133. Lesson Plans

Most teachers write lesson plans. These plans come in all kinds of formats. Some include behavioral objectives: “Given ten word problems involving addition or subtraction, the child will correctly solve each problem with at least 80% accuracy.” Some list materials needed. Some are simply schedules: “8:30 – Reading, 9:30 – Math, 10:00 – Recess.” There are at least as many kinds of lesson plans as there are teachers.
For me, and for many teachers I knew, the lesson plans were often a base from which to depart. It was easier to be spontaneous in my teaching – to respond to “the teachable moment” – if there was something concrete from which I could deviate. During my final few years as a classroom teacher, lesson plans began to play a new role. I found that predictability was becoming more and more important as I involved more and more adults in my classroom. The adults who came in to help teach science needed to know that science would indeed be taught approximately when they came in. Also, about the same time, the curriculum in the Wellesley Public Schools was becoming more predictable. Children in third grade learned about Russia. They learned about the physics of sound. The units we developed contained fairly specific lesson plans which often made their way directly into our plan books. I never learned to like writing lesson plans. I don’t know whether anyone likes it. For me, it often felt as if I was building a wall around myself, and around the children. Children came to school with a myriad of thoughts, feelings, concerns, interests, and my plans dictated which, if any, would be addressed. If a child was going to spend spring vacation in Venezuela, we did not do a unit on Venezuela. If a child brought an interesting rock to school, we did not do a unit on rocks. When we write lesson plans, we imply that the experiences we have in mind will cause learning that is in some way worth more than the learning that would happen without our intervention. In fact, that’s the implication on which the existence of school is based.
But it never quite feels right to ask a child to put aside a favorite topic and focus on the topic the teacher has written down in a plan book.

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