Are Teachers Making More Work for Themselves? {Lesson Plan Series}

All Posts in This Series:

Lesson plans.  We do them every week.  Every.single.week!  Or, at least I used to.  That was before I started working smarter.  We've all heard the saying, "work smarter...not harder."  As teachers we really need to take this to heart!

We have SO many things piled onto our plates that take away from what we do in the classroom.  If there is something we can do to minimize the "outside work" to leave us energized for what really matters {the ACTUAL teaching}, we should do it!

Now, if you're one of those who works at a school where you don't actually have to write out DETAILED lesson plans, I can't even talk to you.  #sojealous  But most of us have requirements - lots of them.  Lesson plans are not optional in my district and, in fact, there are LOTS of required elements that must be included.  It takes a long time to write those suckers, and, well, the one thing teachers lack guessed it - TIME!

I work in a right-to-work state, so we don't have a lot of the luxuries some of you have - you know, lunch by yourself, duty-free recess, a "planning period" EVERY day.  Nope.  Some days we don't have a break from our little munchkins at all - not even five minutes.  So, lesson planning is usually done at home - on our own time.  Even if we do have a planning period, that 45 minutes is usually filled with IEP meetings, parent conferences, grade level meetings, or at the copy machine.  You feel my pain, right?

I'm in the 18th year of teaching 2nd grade.  While the standards have changed a few times during this time, for the most part, they have remained pretty consistent.  If the standards are not changing each and every year, why am I writing NEW lesson plans every single year??  Here's the secret...I'm not....not since that lightbulb finally went off, anyway!

Don't get me wrong.  I understand that my students' may have slightly different needs from year to year, but the "meat" of what I'm responsible for teaching them is the same.  There is no reason I should be completely reinventing the lesson plan wheel when the "meat" of what I'm expected to teach is the same!

This took a major shift in my thinking.  You see, when I first started teaching, I used a lesson plan book like this....

Each person on my team planned a subject, we came together to "share" our ideas, and we wrote them in these little boxes each week.  Yes, handwritten plans...each week.  It worked great back then actually - there were sooooo many fewer requirements!  Then, I moved to an electronic version of this weekly plan.  Still - it was time consuming and the plans looked about the same from year to year....just filled in on a different date.  So much wasted time!

Now, my lesson plans are in a "unit" format for each subject rather than a "weekly" format. This format allows me to see the "big picture" - starting with the end in sight.  And, there's no need to REWRITE them each year....just a tweak here and there - saving me so much time in lesson planning.

This series will give you a peek into my lesson planning with the following posts:

Can you think of anything else you'd like to see in this series?  Do you have questions that you want to be sure I address in one of these posts?  If so, leave it below!  This series will happen every Monday on my blog starting next week!


  1. I am very excited to follow this series. I need to work smarter, not harder. My team has done some long range planning, but we haven't taken it to the next step. The only other thing you might consider is emergency or sub planning - we all know how that happens!
    Stories by Storie

  2. Thank you for the series. I'm looking forward to it. I was wondering if you will also discuss what you will do each day of the week. For example, Monday you will do day 1 of the fractions unit. Day 2 on Tuesday. Email me if you want me to further explain my question.

  3. This looks like it's going to be a great series Amanda! I'm sure it will help many teachers out there.
    Working smarter, not harder will help teachers regain their life and achieve more balance.
    :) Shelley
    The Write Stuff Teaching

  4. This is something I am very interested in . I can't wait to follow this.I am returning to a 2nd grade team after being in K for ten years. My team doesn't communicate well, maybe this will hook them to talk.

  5. Awesome idea! Can't wait to read.

  6. I can't wait to read! It sounds like your day/schedule and some of the requirements are like my parish. Except that we are expected to have a lesson plan for each subject for EACH DAY. We also have to turn them in. So at the end of the week, I turn in the following weeks plans in, one for math and one for my ELA. All five days worth. We have a pacing guide to follow, but the plan is still a requirement. Everyone has tried to figure out how to make it shorter, but I haven't heard of too many success stories yet!! ;)) I can't wait to read how you are doing it in your school. Thanks for sharing!


  7. Excited to read more! My schools have not required written lesson plans to be turned in...after a few years of teaching, I fell into not needing to write every single thing down. I think I caved under the constant change and started believing I wouldn't do things the same way next year anyway. However, I'm so ready to work "smarter."

  8. This is going to be a great series! I'm wondering how you present everything and keep it organized each week? Do you use a binder and sort it by subject?

  9. Thank you for sharing your plans and ideas! I am looking forward to following this series. My school began this process last year and the district has established standards based report cards this year. It is a long process but so worth it...the work we did last year made planning and teaching so much smoother this year-we still tweaked here and there, but it is the smarter way to go! I didn't see a topic for assessments in your agenda (and maybe it is there already). As you suggest, we have been planning with the end in mind and have also created pre/post assessments as well as a project based assessment for one of our units just this year. Will assessment be part of your series? My team and I are looking forward to following your series to hopefully fill in any holes or get more great ideas! Thank you in advance for your hard work and inspiring teachers...:)

  10. I can't wait to read your ideas! I've been teaching 18 years, mostly in 1st grade, and making plans I can stick to from year to year with the minor tweaking you mentioned is my biggest priority for next year. I'm sure your ideas will be incredibly helpful.
    First Grade Found Me

  11. I am looking forward to seeing how you write out your units. We have to write out lesson plans, but still use the lesson plan book. We are getting a new principal next year and I fear she will require us to write out more details than what we already do. I feel your pain about NO free time whatsoever. Sometimes I come home so exhausted that I just want to go to bed. You have definitely picked a "HOT TOPIC". Thanks for Sharing!

  12. I am excited to catch up on this series. I do have a question about how your district holds you accountable for your lessons. How often do you have to turn them in and do you receive feedback?

    1. This is really a school by school decision. My past principal had us email our plans to her every week. I would just send her the same unit and the dates clearly showed what I was teaching that week. My current principal doesn't require us to turn them in, but expects us to have them available on our desk when he pops in to visit. :)


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