Does lesson planning overwhelm you? Do you spend countless hours trying to write your plans and still don't feel like they work for you? Does your school have an overly complex lesson plan format?

Today, I am going to talk to you about becoming a "Lesson Planning Guru." I'm going to tell you about some things I've learned over the years that really can simplify and take the stress out of writing lesson plans. I'm even going to give you some freebies to help you get started!

My previous principal told me, "I've never seen anyone plan like you do!" But you all know, lesson planning is not the hard part. Getting in there with your students and delivering instruction every day, despite all of the obstacles you will face...THAT is the hard part. So let's talk about how lesson planning can be easier.
Get my long term and short term lesson planning templates. You can learn ten tips to help you master lesson planning! Download the free daily lesson plan template and long term pacing guide template for free! Perfect for elementary teachers!

1. Know Your Standards

This might sound pretty straightforward, but a lot of teachers do not take time to really LEARN their grade level's standards. Do you know what standards your state has for your grade level? Are they Common Core? Are they state standards that are EXACTLY the same as Common Core? My favorite app to use is the CommonCore app by MasteryConnect. It's free! You can easily sort the standards by subject and grade level. Another reason why this app is so helpful is because you can easily look at the grade level before yours, and the grade level after. This helps you understand what your students should already know and what they'll need to know for next year. Take the time to read your standards and learn them. Research them--especially if you are new to your grade level! Understand what will be expected of your students.

2. Begin With the End in Mind

Along with knowing your standards, it's really important to develop a plan for the year. What is your ultimate goal and how are you going to get there? Of course, we'd all like to get our students on grade level by the end of the year, but depending on your class this is not always possible or realistic. I have seen whole classes of students (who have not had the best teachers) who have HUGE holes in their understanding. Not only do they need to be exposed to and taught the current grade level's standards, they also need tremendous amounts of remediation to fill in the gaps. (You can't skip this!) These are things to keep in mind when you are setting your goals.

3. Plan Long Term 

I think it is so important to have a pacing guide for the year. Your district might have one in place, but if they don't, you should create your own. After you have learned your standards, you have to think about the order they should be taught. Some standards depend on others. With math, the standards are pretty much taught throughout the year, in an order that makes sense, and then are briefly reviewed at the end of the year. ELA tends to repeat standards throughout the year. (In other words, you aren't only going to teach text features one week and never mention them again. It will spiral.) Understanding this can help you pace your year.

Here is a sample Pacing Guide for 3rd Grade Math: 

4. Set a Pace That Makes Sense

First and foremost, you need to set a steady, aggressive pace. I say this because, in my opinion, there are too many standards for one grade level. (Especially third!) You cannot go at too slow of a pace or you will NOT cover all of the material! However, you want to give your students time to learn the standards, so progressing too quickly can also cause issues. Build in buffer days and try to build in a buffer week each quarter. There will never be a time where you have nothing to do these days or weeks. It is important to place catch up time in your pacing guide. Then, you will not fall behind.

5. Don't Forget Testing

When you are creating your pace for the year, be sure to take into account any testing your school will require. Benchmarks and end of year testing take up a lot of time, so be sure to factor that in.

6. Short Term Planning

Now you will use your pacing guide to do your short term planning. This is likely what you are required to turn in. You can sign up to get a free copy of my lesson plan template. Even though it says guided math, you can use this for any subject.
When I am short term planning, I use my long term pacing guide to determine which standards I need to cover. Because I am pulling directly from my long term plan, this part of lesson planning is quicker. (Learn details about my lesson plan template here!)

The most important part of short term planning is creating a specific, achievable objective for each day. If my long term plan says I am covering third grade rounding, 3.NBT.1, I decide how I want to break this up into these specific, achievable objectives. (I talk about this a lot in my series of Guided Math blog posts, so you may have heard this before.) It is so important to have a plan for the day's lesson so you don't try to cram too much into one day. Ask yourself--what should the students be able to do by the end of my lesson? That's your objective. For more information about SPECIFIC and ACHIEVABLE objectives, check out this post.

