the way that I planned with that mindset, my students were not retaining what I wanted them to retain anyways.
so it's better to focus on doing less but make sure students were actually learning from it. The things that may have been important to teach years ago, names, dates, they're Google-able now. Students can write any question about any date or any event and find that information immediately on Google. If we see schools as mechanisms for learning what will be valuable to know later in life, the skill of learning how to Google a question, how to ask a question and get an answer is more important than memorizing a bunch of stuff that Google will always have available for them. And that's a big mindset shift from how I was taught. So again, it's more important, students are able to find to analyze to apply new information, then memorize a predetermined list of facts. And once I made that shift, that mindset shift, that was a huge shift in advancing my students learning and definitely an increase in their engagement.
So if you find yourself spending hours making many lessons like I used to or lecture based lessons right? You might ask yourself, how could I teach the same content and have the students practice a different skill than listening and note taking.
For example, when I prepped for lectures, I would read through a textbook, I would make a slide deck. I would create a guided worksheet with like some fill in the blank options for students to write correct answers. To prep a lesson like this. It took about four hours. I was reading full chapters of textbooks and I was trying to condense all of the content, all of the content. I don't want students to miss anything and I would try to cram that all in to a lesson which was difficult. I also felt like I was reducing the rigor of the task itself of reading comprehension. If I would just give them a textbook, I feel like it might even have been easier. But I thought I was helping. If I were to prepare the same length of lessons, lets say it was an hour long lesson previously took four hours. If I were to prep one that was students centered same topic, here's what that would look like and what it eventually looked like when I made this shift it was find a text or maybe a couple of texts, generate one or two really big questions, lofty questions, driving questions that students would answer, and choose a text based protocol from my resource bank.
So I have talked before about the importance of purposeful protocols and developing unit arcs that repeat these purposeful protocols. So students don't have to learn new protocols or new activities. They don't have to learn the step by step process of how to do the learning. They can focus instead on the learning because they already know the protocol because it's repeated every week or every couple of weeks. So I'm gonna choose the text based protocol, I'm going to choose a text and I'm gonna pose one or two big questions for students to answer. Using that text prepping like that. It took 30 minutes. My planning became so much easier when I made that mindset shift and my students were developing text analysis skills. Now of course this is just one way that I could develop a student centered lessons. There are many types not always driven by text, text annotation or text reading.
That's one example, this example of the mindset shift and how it leads to preparing more strategically, more effectively and more efficiently is one that I want you to take away from here. And when we're talking about actually writing out your lesson plan for any given lesson, the secret I want to share is that most of my best lessons actually did not have a formal lesson plan. For the first few years, I taught lesson plans at my school were checked every day, so I was teaching like seven different classes each day and so I have seven completely different lesson plans that were often multiple pages long and I eventually got to a school where that wasn't required.
I understand that some people have to write lesson plans in a format that their administrators require. If you're an administrator, that currently requires something like that. I invite you to keep listening because I think there is such great value in providing maybe some key ideas that need to be present in a lesson plan without having to go through the formalized process typing everything out.
When I felt like I was scripting my lessons, I felt like I was taking away from my time to choose a really effective resource or some other piece of the planning process to be really, really clear here. I planned my best lessons. I just didn't type out a formal lesson plan. My slides usually became my lesson plan. They showed the essential question the activity stems, the protocol steps, the text that we were using the links to all the things. The slides were just kind of way of housed that. We used to joke in the New York city Department of Education that legally you could submit a lesson on a napkin. You just legally have to show you had been thinking strategically about your lesson plan, you thought it through, has some instructional design components.
I don't think you necessarily need to type up that thinking as long as you do the thinking and the thinking in the lesson plans are generating results. We can be more flexible and what that looks like. So I want to talk to you a little bit about what my process looks like and what I recommend to teachers who are trying to streamline their planning process.
The thing I invested my time into was not scripting, was not filling out all of the pieces of the lesson plan template. It was about being really in alignment with my broader core schools. So what I often call outcomes, my course long rubric, which features the outcomes and their definitions of mastery and summit of assessments which assess for those outcomes not typing on my script. To me, an effective lesson plan is one that works for you. So again, this is going to vary for each individual teacher. Each individual teacher has a different way that they plan. But there are some concrete elements that are the same right that have to be present when we're talking about quality, instructional design throughout. Every lesson plan is going to be an outline of your ideas and a check for alignment with your larger unit or core schools, that's the basis from which your lesson actually emerges.
So what would a less dense, more streamlined lesson plan actually look like. Here are the core elements of the lesson that I think serve the needs of both teachers and administrators, who want to make sure the teachers have a structure where they can share and think through concretely pieces of quality instructional design. First, the end goal, we need to be able to name the end goal and again, you don't have to maybe type this all out, but you have to be able to think about and articulate. If asked, what is the end goal? What's the final outcome? So if you know exactly what your students need to do for your Summit of Assessment at the end of the unit, you're good.
