Spring Cleaning Your Lesson Plans
The term “spring cleaning” often evokes the image of a jam-packed closet, filled with items that have accumulated over time and that may or may not still be useful. Spring cleaning usually isn’t associated with lesson plans, but it’s a good practice to apply to them, too. In fact, it’s more than good. It’s essential!
Lesson plans, no matter how carefully crafted, aren’t set in stone. At least they shouldn’t be, since teaching never takes place in a static environment. Everything that affects teaching changes continually—in education, in society, and in the world at large. The body of human knowledge continues to grow, sometimes exponentially, and technology races ahead of where we were the day before. Also, from one year to the next, the human dynamics in a classroom change, too. Different groups of kids come and go, and teachers become more adept and experienced in educating them. Consequently, it’s essential not to rely on the same lesson plans year after year. In addition to writing new plans, it’s important to look over the old ones, and do some spring cleaning.
Actually, spring cleaning a collection of lesson plans is like going through all the items in a closet—reviewing each one, evaluating it, and making a decision: keep it, toss it, or do something else with it. The analogy works, but not entirely. The usual advice about tackling a cluttered closet is to get rid of everything that hasn’t been worn in a year or two. When it comes to deciding the fate of a lesson plan, though, that approach won’t work. There are too many variables in play. Faculty assignments, district curriculums, and state standards change; what you don’t need one year, you might need the next. Also, a lesson plan that didn’t work last time might work next time with a different group of kids. In evaluating a lesson plan and deciding what to do with it, these guidelines would be more helpful:
- Is the lesson plan grounded in worthwhile objectives? Is it as effective as it could be in teaching them?
- Would kids still find it interesting?
- Does it relate to the world they’re living in or reflect the society they’re navigating?
- Does it engage them in their own learning?
In going through an accumulation of lesson plans, no doubt you’ll find some that are still good-to-go just as they are, while others need to be updated or could be improved with a little polishing. Occasionally, a lesson plan turns up that really needs attention! Not to worry! There are ways to save it, instead of tossing it out, and the same methods can be used to turn an old lesson plan into a new and improved version. Here are a few of them:
- Revise a lesson plan to incorporate resources now available on the internet.
- Refocus it to align the objectives with current standards.
- Reconstruct it to include hands-on activities that allow kids to use technology, especially in creative ways.
- Rewrite the examples in it to reflect contemporary society.
- Renovate the teaching methods employed in it by incorporating some new instructional strategies.
With a lesson plan that’s no longer effective as a whole, try this before deep-sixing the whole thing. Identify the content that still works well, and recycle it; work it into an existing lesson plan, or use it in writing a new one. Also, it might be possible to use parts of several old plans in creating a new unit.
Considering all the resources now available in writing lesson plans, spring cleaning the old ones can be fun. It’s an opportunity to be creative in applying what you know now that you didn’t know then and in using some amazing technology that didn’t exist when you first designed them. Also, besides making the most of the hard work you’ve done in the past, spring cleaning your lesson plans is a valid reason to put off dealing with the closet! It’s a win-win!
This is a post from eNotes Staff Writer, Susan Hurn. Susan is a former high school English teacher and college instructor. She loves writing for eNotes and also enjoys good books, creative writing, and all things related to history. Let us know if you’re interested in contributing to the eNotes blog.