Lesson planning used to mean filling in boxes on a standard form with materials, goals, expectations, assessments–details like that. Certainly this is valuable information, but today’s lesson plans–like today’s lessons–demand less rote fill-in-the-blanks and more conceptualization, critical thinking, and collaboration. With the increased reliance on online resources, Skype interviews with professionals, and hands-on learning activities, lessons are no longer taught within four walls so they shouldn’t be planned that way. They need collaboration with all stakeholders from initial planning stage to revision and rewrite.
And that paper form that was copied in triplicate–now it’s an online tool that can be accessed, edited, appended, and viewed by everyone involved. In fact, it can be one of three tools, depending upon how your brain organizes ideas:
- mindmap–for those who love to throw everything out there on a canvas and arrange
- online planner–for those who fill in boxes with required information and want the lesson plan to appear fully formed from these ideas
- spreadsheet–for those who like to build from the ground up and have the lesson plan detailed and scalable–in a structured way
I’ve tried all of these and have found three favorite tools, one from each category, that work for me. Read through these, try them out, and then add a comment with what you think:
If I’m trying to get from Los Angeles, California to Minot, North Dakota, I start with a map. I build a route that includes the sights I’d like to visit, shows me the connecting roadways, and gives me a rough idea of how long it’ll take.
The same is true with teaching a class. I need a map to show how best to blend my curriculum and the school’s standards, scaffold skills on each other, and connect to all stakeholders involved. In education, that’s called a Curriculum Map.
What is a Curriculum Map?
According to Education World, a Curriculum Map is…
…a process for collecting and recording curriculum-related data that identifies core skills and content taught, processes employed, and assessments used for each subject area and grade level.
A Curriculum Map first and foremost is a planning tool, a procedure for examining and organizing curriculum that allows educators to determine how content, skills and assessments will unfold over the course of the year. It is an in-depth view of topics teachers will instruct over the school year, their pacing, and how they blend with other subjects. In an IB school, that includes the learner profiles that are satisfied. In a Common Core school, that covers the math and literacy standards addressed. In other states, it’ll be how lesson plans meet their unique state standards.
In general terms, a Curriculum Map includes:
Here’re a wide variety of writing tools for students. Some practice good habits, others offer options for writing requirements. See what works for you (check here for updated links):
- Character Trading Cards
- Context Clues Millionaire
- Friendly Letter Maker
- Garfield teaches Writing Skills
- Identify the Main Idea
- Letter Generator
- Main Idea Battleship
- Make another story
- Monster Project
- Newspapers, posters, comics—learn to create
- Using a table of contents
- Videos—using Sock Puppets (iPads)
- Writing games
When the nice people at MindMaple contacted me about reviewing their product, I was intrigued. I like finding tools that enhance education for students and improve a teacher’s ability to communicate ideas. Plus, ‘mind mapping’–a visual approach to thinking and sharing–is quite popular in education so I agreed to take a look. Though MindMaple is for business and education, I’ll review it only from the educator’s point of view.
In education, mind mapping is used to organize lesson plans, dig into complicated ideas, and brainstorm. It allows you to sort ideas and concepts through topic boxes that spill into myriad layers of subtopics. Think of an organizational chart, but for ideas, not people. Mind maps are created by brainstorming as a group or an individual. They begin with a central idea and expand outward to more in-depth sub-topics that can cover any level of minutiae. Unlike organization charts, mind maps use colors, images, icons, as well as words to get ideas across to others.
A program called Inspiration is the most popular mind map resource for educators, but I personally couldn’t get comfortable using it. I took so long figuring out how to use the tools (most likely because I didn’t use it often enough) that I lost track of my brainstorming. I like the idea of visually presenting thoughts. I see its merits in the classroom so I was excited to look at an alternative.