Once I have determined the objectives for each lesson, I find my materials. Pinterest and TpT are my favorite places to look. You can find anchor chart ideas, lesson plans, activities, and more. When you are choosing materials, make sure they align with your objectives. Plan for the objectives, not the activities!

7. Make Adjustments

If your students understand and catch on to an objective quickly--move on to the next thing! Don't stay on a standard they are successful with just because your pacing guide says so! There will likely be a standard or two that are harder for your students than you anticipated, so you will make up the time there. Be ready to make adjustments.

8. Be Organized

When I am writing my short term (daily) plans, I gather all of my materials and label them with sticky notes. When I go to the copier I know exactly what that resource is being copied for. I include links to any videos or websites that I will use directly on my lesson plan.

9. Assess

Pre and Post assessments are so important. I try to make pre and posts that are practically identical. (Of course they use different numbers for math and different problems for ELA, but they can easily be compared to show growth.) Here's a common misconception about pre assessments. They do not have to be given the day before you begin your unit. You can give a pre assessment weeks ahead of time to help you plan! I like to make sure my students understand that a pre assessment is just to help me figure out what I need to teach. I explain that, "I need to know what your brains already know!" This keeps it low stress for students. Post assessments are really important so you can see the growth your students made and any other holes they may still have in their understanding.

10. Review

You can use your post assessments to help make a plan for reviewing. I like to try to build in a review day each week (this is also my buffer day, so sometimes it isn't used as review), and of course review at the end of year before testing. Learn what you can be doing all year to be prepared for end of year reviewing in this blog post.

Looking for lesson plans and units that are already done for you? Check out my bundles in my TpT store!

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Get my long term and short term lesson planning templates. You can learn ten tips to help you master lesson planning! Download the free daily lesson plan template and long term pacing guide template for free! Perfect for elementary teachers!

These Earth Day activities are a fun way to get your elementary students celebrating and learning about Earth Day. You can use the activities with students in lower and upper grades.

Today I am bringing you a list of some of my favorite things to do on Earth Day.

1. Read Alouds

Some of my favorite read alouds for Earth Day include:
  • The Great Kapok Tree, by Lynne Cherry
  • A River Ran Wild, by Lynne Cherry
  • The Umbrella, by Jan Brett
  • The Lorax, by Dr. Seuss
  • Recycle! by Gail Gibbons
  • The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
If you don't own all of these books, you can get them at your local library, or you can try to find a read aloud version of them on YouTube.

2. Watching Videos

Some of my favorite videos for Earth Day include:

3. Oil Spill Simulation

This is one of my favorite activities because students get a chance to see the affect an oil spill can have on water. I make sure to give my students a little background information about oil spills before we do this activity.
To do this activity, I get a giant bin and fill it with water. I let my students stick their hands in and feel the water. Then, they go back to their seats to describe how it felt and how their hands felt. (Warm, cool, clean, etc...) Then, I simulate an oil spill by pouring vegetable oil into the tub of water. I stir it around and explain how the oil won't stay in one place once it reaches the ocean. I have them come and dip their hand in the water and describe how it feels. When they take their hands out of the water, they feel slimy and greasy. Then, we test different methods of cleaning our hands. First, I give them a paper towel and have them try to wipe their hands clean. Of course this does not work. So, then I have them run their hands under the faucet at our sink. Most students are surprised that just rinsing their hands does not get rid of the greasy feeling. After that, we use Dawn. At this point, students are able to get their hands very clean. We discuss oil spills, the impact on the ocean, the impact on animals in the ocean, and how people help clean animals using Dawn after an oil spill.

4. Campus Beautification

I like to take my students around our school campus to clean up any litter. I have my students wear gloves and always make sure to have approval from administration. Before we go outside we discuss what is safe to pick up and throw away, and what is too dangerous to touch (such as broken glass, or other sharp objects). I give each of my students a bag to carry with them as they collect trash. When we come back inside we dispose of it in the correct place and discuss how littering can damage the environment. Then, we make a list of other ways we can reuse or plastic bags.

