Planning #SOL23 19/31

In grad school we once read an article titled “A Little Too Little and a Lot Too Much.” Of course I immediately fell in love with the phrase. While the author was writing about action research, I have found that this can easily describe almost any number of things in my life.

Today, the phrase skipped through my mind, taunting me, as I planned for this week’s classes. I love planning classes (well, mostly), so when a colleague swung by this morning for help thinking through a media unit, I was all in. We narrowed here, widened there and talked until the core of the unit was much more clear. My colleague found text after text; I asked questions to help her deepen her thinking. I loved how our thinking moved from specific to theoretical and back again. I delighted in the way we thought of concrete examples and ways to ground the work. It was fantastic.

After that, I turned to planning my own classes. The Reading class was surprisingly quick to plan. Now that I have a research-based plan (I’m using Dr. Jessica Toste’s free resource WordConnections), I feel much more confident about where we’re going. Next came Grade 12 English. Here, I had already laid the unit out day by day – we’re somewhere in the middle – so today I needed to create visuals to support the information I want to share about how to do academic research. Luckily, I find it wildly interesting to consider what will be most effective in catching and keeping students’ attention.

(Ahem, I find it so interesting that I just wrote two paragraphs about all the things I consider, consciously or subconsciously, as I decide how to communicate a topic. It’s a lot. Then I realized that this wasn’t the point of this post. I had gotten lost in getting lost in planning. Sigh. I’ve decided to include them at the bottom of the post because it might be interesting for you real teaching nerds out there, but most people will probably find themselves going a little cross-eyed with boredom.)

Soon, I was deep in planning mode, imagining what various students might need or want and considering the best ways to help each student learn. When I surfaced again, I realized two things: 1) I had spent far too long planning and 2) planning is one of my happy places. I didn’t mind being “a lot too much” about creating this lesson.

It’s a good thing, too, because my next realization was the time: I had “a little too little” time to do anything like an equally thorough job planning for my Grade 9 class. Fear not! I’m not slighting them or anything – I absolutely know what we’re doing tomorrow. It’s just that I’ve used it before, and I didn’t have the time to tweak it for this semester’s kids.

No problem. I’m used to a little too little and a lot too much. I’ll use what I learn from tomorrow’s classes to help me plan for Tuesday.

*How I plan a slide show or other information delivery:

I call to mind a few different faces from the class. With these people firmly in mind, I consider what I know they know, what I know they don’t know, and where I still have questions. I look things up to see how other places break down these steps. I wonder about lagging skills from the pandemic. What will they need to be able to do this research successfully? What will students need to practice? Where might kids need an off-ramp to think on their own or to pause if that’s all they can do today? What assumptions am I making? Who am I forgetting to consider? Eventually, I determine how many links I need in the chain of ideas to make sure everything holds together.

Once I have the content (and order sorted), I turn to layout and design issues. How many words on a slide before my audience’s attention will flag? What needs to be hyperlinked and what needs to be explained in the document? Where will images help these particular students remember? Where will they distract? And then there’s font: no cursive fonts or curlicues because some students who don’t speak English as a first language can’t easily access it; careful with colours because at least one student is colour blind; make sure the font is big enough to be legible from the back, dark enough to be easily read, maybe go with gray rather than black to reduce contrast a bit… Obviously I don’t think through each of these questions one by one like going down a list, but I do pay attention.

9 thoughts on “Planning #SOL23 19/31

  1. I wholeheartedly — and teacher nerdly — agree: The literal and figurative spaces of lesson-planning serve up some of my favorite rabbit holes. Thanks for the peek into process, as well as for the link to WordConnections.


  2. Amanda, Planning has always been one of my favorite parts of teaching. I love learning new pedagogy and am still doing that in retirement. I live backward design and thinking of ways I can support student learning and tap into every learner’s ZPD. I love checking for understanding and joining students in learning. I still collaborate w/ some colleagues and am in a happy place when they seek my input, so if you ever need someone to think through ideas or do research for you, my hand is raised.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Planning! It makes you feel so prepared yet you’d be surprised how many people wing it! Then they wonder why they’re always so stressed. How great that you had a colleague come over to plan together. It was interesting to read through your process. Have a great week back!


  4. I loved this window into your planning and how your love of teaching infuses this slice. Once again I think how lucky your students are to have you. Good luck with your first week back!


  5. This was really interesting to read…especially the outtake paragraphs. Thanks for including them for the nerds. I confess I don’t enjoy that process as much as you, but I really did like when I had more say in what I taught and how I put it together. We lost a bit of that over the years here. I found this line particularly interesting: “Where might kids need an off-ramp to think on their own or to pause if that’s all they can do today? What assumptions am I making? Who am I forgetting to consider? ” I’m not sure I thought about that part of a unit enough.
    I think I’m stealing your idea of placing the unused paragraphs at the end of a slice. I often have those digressions and don’t know what to do with them.

    Liked by 1 person

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