Musings of a veteran teacher joining TFA

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Jul 05 2012

At last! A little relief.

Last night’s rant caused a lot of responses.  I will respond to them soon.

This morning, I woke up still a slight bit grumpy.  Not too bad, but frustrated at how there was yet another lesson plan due today with a one day turn around.  As I’ve said before, the amount of planning compared to my normal, daily life at my high school is very different and much harder.  Not always in a bad way, but generally much more time consuming.  I think that the backwards mapping has the achievement of the student’s in mind and I understand the reasoning for the process overall.

That being said, it’s been taking upwards of three hours to make ONE entire lesson plan.  This includes making materials.  (I know, I should know better!  But when you do actually backwards map from an objective, create an assessment that aligns correctly with the objective, and then have to make the worksheets, powerpoints and whatnot, it takes time.)  Today’s lesson was okay.  I ran out of time and felt very rushed.  I haven’t taught Chemistry before EVER, so in some ways ,this is actually a new experience.  I was in essence, planning for what I was used to: 90 minutes.  I’ve taught 90 min. blocks for the last six years.  It’s pretty ingrained.  Between realizing I’m overplanning (and spending WAY too much time on this) and feeling overly frustrated, I took a different approach.

Earlier today, we did a literacy meeting/group work.  Our literacy specialist is pretty entertaining, and although I’ve heard most of what he’said before, he has great ways of breaking things down to us for the kids that I really appreciate.  He also likes to model good teaching habits.  Today, he did something that I applied to doing lesson plans for.  First, he had us choose a vocabulary word.  I chose “organic” because that was what  was most familiar with in bio.  He then told us to take about 5 minutes (and timed us) to come up with a way of how to teach the vocabulary to a class.  It made me get down to the real nitty-gritty of pulling the most important aspects and then making the most impact.

So, when it came to lesson planning tonight (at 7 pm after dinner, due tomorrow at 6:30 am), I really did not want to spend three hours working on a rough draft for next Wednesday, get tomorrow’s lesson plan organized and simplified and being up late again.

I work with another person in our Chemistry group, and she teaches the same objective that I do every day, so it’s been good to plan with her.  She’s been doing the same things I’ve been doing with her lesson planning and taking so long.

This is what we did:

1. We needed to write down the vocabulary that the kids need for the lesson.

2. We then cross out the words that have been gone over, they aren’t new so they can get referenced but we don’t need for NEW INFORMATION.

1 and 2 were done in 3 minutes, and we timed ourselves. We then put a timer on for five minutes and wrote down how we could teach this within a 10 minute lesson to anyone.

We had to come up with bullets and shorten how we could do it.  When the time was up, we shared out and shored up our main ideas/sharing the ideas.  By the time we were done with this, it took us 20 minutes to have all the new material, guided practice and individual practice figured out. We HAD to come up with how we would SHOW and DO the material as fast as possible for our target goal of 10 minutes of new material.  The worksheet was created by writing, not typing and we fine-tuned how we were going to do it.   Our lesson plan was complete, with the worksheet, in 1 hour.  Our confidence in our timing and the fact we both felt that the kids would actually be able to understand it is very hopeful to us.

I hope that our plan works.  We both are excited to teach it next week. It’ll be crushing if it doesn’t. But we’ll try again. I hope it does,because my school next year is going from a 90 min. block to a 45 min. block and it’s something I have to change.  We shall definitely see.

I also feel like the looming prospect of two more lessons due on Sunday night not as daunting.  (Also a reason not to go back to Baltimore, I’m getting ahead in my lesson planning so I can relax a bit more.  Or at least try.)


2 Responses

  1. Anonymous

    I feel your pain with the 3 hr session to write one lesson plan… believe it or not, I spent that long on every lesson I ever planned (exceptions: review days, test days). I guess I never figured out how to plan a different way!

    • Anonymous

      This is Hillary, p.s. Didn’t mean to be anonymous :)

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