The 9 As of Awesome Lesson Planning

Looking for a way to reinvent your lessons? Try this formula on for size.

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Image Source: @ThisIsEngineering on Unsplash

As a younger teacher, I would often jump straight into learning activities with plans poorly defined.

I wouldn’t activate previous learning. I wouldn’t mention learning goals. I wouldn’t have a clear sense of how I would check for understanding.

I wouldn’t plan for students with disabilities in advance. I wouldn’t plan for advanced learners. It was one-size-fits-all.

Not best practice.

Somewhere along my education journey, I picked up on the idea of structuring my lessons around the As you’ll see below. This form has evolved over time, and it’s helped me plan more mindfully than I once did.

Are my lessons now perfect? Not even close.

Are there some days when I don’t properly address every one of these points? Absolutely.

But I’d like to think my lesson planning has come a long way from where it began. If it has, my students are the beneficiaries.

Because, as always, this is NOT about being a perfect teacher. It’s about serving our learners and supporting their growth.

So in the hope of inspiring your practice, here is the bullet outline I use to structure my lesson plans (conveniently reproducible each day in Google Docs).

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This is how my 9 As show up in my Google Docs. Use ‘Make a Copy’ of the previous day to save time!

1. Administration and housekeeping.

  • Are there any announcements that my students need to be aware of or may have missed? Is there any information that I need from students? I want to get these items out of the way first.
  • In terms of our class climate, is there anything we need to address or discuss before we begin today’s learning? This is a great time to invest in my students by affirming who we are as a class and what we’re all about.
  • This is where I want to quickly read the temperature of the room. If something is amiss, I may need to address it before moving on.

2. Activating.

  • Which skills and content did we learn last? I want to briefly activate this knowledge for my learners and check for understanding.
  • Do I need to collect any assignments? Do my students need to be reminded to submit work on Google Classroom?
  • What are we aiming to learn today? Post a learning target in the form of an ‘I can’ statement. (ie. I can reduce fractions, etc.)
  • Why are we learning this? How does it fit in the bigger picture?
  • What is our success criteria? In other words, what will it look like if we meet our learning target?

3. Acquiring.

  • Introduce learners to the learning target. Define and describe key words and concepts.
  • Make the concept multidimensional through live demonstrations, student exemplars, text resources, pictures or video clips.
  • Engage student thinking and conversation using think-pair-share or similar collaborative strategies.

4. Applying.

  • This is the key part of the lesson: how will my learners apply their learning? How will they demonstrate understanding of the concept?
  • At this stage, it’s critical to think about depth of knowledge. In the infographic below, notice the progression in keywords at bottom.
  • Our ideal learning activities will include justification, explanation, inference, and making connections.
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Image Credit: Edmuntum.com

5. Adapting.

  • What adaptations should I make to this lesson to accommodate students with learning disabilities?
  • Should the learning target be adjusted? It may not need to be. A better fit might be reducing or simplifying expectations in the learning activity.
  • How should I mobilize educational assistants in my classroom? What instructions or supports do they need? I like to use the comment feature in Google Docs to tag them in advance of the lesson — this works especially well if I’ve given them access to my lesson plan folder in Google Drive.

6. Advancing learners.

  • It’s possible that my learning target may not properly challenge some of my learners. Last year, this was especially true in my Math classes. I needed to build in extension activities with these learners in mind.
  • Thinking back to Webb’s Depth of Knowledge (pictured above), how can I challenge these students to take their learning to the next level? How can we go above and beyond? This can tax a tired teacher’s energy, but I need to plan for these students as much as I can.

7. Assessing.

  • How will I check for understanding or mastery? In the language of Visible Learning, how will I know my impact?
  • There are a plethora of ways to do this, but the key is simple: I need to have a sense of where my learners are in their learning, because that information will direct my next moves — the purpose of formative assessment.

8. Anticipating.

  • Where is our learning heading next?
  • How should I start thinking about (and preparing for) our next lesson?
  • How am I planning to conclude this unit of study? What’s my timeline?

9. Additional Time.

  • This is always helpful to keep in mind, especially when planning for a substitute teacher. How will I plan for students who complete this learning activity before the bell?
  • Are there extension activities that might further challenge my quickest learners? (See point 5 above.)
  • Is there a review game (think Kahoot or Quizlet) that we could play as a class that might further reinforce today’s learning and act as a decent check for understanding?