5. Passages & Other Activities

In my TpT store you can find my Earth Day Unit. It includes vocabulary, passages with written response, 4 paragraphs for main idea and details sentence sorting, and other activities. It also includes the above mentioned Oil Spill Simulation Activity.

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This Earth Day unit includes many activities for upper and lower grades students. Earth Day is a fun holiday to get students involved with in Elementary School. The importance and life skills you teach them will carry on as they become adults! This unit includes passages, sorts, vocabulary, a hands on activity, and much more! Download the preview to see all of what's included!

Are you looking to keep your Guided Math information organized in a neat binder? This free Guided Math Teacher Binder includes calendars, checklists, group charts, and forms for anecdotal notes for Guided Math. Keep everything together in one place!

Scroll down to see what's included.
Use the weekly and monthly calendar pages to plan out your lessons and stay on pace all year!
Use the weekly and monthly calendar pages to plan out your lessons and stay on pace all year!

There are group charts so you can keep track of which students are in each group. I like to use sticky notes so I can easily change out the groups.
There are group charts so you can keep track of which students are in each group. I like to use sticky notes so I can easily change out the groups. You can learn more about how I teach Guided Math in my classroom in this blog post.

Use the checklist pages to keep track of which students are proficient with each standard. You can place a simple checkmark if they are proficient, or you can use numbers 1-4 to record their level of proficiency.
Use the checklist pages to keep track of which students are proficient with each standard. You can place a simple checkmark if they are proficient, or you can use numbers 1-4 to record their level of proficiency.
1-No proficiency with standard
2-Inconsistenly achieves proficiency with standard
3-Proficient with standard
4-Above grade level

Intervention/Progress Monitoring Sheets can help you record the interventions you perform and keep track of your data.
Intervention/Progress Monitoring Sheets can help you record the interventions you perform and keep track of your data.

Click here and get your FREE Guided Math Teacher Binder when you subscribe to my email list!

Learn more about How I Teach FLEXIBLE Guided Math here!

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This free Guided Math binder can help you as you are teaching, working with groups, and doing your lesson plans. The cover is so fun and cute! There are pages for planning, calendars, data tracking, and more. You can use this binder to get yourself organized!

Are you looking for a lesson plan template that can help you write Guided Math lesson plans? Here is an example of the template I use in all of my Guided Math units. (You can get more information on all of my units on TpT for Grades 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5. All of the lessons I have written in the units are completely editable.) 

Scroll down to sign up for a free copy of this lesson plan template!

This free lesson plan template is perfect for guided math groups. It will help you stay organized as you write you lesson plans.
Unit Name & Standard
Use this to keep yourself organized. You can name your unit based on the skill you are covering, based on the standard, or based on your district's name for the unit. Listing the standard is a great place to show your administrator that your lesson is aligned to your state's standards.

This is where you will right the specific, achievable objective for the day's lesson. For more information about SPECIFIC and ACHIEVABLE objectives, check out this post.

I usually put all of the terms for the lesson or the entire unit in this box--depending on how many terms there are. These are terms I want to make sure my students understand, and are comfortable using as we talk about math. In my Guided Math units, students have vocabulary and definition cards to practice these terms, as well as a trifold to put in their math notebooks.

I list all of the materials needed for the day's lesson. 

The reason I named this box Questioning and not "Essential Questions" is because there are a variety of questions that I included here. I include guiding questions for the lesson, much like an essential question. But I also include questions I want to make sure my students understand and can answer.

I use the gradual release model when I write lesson plans. (I do, we do, you do, you do.) This is where you will describe your actual teaching for the lesson.

I like to look at the grade level above and below to fill in these boxes. If my students are struggling with the skill, I will look at the standards from the previous grade to see where they may have some holes in their understanding. For students who are excelling, I will look at the expectations for the next grade level to give them an extra push.