What are you working towards that is your end goal. Next you want to have a lesson focus and when I say focus, I mean really narrow it down here, what is the one thing, no more than one thing. One thing you want students to walk away knowing or being able to do. If they didn't have anything else from the lesson. If they didn't get anything else, what is the one thing that you need them to be able to get into do? I would rather have students do one or maybe two things really well, then get exposure to several skills and tons of content but not retain or master any of it. Less is truly more here depth over breadth.
Next I would think about the phase of learning if we think about the lesson in the context of a series of lessons in the context of perhaps a unit we want to ask, is this particular lesson the students first introduction to a new skill or content. Are you giving students more practice with a previously introduced skill in this particular lesson or third option, might students be putting the final touches on a skill or assessing for mastery towards the end of the unit?
Where are we in the phase of learning? What this does by naming this or thinking through this, it helps keep your expectations for student performance in line with the amount of time students have had to work on a skill. I know for myself I definitely used to provide too little time for students to really master skill and I'd often used as an excuse, "But I need to cover my content." I need to cover all the content in the curriculum map that I was handed day one as my rationale. But if students aren't actually getting anything, if they're not building skills, if they're not learning the content and deeply understanding what we're talking about the themes of the course, then it doesn't matter how fast we pace, they're not getting it.
So it's really helpful for me to think about, "Am I enabling students to move through all of the phases of learning and giving them enough time to do so."
It's also just a really good check to ensure that for each skill or a piece of content, if we want to speak numerically we have at least one lesson per phase in the unit or in the course. Perhaps if you have some supporting skills that are only touched on a few times throughout the entire course, we need to have at least one in the course, for each of those skills. For our priority standards, I would say they have to come up the absolute minimum one lesson per phase in each unit. Because those priority standards are coming up again and again, we really need to spiral the skill throughout all of our units throughout the whole course to be able to get them to truly master it.
If you feel here, like you're saying, "I do not have time for this Lindsey, I don't have time to practice this skill or this content understanding with minimally three lessons, one for each phase." Focus on fewer skills and content. Maybe you're trying to do 25 priority standards and you only get eight.
My suggestion is eight. Four to eight priority standards are standards that you can make sure you move through and hit on every single unit, at least one lesson per phase in each unit, focus on fewer skills, focus on fewer content, less is more and depth over breadth. That's going to be the refrain throughout this streamlined planning process.
Now, once we get down to the lesson flow so far, just to recap, we started with the end goal, we've gone to the lesson focus and then we talked about the phase of learning. So this skill or content, how often has it been practiced before? Where are we in the phase of learning as we see this lesson in its larger context of a unit or course. Now we want to talk about specifically the lesson flow or the activities. I think oftentimes we go right there and that's where our instructional design is lacking. That's the whole purpose of a lesson plan. For me it does it have that backwards design quality instructional design piece.
We could design an amazing standalone lesson but it likely won't help us to reach the larger goals unless it's aligned with those larger goals, we have the backwards plan.
So let's talk about the lessons flow, the activities, these are your core protocols, some people call them activities, I call them protocols in line with the EL Educations protocol list. These are your core protocols for the lesson, that's what we're doing here in this section. I encourage you to stick with one main activity for student work time. You can also add in a hook and an assessment activity to kind of bookend the main activity but start with just one. We're really trying to niche down here. We're trying to do less to get more within this section of the plan. You may want to know just one or two key questions that students are answering during each protocol.
So how much time you think each of those protocols or activities will take and what resources that you might need. When you're first planning you might just want to name, I need to get this resource and I suggest planning out the full lesson and then circling back later as a separate activity. We talked earlier in this planning series about the cost of switching tasks, planning the lesson and actually looking up the materials, the resources are two different tasks and we pay a cost mentally when we're trying to switch back and forth.
And so I would keep those separate in this lesson plan. You're doing three things, you are noting the key question students are answering during each protocol. Each protocol may have a different question, depends on your lesson and how you're designing it. How much time you think each activity or protocol will take and also what resources you may need. Those are the three essential pieces of the lesson flow.
So let's say you like to lecture, you may want to start by looking at the amount of time that you're talking during the class and try to reduce that so that you can increase the amount of time that students have to talk or to work. We want them grappling with the content or skills, we want the main protocol to take up a lot of time so that they can really dig deep and if we're talking during the whole lesson, they don't get that time that they need to practice and dig in to make mistakes and to have us be able to help them with those mistakes and work through those mistakes and give them feedback that makes them better learners.
So I found that trying to limit my number of slides actually does help me to lessen my talk time and to really focus actually on one core concept. I try to use just maybe 10 slides per mini lesson and I don't have a lot of stuff on each slide.
Maybe I'm talking for a total of 15 minutes, just over one minute, 1.5 minutes per slide. It's not a hard and fast rule. You can definitely have more than 10 slides for many lessons and you can talk for more than 15 minutes. But I would pick numbers that work for you and I would challenge yourself to stretch a little bit in order to streamline your many lessons, the less time that you're talking, the fewer slides that you have to prepare, it allows you to teach in the moment. It allows you to see what the students are doing in their work time and give them that formative feedback that we know is really, really powerful in moving the needle forward on student learning.
