Do you ever find engaging lesson plans online that you could never use in your school? You might find a guide that starts with, “this is perfect for a one-to-one classroom,” and immediately stop reading because you don’t work in a school where each student has a laptop.
These lesson plans don’t need to be off-limits. Many of the ideas that seem to require individual computers or expensive gadgets can be adjusted.
With the outbreak of COVID-19 and school closures across the country, the need to develop modified lesson plans is more important than ever, regardless of the resources available to you.
Follow this guide to develop meaningful lesson plans even if you lack the time, resources and ability for in-person education.
Practice Naked Teaching
There is a growing movement to challenge instructors to step away from technology in the classroom to focus instead on the core ideas that students need to know. By removing the various gadgets, teachers can free up resources and time spent reviewing new apps and tools. This concept is called naked teaching — or teaching with all of your distractions stripped away. There is even a Naked Teaching Day in September where educators are challenged to teach without any resources, says Lisa Jane Ashes, author of “Teacher in the Cupboard.”
If you want to learn more about teaching naked, José Antonio Bowen, Ph.D., author of “Teaching Naked,” was interviewed for the Teaching in Higher Ed podcast. You can get an idea as to how he approaches educating and connecting with students.
Pool Resources With Other Educators
Whether you need a Zoom break during a period of online learning or simply want help developing lesson plans, consider working with other educators in your grade level to pool resources and come up with lesson plans.
“One of the best ways to get your lesson planning done quicker is to collaborate with other teachers,” Janelle Cox writes at ThoughtCo.
There are many ways to do this. You can divide up lessons each week, with teachers taking different courses and creating teaching materials for them. You can also focus on specific courses over the semester. For example, one teacher could focus on science-based lessons while another shares their history plans.
Collaboration allows educators to play up their lesson-planning strengths while ensuring that all students receive the same education.
Find Online Resources That Provide Value
Lesson plans may need to be adjusted due to time considerations too.
Melissa Kelly, author of “The Everything New Teacher Book: A Survival Guide for the First Year and Beyond,” explains that much of the planning time that teachers have is actually spent grading and reviewing student work. This not only allows less time for developing lesson plans, it also makes it more likely that teachers will choose multiple-choice worksheets and quizzes because they can be graded quickly and prevent a backlog.
Online resources can reduce the time spent on lesson plans. For example, District Administration Magazine, which provides analyses of the biggest issues in education, has a list of nearly 250 free teaching resources. They can be identified quickly, as they are broken down by category and each has its own description of the value it provides. Relevant subheads you can turn to are STEM centric lessons that students can submit online and ebooks where you can track student reading progress without having to quiz them.
You don’t have to reinvent the wheel — you can choose and adapt existing lessons based on your classroom types and needs. Also, you shouldn’t feel pressured to try every new tool or game, otherwise you risk getting overwhelmed.
“For teachers, sifting through the outpouring of lessons, videos, simulations, and activities can feel like trying to drink from a firehose,” Sarah Schwartz writes at Education Week. Think about naked teaching: Will an online resource really improve the lesson, or will it serve as a distraction?
Make Small Changes That You Have Control Over
You don’t have to revolutionize your classroom overnight. Most students have experienced enough change in 2020 and aren’t looking for more upheaval. However, you can test new ideas and class layouts with small steps and minor changes.
James Lang introduces teachers to the concept of small teaching in his book “Small Teaching.” He also co-wrote “Small Teaching Online” with Flower Darby. Small teaching is the process of intentionally making minor adjustments to the classroom and lessons. For example, you might not think that creating a five-minute warmup activity will have a big impact on the lesson, but it can engage students and introduce or reinforce the material. Teachers are more likely to try out a few small changes because of the decreased risk than to make major changes to how the classroom is run.
Small teaching is also more accessible for underserved classrooms because it doesn’t require significant materials or put valuable resources at risk.
Bringing physical activity into the classroom can be a small change that makes a big difference. “If we want our students to actually learn the facts and concepts and ideas we’re trying to teach them, they have to experience those things in some way that rises above abstract words on paper,” writes Jennifer Gonzalez at Cult of Pedagogy. “To really learn in a way that will stick, they have to DO something.”
Adjust Your Lessons for the Remote Classroom
Regardless of the amount of resources that your school has, every student has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. This means that even the most tech-centric classroom should consider the needs of the students.
“The academics isn’t what needs to take priority right now,” says school counselor Kriya Lendzion. “Just getting them through it all OK – to some extent — and with those relationships intact and with school connectedness intact.” She encourages educators to focus on the mental health of students while developing online lesson plans.
Teachers can get creative in their lesson plans, using what students have at home. Educational consultant Julie Wright shares adapted lesson plans for reading and writing, which can be adjusted by grade level and classroom needs. For example, if students are able to communicate with each other, you can set up reading groups that meet virtually. However, you can also set up simple assignments where students read books and magazines found around the house.
When adjusting any lesson plan, focus on the core idea, advises Annette Romano at NEA Today. It’s easy to get caught up in materials and processes while losing the goal of what your students need to learn. Once you have the core, you can then build on it with different games, activities and technology.
Some educators are uniquely situated to adapt lesson plans based on learning needs and behavior. For example, special needs teachers have been creating individualized lesson plans for students for years. “The whole special education model is to overcome challenges, so, you know, for us, going to an online platform is just another way of looking at it as, how can we overcome this challenge?” says elementary teacher Stefania Giraldo.
Giraldo explains that she approaches each student as an individual with specific needs. Some students have benefitted from distance learning and meeting each day via the screen.
Don’t Remind Students How Limited The Resources Are
If you don’t think students notice budget cuts, think again. They don’t want to be reminded of how limited their resources are, especially when the limited school resources transition to a similar home life situation.
In a survey about how budget cuts have affected them, 22 percent of the 1,850 students surveyed told L.A. Youth that they have thought about leaving public school because of budget cuts. Almost one third listed programs that they wanted to participate in but weren’t offered at their schools. These included AP courses, American Sign Language lessons, band, drama and web design.
Students know when they are missing out compared to other schools. Your classroom shouldn’t be a reminder of how limited resources are.
“Variables like low-income households, trauma, ability, and disability—all of which are completely out of the control of our students—do indeed impact the way kids learn,” writes teacher Keith Lambert. “Nonetheless, each of these students deserves a good, supportive educational environment, and many of them benefit greatly from specialized support.”
By getting creative with your lessons, you can engage students and get them excited about the material, even if you don’t have a one-to-one classroom.
Let Your Love of Teaching Guide You
It’s frustrating when the district cuts a budget or denies a funding request. You can feel overwhelmed by the idea of moving more coursework online or offering virtual school in the fall. However, if you get back to the basics — the core of teaching — and remember why you became a teacher in the first place, you can develop meaningful learning opportunities for your students.
“When I was a child, schools were often closed due to the unpredictable political situation,” We’am Hamdan, who teaches English in Ramallah, in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, writes. “Teachers struggled to find classrooms and learning materials, yet those were the lessons I enjoyed the most. This was due to the creativity and hands-on efforts of my teachers to bring their lessons to life.”
A few of your lessons might be wonky and pieced together, but these could be the messages that stick with your students. Regardless of your resources, students will remember the teachers that cared about them and wanted them to succeed.