Additional Optional Resources
This is where I list any other links or resources that I plan to use during the unit.

Want to try this Guided Math lesson plan template out for yourself? You can get a free copy when you subscribe to my newsletter. Check it out here!

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This lesson plan template can help you organize your Guided math lessons. This lesson plan template gives you places to list your lesson, vocabulary, materials, differentiation, and any teaching ideas. This lesson plan template is the first step to having your guided math rotations organized. Download a free copy of this template!
If you've read my blog post, 5 Things to Do Before the End of the Year, you know one of my suggested tips is to PURGE your old stuff around your classroom. Today I'm going to give you 5 reasons why you should start this PURGE in March--not June!

1. The stuff is most likely outdated! Look at the standards you teach now. Some of the old resources you are hanging on to are no longer relevant! They are probably not rigorous enough, and are aligned to standards that have been completely overhauled and changed. Why are you hanging on to them?

2. School is still in session. If you purge now, you have 20-something little friends who can take stuff home with them to play school. You wouldn't believe how happy an old out of date workbook would make some kids! When I was little my teacher gave me a bunch of stuff and I took it home and set up a whole classroom in my basement.

3. Are you considering a change next year? Possibly moving to a new school? Leaving teaching altogether? Or even moving classrooms within the same school? This is a great time to purge your old stuff and get organized. You don't want to get so busy that you end up moving all of that junk with you!

4. You are going to have enough to do at the end of the year. You will be busy with report cards, cleaning up your room, storing materials, and finalizing everything. Once summer is close, you are going to be eager to head home and start your break. Don't wait til then to purge--you may not feel like it!

5. I don't know about you, but I feel great when I get rid of some stuff. I'm sort of the opposite of a hoarder. Too much stuff drives me crazy. I don't suggest you throw away important things, but I think it is important that you let stuff go that is just not relevant anymore. And like I suggested in reason 2--if you do this while your students are still with you, they may want some of your stuff and it will bring them some joy!

Now you might say--Cassie, I'm busy. I'm getting ready for testing season. I don't have time to go through my stuff. Listen--I'm not suggesting a day where you pull EVERYTHING out and go through it all in one sitting. No, just do a little bit each day. Open up a drawer in that giant filing cabinet. Pull a few things out and decide, keep, throw away, or regift to a little friend. If you do this a little bit each day--you will have it done by the end of the year. And you will feel GREAT! :)

And you can click here to learn the FIVE things I think you should get done before summer break!

Don't forget to pin this for later! :)

Teachers need to clean up and get organized. Learn five reasons why you should not put this off until June. Work on organizing your classroom this spring!

I have been asked by a lot of teachers, when do you introduce the objective for the day? The truth is, I like to be flexible--especially with my whole group instruction! If you have a designated Whole Group and Small Group math time every day, think about it....what is the best use of your time?

Do you know when it makes sense to introduce your math objective during small group time instead of whole group time? Learn more about how to make that determination, plus, get different lesson ideas for whole group math!

When I decide when to introduce the objective for the day, I ask myself, is this objective simple and straightforward? If the answer is YES, I will introduce the objective during Guided Math. Think about it... During Guided Math, you are meeting with a small group of students at a time. If the objective is simple and straightforward, you won't mind repeating it three, four, maybe even five times.

Here's an example of an objective I would teach during small group math:
to identify the tens a 2-digit whole number falls between

This is an objective taken directly from my 3rd Grade Guided Math Rounding Unit. This objective is building a foundation and setting students up to be ready to round to the nearest ten. Since I am not quite introducing rounding yet, this objective can easily be covered during Guided Math. I can break out some hundred charts, review tens, and practice this skill with my students. I'll even use some number lines to help. This objective does not need to be taught during my whole group math time.