Upgrading This Structure Through Project-Based Learning

An acknowledgment. This lesson planning outline doesn’t address project-based learning — or at least, not well. In a PBL or IBL context, students may engage in learning activities for several consecutive periods without any direct instruction at all.

In a sense, though, all nine of the planning points I’ve outlined here still apply. Instead of one lesson, block, or day, they’re being stretched across the duration of the project, which allows time and space for more design thinking, more ideation, more prototyping, more coaching, more real-time feedback, more revision and iteration before completion. Win-win!

Reality Check

Is it really possible to plan 9-point lessons for every block of every day? Should we place this burden on every classroom teacher?

In a word, no. But for me, this framework is my ideal. It’s a structure that helps me think through every step of the learning and account for every learner as thoughtfully as possible.

By creating this planning template at the beginning of the year, I’m setting myself (and my learners) up for success by nudging myself toward more mindful lesson planning.

If all my learners are learning and growing, that’s a win. And it’s worth it.

Roundtable: Education Bloggers and Writers

This edition of the Teachers on Fire Roundtable featured writers on the Teachers on Fire Magazine publication on Medium, including Heather Edick, Debbie Tannenbaum, Kelly Christopherson, Tammy Breitweiser, and Jamie Brown.

Talking About Writing in Education

🔥 What does education writing look like for you?
🔥 WHY do you write about education?
🔥 How does it affect your professional practice?
🔥 What is your favorite time of the day to write?
🔥 What is your go-to writing beverage?
🔥 What is your go-to background sound?
🔥 Where and how do you complete your rough compositions?
🔥 How do you collect future blog topics and headlines?
🔥 Who is a current education blogger that you admire?
🔥 What is one book that inspired you to write?
🔥 What are some tools and strategies that you use to share your content?

If you’d like to join a growing community of education writers that are passionate about growth and change in education, join us on Medium today! Comment below or DM me @TeachersOnFire on any social media platform for more details.

Episode 132 – Kellie Bahri

This episode was originally published on March 1, 2020.

Meet Kellie Bahri

KELLIE BAHRI is a 5th grade teacher at the Birmingham Public Schools in Birmingham, MI. She’s a supporter of the Sustainable Development Goals, a member of Nohea Kindreds, an Agent for Agency, and a co-founder of the @CrazyPLN. She’s also the cohost of the EDU Exchange Pod podcast and is currently working on her PhD in educational leadership. Best of all, Kellie is a tremendous elevator and amplifier of other educators.

Falling Back in Love with Education

A few years ago, the state of Michigan moved to a high-stakes model of evaluation for teachers. It turned Kellie’s world upside down, increasing stress and anxiety, isolating her colleagues, and making her fall out of love with the profession. “I wanted to walk away,” she explains, but she felt trapped in the classroom by her need for health insurance.

After taking some time to reflect on herself and her role in these circumstances, she concluded that she was actually the source of the problem. Her inclination to hoard ideas and outshine others in order to keep her job were actually the cause of her misery.

From that realization, Kellie changed things up completely: she re-opened her classroom doors, started sharing ideas and resources again, and took every opportunity to spotlight the work of others. This pivot in her approach allowed her to rediscover the joy of teaching, strengthen her friendships with colleagues, and change the culture in her team … and she’s been on fire ever since.

The EDU Exchange Podcast

Kellie and co-host David Hennel @HennelD_EDU recently teamed up to create the EDU Exchange. Their hope is to publish educator stories that resonate with the masses and push the thinking and practices within our education systems. David manages the tech side of things, and Kellie brings the perspective of a homeroom teacher. The podcast is still in the early stages of development, but Kellie and David look forward to publishing more episodes soon.

Elevating the #CrazyPLN and Nohea Kindred

ELEVATE is Kellie’s #OneWord2020, and most of her activity on Twitter does exactly that: it elevates and celebrates the work of others. Hashtags that Kellie follows closely on Twitter include #CrazyPLN and #NoheaKindreds.

#CrazyPLN began as a small group of educators who simply came together to support each other, but that small group has grown into a swelling community of teachers, authors, and leaders. It’s a community marked by collaboration and a deep belief in student agency and empowerment.

“They’ve transformed my teaching and my life,” says Kellie. If we become the people that surround us, she can’t think of better people to want to emulate. A care for kids is at the center of everything they do. 

The mission of Nohea Kindreds is to “help school and district leaders create information peace of mind, so they can lead effectively, teachers can teach joyfully, and students learn.” Kellie commends Nohea’s co-founders, Aubrey Patterson and Lori Harvey as possibly the kindest, most lovely people in education.