There are more things that could go into your lesson plan than just the ones that we talked about. But the odds are, you're probably already thinking about those things as you plan. They tend to come up just in teachers perfectionism like those are the things that we're thinking about, what worksheet did they have or oh do they have access to this Google doc or you know, whatever it is, if those things don't automatically kind of come up for you, if you're not thinking about them organically, you can definitely type them out. If that helps you plan, you can add them to the lesson plan, but I would encourage you again, we're going for efficiency here to write down just what you need to organize your ideas and ensure that this lesson gets the students where they need to go.
We don't need to spend too much time typing things out unless it's maybe a formal observation or you know, you have guests coming in and they've requested a lesson plan ahead of time, if you type a little bit more there, but really we want to make sure we are backwards planning and outlining the alignment pieces and then just noting again those three key things in the lesson flow, key questions students are answering during each protocol, how much time each protocol is going to take and what resources you may need and then of course you can find and link those after.
The other piece of this is if you do have an administrator or district policy of needing to have a typed up written lesson plan every day. Again I would push back on the requirements and trust teachers to to do that process well again. We have to make sure that the results back that up, but if they are getting results, I would push back on that requirement. But if you do have that, if you're a teacher who is in that situation, what I would encourage you to do is to create and this is I've done this so I can definitely speak from experience here that this has helped me in that specific context, to create lesson plans in whatever template you need to use that are specific to a particular type of lesson that centers a particular protocol.
You're still using these concrete ideas here that we just shared in the streamlined lesson planning and I'll share a template with you as well. So if you do need a template to work off of, you can have that if you don't have one specific to your district. But as you go through those and embed those key ideas, what you can do is for every day, again, if you're using the unit arc where you're repeating protocols.
Okay, every Monday we do Socratic seminar or every Thursday we have wind time or whatever it is. Whatever protocol you're using if you repeat those, you have a lesson plan with that protocol typically with the resources that our students facing for that protocol already ready to go. All you're doing is substituting the key questions that are content specific and key resources. Everything else becomes kind of plug and play. It can stay where it is. You adjust for content but the pedagogy itself or the protocol and the flow of the lesson remains the same. That I find to be a time saver as well.
I told you I would share a freebie with you so I'm going to share the streamlined lesson planning template with you. I created that for you that is at bit.ly/streamlinedLP. The LP because bit.ly links are case sensitive. The LPs capital so bit dot li slash streamlined lower case and then capital L capital P. Also drop that link in the show notes, this takes us to the end of our planning series. We have at six different episodes within the six part planning series.
If you have not listened to them all go back and check them out. We had the first one on how to spend your time. We talked about the 50 40 10 planning time approach. Leaders can use that as well. That bundle includes specific templates for leaders in part two all the tips. We talked about building momentum, habit formation, tips for sustainable scheduling. In part three, we talked about rethinking the underlying beliefs that get in our way of transformation. In part four we talked about clearing the mind and how to do that, how to make our mind clear so that we have more energy and focus and presence as we show up for our students and our colleagues. Part five, we were talking about advancing our personal wellness and the six elements of wellness, not only why for our personal sake, but for our school's sake, that is something that we want to do. And then of course in this one we talked about efficient, effective lesson planning.
If you are thrilled by this planning series and you're like, give me more, I have more for you I have an in depth walkthrough of exactly how I transformed and how I suggest others transform and I have coached others to transform their planning processes.
It is called the work less, teach more courses as an online self paced course. Now open for enrollment at 197 my professional and mental well being is worth way more to me than $200. You can enroll today by going to bit.ly/wltmcourse. Of course I cannot wait to help you achieve heightened wellness, exponentially higher student achievement and overall job satisfaction. If you're a school leader who wants that for your teachers, I have had many teachers enroll in the course because their principles bought it for them and I want to say to all those principles, thank you. This is a great gift for your teachers, true investment and personal development that will last a long time. Right? This is a repeatable system. These structures and processes that I talked about in the course are things that teachers can use again and again on a day to day basis. It opens up their energy and their time commitment to be able to engage in the big transformational changes that we're always trying to push.
You can pilot it for one department or grade team or invest for the whole school. If you as a leader or an instructional coach or a teacher want to chat to see if the course would be a good fit, go ahead and throw me an email. I'm at firstname.lastname@example.org. That is a wrap on our mini planning series next week we'll get back to our regularly scheduled program with a guest. Thanks for listening, amazing educators. If you loved this episode, you can share it on social media and tag me at Lindsay Beth Lyons or leave a review of the show. So leaders like you will be more likely to find it to continue the conversation. Until next time leaders, continue to think big, act brave, and be your best self.
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Lindsay Lyons (she/her) is an educational justice coach who works with teachers and school leaders to inspire educational innovation for racial and gender justice, design curricula grounded in student voice, and build capacity for shared leadership. Lindsay taught in NYC public schools, holds a PhD in Leadership and Change, and is the founder of the educational blog and podcast, Time for Teachership.