Now, let's say the math objective is a little more complicated, like this one...
to write repeated addition and multiplication equations to match an array

This objective (from my 3rd Grade Guided Math Multiplication Basics Unit) is a little more complicated. Depending on how well my students did with arrays in second grade, this objective could require a lot of skills. Since I only meet with my students for about fifteen minutes during Guided Math, I really don't want to have to spend most of my time teaching this skill over and over. Not only do my students have to interpret arrays, they also have to write repeated addition equations and multiplication equations to match the array. In this case, I would introduce the objective during Whole Group Math, and provide more practice and support during Guided Math.
Sometimes, it makes sense to introduce your math objective for the day during small group, or guided math, time. On these days, you may wonder what you should be doing during your Whole Group Math time? This post includes several ideas!

So what do I do during Whole Group Math on the days I teach the objective during Guided Math? I have a variety of activities I like to do with my students on these days. Here are some of my favorites:
  • Use Whole Group Math time as an opportunity to review something I noticed a lot of students making mistakes with
  • Create an anchor chart with my class
  • Practice our math vocabulary and definitions
  • Do a math read aloud and discuss
  • Work on our math interactive notebooks
  • Solve a tricky word problem together
  • Have a student come to the front of the room to "be the teacher" and show the class how they solved a problem
  • I also love to play games with my whole class such as, I have Who has games, SCOOT, or Bingo games!

For more information about Guided Math, including how I set it up in my classroom, check out this page!

Want to download a free sample day from my Guided Math Curriculum? Click on your grade level!

Don't forget to pin this post so you can find it later!
Sometimes, it makes sense to introduce your math objective for the day during small group, or guided math, time. On these days, you may wonder what you should be doing during your Whole Group Math time? This post includes several ideas!

Reading passages are so important to practice with your students. Not only for end of year testing, but because they help build stamina. Reading passages are a great tool for teachers to use to practice various reading comprehension skills. But sometimes, students are just not motivated to work on them. I've created a list of five ways you can help motivate your students.
1. Use High Interest Reading Passages
Be picky about the passages you have your students read! Yes, I know--end of year testing uses BORING passages. But, should students have to read boring passages all year long, while they are learning the skills? In my opinion--no! Our job as educators is to encourage students and get them excited about reading. I never want to turn students off of reading by forcing dry, boring passages down their throats! One of the reasons I first developed my Comprehension Quests was to give teachers a fun way to practice reading passages with their students. You can learn more about Comprehension Quests here. I made sure to include high interest passages for my students to read.

2. Set a Purpose for Reading
It is so important for students to have a purpose for reading the passage. It's amazing how distracted our minds can become when we aren't focused. Your reason for reading this blog post is to get 5 ways to motivate your students. There is a reason you are continuing to read through! Here are some ideas for setting a purpose for reading with your students:
  • to fill out a graphic organizer
  • to find out more about a topic for a discussion
  • to answer a question (usually posed by the author--or by you)
  • to respond to a reading question stem

3. Annotate the Passage
You can have your students highlight or underline any word they don't know the meaning of. I also love to give my students post it notes so they can write down questions they had as they are reading. These are another tool you can use when you are setting a purpose for their reading!

4. Use Colorful Writing Tools
Do you ever walk down the office aisle at Target or Walmart and see all the colorful writing tools and have to resist buying them all?? Students feel the same way about writing tools! Colored pencils, highlighters, fun pens, all can make students really happy. Depending on the task, I often let my students use these tools for their work. (Of course there are times when a pencil is the only appropriate tool to use--but not always!!) Papermate flairs are my favorite pens to use. I have found that if you keep them capped, they last a long time!

5. Give Students Time to Chat
I think it is really important that we give students time to collaborate and discuss their school work! Sometimes they even learn better from their peers! Sometimes I allow my students to work in partner pairs or small groups when we complete reading passages, especially if we are doing a Comprehension Quest. Giving them opportunities to discuss the content of the passage, the graphic organizers they are completing, or their responses can help them grow. While there should be plenty of times for students to work and practice these skills independently, sometimes collaboration can really help!

I hope these tips help! Don't forget to pin for later!

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