Nohea is built around a three-step leadership philosophy that puts special emphasis on three actions: simplify, amplify, and clarify. Much of their consultation and coaching work for schools and school leaders helps education organizations increase capacity by decluttering communication, clarifying mission, and strategically investing in leaders within their communities. The Nohea Kindred tribe is made up of givers: educators who want to freely share with educators around the world. 

What’s Setting Kellie on 🔥 in Education Right Now

“I feel like I’m on fire for every possible angle that education has to offer,” Kellie laughs. One of her many areas of passion right now include the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. She combines the UNSDGs with design thinking to transform her middle school classroom.

“It breaks down walls and brings the world right into our classroom,” she says. It’s given her middle schoolers passion and mission and some deeply authentic project-based learning. “This work has me so on fire that I could go on and on about it.”

Kellie credits Lindsay Portnoy’s Designed to Learn: Using Design Thinking to Bring Purpose and Passion to the Classroom and the work of Jennifer Williams (see Teach Boldly: Using EdTech for Social Good) for the inspiration to head down this rewarding path with her learners. Education should be about more than just coming to school and working to master curricular standards, Kellie says. It should be about working and learning that makes a difference and creates positive changes in the world.

Other Professional Pursuits

Kellie is working on a PhD, and she admits that part of the challenge to come will be narrowing the focus of her activities. She’s also enjoyed working with Evo Hannan and his Agents for Agency, an association of educators committed to changing paradigms in education that give students more agency and ownership in their learning. Find out more about Agents for Agency at EvoHannan.com.

A Personal Passion Outside of Education: Nature

Kellie has a lot going on at all times, she admits, but one thing she always makes time for is fresh air. Getting into the woods and walking through the trees is calming, clarifying, and centering, and she’s incredibly blessed to have easy access to the wilds of northern Michigan. Her summers are filled with camping and kayaking, although she doesn’t share Abigail French’s love of snakes! Getting off the grid once in a while is important, she says. It helps us get back to basics: our health, others, and nature.

A Productivity Hack: Preparing for the Morning the Night Before

Sleep is Kellie’s ultimate productivity hack, she says. “I’m a sleeper. Once my head hits the pillow, I could sleep for 13 hours. Getting up in the morning is so hard for me – I could sleep until noon if given the chance.” With that in mind, Kellie has learned that absolutely everything for her morning routine must be prepared and ready to go the night before.

Voices and Resources That Spark Her Thinking and Ignite Her Practice

Over on Twitter, Kellie recommends following #SDGwomen, @CrazyPLN, and @LPortnoy. “Lindsay has changed my teaching and how I approach learning with students,” Kellie says.

For a great edtech tool, Kellie points to FlipGrid. “Flipgrid was really great for student conferences,” Kellie explains. “It was wonderful for parents to hear their child talk about the things that they loved about the classroom and what they were learning.” Flipgrid has also offered a nice way for Kellie’s students to communicate with students in Africa and around the world. Follow Fligrid on Twitter @FlipGrid.

Kellie’s book pick is The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan. “It’s a book that I really need in my life,” Kellie says. With a lot of plates in the air and so much going on, this book has helped her clarify her focus and allowed her to achieve significant progress on her goals. Follow the authors on Twitter @GaryKeller and @JayPapasan

Kellie is a huge supporter of the Teachers on Fire podcast and claims to never miss an episode. Amazing! Another one of her podcast favorites is The Staff Room Podcast with the very charismatic Chey and Pav. They’re fun, they’re human, and they bring some great down-to-earth perspectives on the state of education today. Follow this podcast on Twitter @StaffPodcast

Some of Kellie’s recent Netflix viewing has included The Stranger and The Five. Both series are based on fascinating books by Harlan Coben, and Kellie will consume anything he puts out.

We sign off on this conversation, and Kellie gives us the best ways to follow her online. Check the links below and get connected!

Follow Kellie

Connect with the Teachers on Fire Podcast on Social Media

Subscribe to the Teachers on Fire Podcast on Your Mobile Device

Song Track Credits

  • Sunrise Drive by South London Hifi*
  • Anthem by The Grand Affair*
  • Bluntedsesh4 (by Tha Silent Partner, courtesy of FreeMusicArchive.org

*courtesy of the YouTube Audio Library

Listen to Teachers on Fire on YouTube

Create to Contribute

Growth mindset and the Power of YET have put me on a new course.

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Speaking at EdVent, a gathering of educational stories and ideas presented ignite-style.

