Too much. Too much. Too much.

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I am looking at the checklist for The Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol (SIOP) lesson plan. The checklist includes 27 items. These are expectations for lesson plans for bilingual classes. Numerous other expectations exist for lesson plans that are not included in this list because those expectations are for general lesson plans. The lists/expectations do overlap. For example, “use a variety of question types including those that promote higher-order thinking skills” has to be a strong addition to any lesson plan for any group of students.

This 27 item list has to be incorporated into the lesson-plan model demanded by my school. That plan has separate expectations. We have to include all relevant common core standards, for example. We have just been told that our breakdowns on the plan for students who are below grade level, students who are at grade level and students who are above grade level are inadequate. We are supposed to include all of our specific strategies for meeting the needs of these three groups in separate sections now. I’m not sure exactly how this will work. I’m sure the lesson plan just got larger and harder, though.

Eduhonesty: I would say these lesson plans provide a great snapshot of what’s wrong with education today. All of these lesson-plan demands seem rational and all are defensible on some level. But I took a position as a teacher, not a lesson-plan writer. To meet these expectations, I’d have to spend most or all of Sunday writing my plan. When I got done, I’d be unable to remember whole chunks of it unless I spent the day reading and rereading the plan. I’d also have about as much chance of completing all its components as I would of leading the first Martian colony.

Class lengths differ from place to place, but teachers are supposed to write plans that can’t possibly fit with any rational set of class lengths. Fortunately, my teams are creating these plans with my input during meetings. We are all on a shared lesson plan. I also simply skip that checklist. Instead, I focus on remembering we have to work on vocabulary.

I am triaging as I try to get through my current lesson plans. I skip parts that I view as less important. I read and reread as I go. Sometimes I slip up. More often, I simply can’t get through the plan in the time available.

Am I the better for my new, 5-7 page, explicit plan that breaks down all the details? It’s technically a better lesson plan, I’m sure. My lesson plan used to be a short document that loosely laid out the direction for the week and its connection to state standards. Minutiae were certainly lacking in that short plan. But how much instructional preparation has the new, required plan eaten? How much discussion about individual students has the plan preempted? How many class-preparation activities have been put on hold or eliminated in order to hit all the targets in writing that plan? How many science experiments have never happened because my science team has spent days planning the lesson plan, using minutes that might have otherwise set up experiments that frankly are not happening this year, experiments that would have happened in the past when teachers could have been setting up microscopes instead of looking up standards to paste into documents that I suspect are lightly read at best. I’m sure the administration sometimes scrutinizes these documents, but I also know that if they read them all for every subject they receive, they would never be able to leave their offices.

P.S. Upon thinking about this post, I realized I had left out one important element. For any lesson plan to work, students have to cooperate. The cavalry has to go over the hill. That’s part of the challenge. I’ll try to write that post later. I also need to note that lessons should flex sometimes. When the class goes off on an interesting and useful tangent, the best move may be to dump the plan and go with the teachable moment.