Planning – it’s a love/hate thing.

I like planning lessons, that is, I enjoy planning lessons and thinking about what I might do in that lesson, and coming up with interesting ways of teaching something, or practising a skill, or eliciting a language point, or whatever. I like making or finding or developing a resource. I like thinking about how I am going to make sure I can keep everyone engaged and learning. I like planning.

I hate Planning. I hate the boxes, the “have you thought about whichever governmental whim you are supposed to be embedding”, the “we don’t expect extensive planning but we expect you to show us how you will differentiate for the individual needs of your students” double standards. I hate the hair splitting “ooh, your learning outcome isn’t smart enough, and if you reword ‘write 5 sentences using past simple’ as ‘use past simple to write 5 sentences’ you will be fine” (because students couldn’t give a stuff, because all they really understand is that they will be learning about past simple. Although they can’t self assess against that learning outcome until you teach them what it is…). I hate the stupid “assessment” box. Yes, it does look like I copy & paste, because I do, because I use checking in pairs, self assessing against the answers on the whiteboard, teacher marking and all the rest of it most of the time. I hate the tedious, mechanistic “input > output” simplicity a lesson plan form suggests, as if by achieving said learning outcomes, and assessing said learning outcomes means something. It doesn’t. It means the student achieved that once. Whether or not that outcome is now automatically achievable in any setting is highly unlikely.

I hate the way I find it ard to fiddle with a formal lesson plan and make changes at the last minute, even though I will happily chuck the entire lesson out at the last minute for an exciting but semi-formed idea if, and this is important, if the lesson is not being observed.

But actually, of course, what I really hate is that I have an ok set of lessons for the next few days, but they are missing something and I can’t put my finger on it. And there is no form in the world going to help me there.

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4 comments

  1. Always enjoy your blogs Sam. re the final paragraph, what is the elusive element? Is it, do you think, that plans (and I believe they are necessary – though may come in many formats) simply can’t contain / predict (with any level of accuracy or detail) what will really pan out in class; that magical spontaneity and human engagement can’t be documented on a pre-planned text and wouldn’t have the opportunity to flourish if a plan was followed slavishly? Am I stating the obvious…or maybe missing something. It is very early – n I’m off to teach!

    1. I think there is definitely an element of a proforma being potentially restrictive: you can get tangled up with worrying about some of the other stuff, rather than what is going to happen in the lesson, although the reality of the particular lesson plan which “inspired” this post was that I ended up using it more as a guideline rather than as a plan: like using google maps as a general idea of the route, rather than following the turn by turn guidance. (Which might be a whole other post?).

  2. Hi Sam – I bet all teachers feel the same. Have you tried this? http://www.teachertoolkit.me/the-5-minute-lesson-plan/ Are you obliged to use a certain template? You could suggest this one as an alternative? Nothing wrong with copying and pasting. Also, I’m sure I’ve read an article arguing that learning outcomes can be limiting ie once learners have achieved the outcome they stop paying attention, rather than fully exploring the topic. (can’t find the article now I need it) Another discussion to have with Ofsted/whoever is commenting on your outcomes!!

    1. We can use the five minute lesson plan at work, and have lots of freedom to do so! We are lucky in that sense. I tried using it last year for a formal observation and made the foolish mistake of using it to plan in, well, five minutes, and got pulled up on differentiation: I tend to think of differentiation as a stage by stage thing, and the five minute lesson plan doesn’t really allow for this.

      So for this year’s formal observation I wanted more space, and a closer link to the activities of the lesson. That said, in the lesson itself, as I’ve commented above, I only used it as a general guide, meaning that any of the notes about differentiation, things like grouping of students according to ability, were completely ignored. I sometimes find this sort of differentiation a bit laboured (student X will work with student Y) and should remember my own advice that you’re usually better off thinking about task design which has differentiation built in, and I think that is what happened in the lesson.

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