In 2017, I began a Master’s program at Vancouver Island University. As I entered the program, I read a book that would change my life.

In Mindset, Carol Dweck writes: “When do people with the fixed mindset thrive? When things are safely within their grasp. If things get too challenging — when they’re not feeling smart or talented — they lose interest.”

I realized that there were steps I was not taking and moves I was not making — because they weren’t safe. They were risky.

But growth doesn’t happen in the comfort zone. After all, my fixed mindset was the reason it took me 16 years to begin working on my Master’s degree!

The Power of YET

As I read about the Growth Mindset I also learned about The Power of YET. You know about the power of YET, don’t you? In our classrooms and for our learners, it sounds like this:

  • I don’t understand this Math concept … yet.
  • I’m not a talented artist … yet.
  • I’m not a tech person … yet.

The Growth Mindset says that anyone can learn anything if they will simply apply effort over time. As educators, it reminds us that we never know the full potential of our learners.

I’m Not a Podcaster … YET

As I continued to read great books and engage in rich education conversations, the Power of YET started to whisper in my ear in another way.

I’m not a podcaster … YET.

You see, as I made the 30-minute commute between Surrey and Burnaby each day, I wasn’t listening to sports talk or pop radio. I listened to podcasts — because I had an insatiable appetite for learning.

I started to dream. Could I start a podcast that profiled great educators? Could I share their amazing ideas and practices with teachers around the world?

Carol Dweck says that we can look back at what could have been, or we can look back and say I gave my all for the things I valued. And so I jumped on the track of content creation with both feet, knowing that as terrible as I was at the beginning, I would continue to grow and improve my craft over time.

Two and a half years, 166 episodes, and over 130,000 downloads later, I can safely say that the Teachers on Fire podcast is impacting the education conversation.

Creation in the Classroom

But how can this passion for creation shape our classrooms and practice?

For one thing, creative activities in the classroom challenge us to move AWAY from cultures of passive compliance.

David Guerin says the ones who are doing the talking are doing the learning. And according to Jennifer Gonzales, our learners need to be DOING something.

In the classroom context, this looks like …

  1. Agency + Ownership
  2. Authentic Audiences
  3. Design Thinking & the Design Process
  4. Genius Hour + IBL + PBL
  5. Voice + Choice
  6. A culture of 5 Cs

So how does creation show up in my 8th grade classroom?

  • Through creative representations of learning on Seesaw.
  • Through collaborative design projects on CanvaGoogle Drawings and Slides.
  • Through authentic product development, marketing, and sales.
  • Through movie making on WeVideo and screencasts on Screencastify.
  • And of course, through podcasting, including the Gr8 Expectations podcast. One student is even starting his own podcast!

Educators Have a Mandate to Create

My #OneWord for 2019 was CREATE. Create new content, new learning, new relationships.

But why should other educators take part in content creation? Because content creation …

  1. Allows us to reflect more deeply on our own professional practice,
  2. Allows us to share our learning with others
  3. Allows you to build relationships with other great educators — like Rose and Gabriel Pillay (the organizers of EdVent).

The Teachers on Fire podcast is my weekly Pro D session. It’s my scheduled appointment with great educators around the world. I learn something in every conversation, and every single guest shapes my thinking and inspires my practice further.

So let me ask you: How will you contribute to the education conversation?

Don’t let your fears stand in your way. Remember, growth doesn’t happen in the comfort zone.

We were created to create. So embrace the growth mindset, share your learning, and change the world.

That’s what’s keeping me ON FIRE in my practice.

Episode 130 – Wendy Turner

This podcast episode was published on February 24, 2020.

Meet Wendy Turner

WENDY TURNER is a 2nd grade teacher and 2017 Delaware Teacher of the Year. She teaches at Mt. Pleasant Elementary School, a large suburban school in Wilmington, Delaware, with over 750 students and a diverse population. Wendy is interested in trauma-informed practices, global education, social-emotional learning, and empathy in education, and she loves every moment spent with her seven- and eight-year-olds.

Confronted with Tragedy in Week Two of Teaching

Wendy was only two weeks into her teaching career when a mother of one of her students passed away after a lengthy illness. She found herself frozen with fear, paralyzed by grief and unsure of what to do to support this child. What saved her in the days that followed, she says, is that she immediately recognized her own shortcomings and reached out for help.

That experience set Wendy on a journey of intentional social-emotional learning, growth, and healing that supported her student, the class, and the entire school community, ultimately impacting her teaching philosophy and career trajectory.

