Building a lesson plan is a process that’s influenced by the experience level of the teacher, the requirements of administrators, and the content to be taught. It’s common for lesson plans to start out strong and well-thought-out, but as the teaching schedule gets hectic a month or so into the school year, the quality and value of lesson plans sometimes fall off a cliff. In fact, teachers might stop preparing lesson plans altogether if not reminded by administrators.
Building a quality lesson plan from scratch takes time, especially for new teachers. Identifying the standards is the easy part. A large chunk of time is dedicated to planning out instruction, formative assessments, differentiation, and remediation strategies for the diverse populations we serve. It’s a whole process that requires dedication and attention to detail.
Building Lesson Plans with Limited Resources
A few weeks into the school year, busy schedules begin to take hold. This is usually when teachers look to outside sources for shortcuts and ideas. It might start with a Google or Pinterest search, but it often ends with a purchase of teacher-created content from a third party resource. The EdNET Insight Survey asked this very question, revealing that 62% of teachers purchase instructional materials from teacher stories, 62% access materials from general Internet searches, and 15% even turn to social media:
And when it comes to the instructional materials actually used in the classroom, 62% cite free resources found online, 9% more than those who cite materials provided by the school district or school administration.
These resources have been a lifesaver for many educators at some point in their career, with two out of three teachers in the US having used curriculum materials purchased online. But purchasing activities for lesson plans can get expensive. An entire unit of plans regularly costs over $50, and a semester of materials can go for over $300. That kind of added cost isn’t sustainable for most, but at the same time teachers want to provide quality classroom instruction, even if they don’t have the time to craft the perfect lesson plan on their own.
Educational standards vary from state to state. Let’s face it, most resources available on marketplaces or social media were not created with Common Core Standards in mind. Consistency is a big concern when picking and choosing materials online. No educator should spend hundreds of dollars on a semester’s worth of material that is not even aligned to the state standards for the course being taught. Yet it happens all the time. The simplicity of buying a shortcut to lesson plan heaven sure is tempting. Can anything be done to address the perennial ebb and flow of lesson plan value for teachers, administrators, and especially the students we serve?
There’s a Better Way
Preparation is key to success in education. Last-minute solutions rarely provide students with the educational experience they showed up to school for. If two out of three teachers are going to end up buying resources at some point, why not stay a few steps ahead and provide them with access to higher-quality materials that are expertly prepared to meet your local standards?
Here are some ways that administrators can help teachers approach the school year with more confidence and the tools for better outcomes:
Encourage teachers to talk to their administrators about picking out a great curriculum supplement together. Better yet, administrators should bring up the importance of finding solutions before the school year begins. With open communication, everyone involved can play a role in obtaining resource licenses in the most cost-effective way possible for all teachers who may benefit from it. No more anxiety about purchasing one license to use a product from a teacher resource website. Boardworks provides consistency, interactivity, and ease of use for all teachers in your school or district.
Let the problem guide you to the solution. If your team is struggling to find lesson materials for a specific unit, it might be tempting to go out and spend $300 on materials for the entire next semester. That could be a costly mistake. Teachers should talk with administrators and let them know what is needed before spending big money on a short-term fix that can’t even be shared with colleagues due to copyright limitations.
Make a curriculum unit map before school begins – even if it’s incomplete. This doesn’t mean completed lesson plans, but simply a calendar of which school days will be dedicated to each unit. Just knowing what material will be taught on any given date will lift much of the pressure of planning off of teachers, resulting in more clarity with the preparation of daily lesson plans as the school year progresses.
Teachers are more likely to stay in the profession if they have the support they need. Recent surveys show that stress is an even larger problem than pay when it comes to teacher retention. The key to reducing stress is improving the lesson planning experience. When solutions are sought out together with administrators and department colleagues, wholesome, long-lasting, and cost-effective solutions can be reached before the stress and anxiety of planning becomes overwhelming. Consistent, quality instructional supplements are key to transforming the lesson planning process into a more useful and successful experience.