This year has marked an epic shift in the way I manage my day-to-day planning as a teacher.
For about the last ten years of my teaching career, I’ve maintained an intricate, 5-tier organizational system to manage my short- and long-term lesson/curriculum planning for my classes. First are the big external curriculum objectives–my state standards and district curriculum. Next, my individual curriculum for the year that maps out how I’ll achieve those external curriculum objectives. From there, I built unit calendars to break down each unit on my curriculum map. And then once a week I would use the unit calendar to fill out my classic teacher’s lesson plan book for the following week, making sure I had time to create any necessary documents and collect any necessary materials. Finally, each afternoon before I left the building to go home, I would write out my daily lesson plan, sketching out in detail how I would proceed through my classes the next day and making sure I had all my copies made and ready to go so when I walked into my classroom the next day, I could worry only about being awake enough to greet my students at the bell.
(By the way, as MisterS reads this I can assure you he is chuckling because his organizational system exists only in his head and only once in the three plus years I’ve shared an office with him has it manifested itself physically in the form of a few scribbles on a sticky note.)
So at the start of this year, I excitedly went out to purchase the smallish spiral notebook I always use as my daily lesson plan book. And dutifully, I began filling out my daily plans every afternoon as I always have.
But one day it didn’t feel like it was necessary anymore.
As of last year I’ve been teaching off of a Google Site each day. Every afternoon, I post what will happen in class the next day in enough detail so that students who miss class can go there to get all the information and materials that they need. I teach from these daily posts–I have my website on the screen in my classroom each day and I move through the daily plan and click on all the necessary links and this all helps to keep me incredibly organized, which I like. So it didn’t seem like I really needed to then copy essentially the same information down into my daily lesson plan book each afternoon. Besides, the hyper links don’t work on my daily lesson plan notebook, no matter how many times I poke the paper with my finger.
It took me a few days to abandon the hand-written daily lesson plans entirely. This I find somewhat hilarious. My 5-tier system anchored by the daily lesson plan book had worked so well for me for so long that it was hard for me to let go of it. But now I feel liberated!
Worry not. The 5-tier system is still there but also shifting and evolving. The external curriculum in the form of state and district learning objectives was first a new set of state standards, and then the new state standards fused with the national common core standards, and now our district curriculum scrambles to show it has adopted the new state standards. All of this has taken place over the last three school years. The ground has not held static beneath our feet. My curriculum map is now a document I build with my colleagues who also teach the same courses as I so we can make sure we all have the same outcomes in mind for our students even though we each get there in our own unique ways. My unit calendars have morphed into one “evolving semester calendar” that I post on my web page and frequently update so that my students can see both the long-range and skeletal day to day plans in one place. I do still keep the hand-written classic weekly teacher’s lesson plan book. I like it because I can see it on my desk, and I keep it always open to the current week. This anchors me. And from this, I write my daily lesson plans on my web page each afternoon so both I and my students know what the heck is going on. And since my daily lesson plans now exist in an online space, I can get to them from any computer and even my iphone. If I have a eureka moment in the evening about my lesson plans for the next day, I can go ahead and change them and not worry about forgetting before I get to my daily lesson plan book on my desk at school.
This was all going to be the introduction to another post I have brewing that defends technology in the classroom in response to a recent NYTimes article that questions it. Web 2.0 technology in particular has critically changed the way I manage many of the day-to-day details of what I do in my classroom. And I’m doing things now that engage my students in ways not possible without these technologies. I thought this meditation over how my lesson planning has shifted would be a nice entry into that.
But then this became a post all by itself! That other technology post will come soon, as well as hopefully a few showing you how I’m going Google crazy with my teaching.