How Can SEL Be Infused Into the Walls of Our Classrooms?

Wendy points out that SEL is not addressed adequately in our teacher preparation programs. Teachers learn about classroom management, but that’s not enough.

The biggest thing that teachers can do to introduce a culture of SEL in their classrooms is begin working on themselves first, she says. Embrace self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, problem-solving, conflict resolution strategies, and other competencies. As we intentionally develop these skills and mindsets in ourselves, they will become part of the fabric of our classrooms automatically. 

Saying No to Recess Detention

In 2019, Wendy wrote an article for Education Post titled Here’s Why I Say No to Recess Detention, and You Should, Too. “If you define recess as a privilege, I think that’s a problem,” she says. “When recess is taken away from children in a punitive way, we’re depriving them of a type of learning that they really need to engage in.”

Recess allows children to learn about the natural world, experience joy through unstructured play, and working through social interactions and negotiation are essential rites of child development. We also need to see misbehavior as communication, she points out. As educators, our response to misbehaving students should be more about support than punishment. If misbehavior signals struggle, how can we best help that student?

What’s Setting Wendy on 🔥 for Education

Wendy is passionate about the mission and vision of global education. She was recently made a Global Learning Fellow by the National Education Foundation, and she traveled to South Africa with a group of fifty educators for a year of professional development on the topic of global education. It was an amazing learning experience.

The UN Sustainable Development Goals provide a powerful framework for global education that engages students and helps classes take concrete action. She encourages teachers to start at The World’s Largest Lesson for free resources and learning strategies that can be applied at any grade level. “The level of engagement in my classroom around this is through the roof,” she reports.

Wendy’s Professional Goals and Current Projects

Wendy began speaking and presenting last year, and she has taken a position as a trainer and national speaker for Fostering Resilient Learners, a program based on a book written by Kristin Souers and Pete Hall.

“This book changed my life in terms of what I bring to the classroom and how I support students,” Wendy says. It wasn’t easy to go from the classroom to audiences of 400 people, she explains, but she’s enjoyed the professional stretch and the growth it’s created in her knowledge and communication skills. 

A Reflective Morning Routine

Wendy has found that she is much more efficient in the morning, and she begins with intention. Her routine starts with coffee, a few minutes of silence, a stated purpose for the day, and an exercise session.

Mornings that begin in this quiet, reflective way set a positive tone for the day and get things off on the right foot. “It’s really hard not to pick up the phone,” she admits, but we need those times of disconnection to find clarity and peace.

Resources That Spark Her Thinking and Ignite Her Practice

Over on Twitter, Wendy recommends following two accounts: @BalancedTeacher and @NativeESoul. Mike is an accomplished author and recently published an article about student motivation that resonated powerfully with Wendy. And the Native American Soul account features a steady stream of images from nature – something we all need more of.

An edtech tool that does wonders in Wendy’s second grade classroom is the BONAOK Wireless Bluetooth Karaoke Microphone. This microphone equitably normalizes participation by literally amplifying the voice of every student, and it makes a great talking stick in restorative circles.

Wendy’s book pick is Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less by Alex Soojung-Kim Pang. “I love this book because it talks about the value of stopping work to engage in deep thought,” she says.

It also validates something that Wendy has struggled with her whole life: the fact that rest may look different for everyone. For one person, rest may look like climbing a really difficult mountain. For someone else, it may look like a Sunday afternoon nap. The point is to be deeply intentional about the activities we engage in and the ways that activities affect us.

The Tim Janis YouTube channel has been Wendy’s go-to in her classroom for three years now. It offers relaxing classical music set to beautiful scenes of nature. It’s one that Wendy turns to daily. It’s a great support for social-emotional regulation and happy brains for students.

When time allows for some family Netflix, Wendy is tuning into Cheer. “Isn’t everyone watching Cheer right now?” she asks, laughing. It’s hard to find suitable viewing for the whole family, Wendy admits. Cheer is one show that everyone in her family can safely enjoy.

We sign off on this illuminating conversation, and Wendy gives the best ways to reach out and connect with her learning. See below for details.

Follow Wendy

Connect with the Teachers on Fire podcast on social media

Subscribe to the Teachers on Fire podcast

Song Track Credits

  • Bluntedsesh4 (by Tha Silent Partner, courtesy of FreeMusicArchive.org)
  • Sunrise Drive by South London Hifi*
  • Anthem by The Grand Affair*

*courtesy of the YouTube Audio Library

Listen to Teachers on Fire on YouTube

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