Why Secondary Teachers Don’t Want a GitHub for Lesson Plans

Chris Lusto calls for a GitHub for lesson plans:

To say that the community repository model has done wonders for open source software is a massive understatement. To what extent that success translates to curriculum I’m obviously unsure, but I have randomly-ordered reasons to suspect it’s appreciable.

I attended EdFoo earlier this year, an education conference at Google’s campus attended by lots of technologists. Speakers posed problems about education in their sessions and the solutions were often techno-utopian, or techno-optimistic at the very least.

One speaker wondered why teachers spend massive amounts of time creating lessons plans that don’t differ all that much from plans developed by another teacher several states away or several doors down the hall. Why don’t they just build it once, share it, and let the community modify it? Why isn’t there a GitHub for lesson plans?

I’m not here to say that’s a bad idea in theory, just to say that the idea very clearly hasn’t caught on in practice.

Exhibit A: BetterLesson, which pivoted from its original community lesson repository model to a lesson repository stocked by master teachers and now to professional development. (Its lesson repository is currently a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it link in the footer of their homepage.) The idea has failed to catch on with secondary educators to such a degree that it’s worth asking them why they don’t seem to want it.

Our room at EdFoo was notably absent of practicing secondary teachers so I went on Twitter to ask a few thousand of them, “Why don’t you use lesson download sites?” (I asked the same question two years ago as well.) Here are helpful responses from actual, really real current and former secondary teachers:

Nancy Mangum:

Using someone else’s lesson plan is like wearing a friend’s underwear. It may do the job but ultimately doesn’t fit quite right.

Jonathan Claydon:

Their wheels aren’t the right size for my car.

Justin Reich:

Linux works because code compiles. Syllabi don’t compile. If I add a block/lesson, I never know who it helps.

Bob Lochel:

I don’t require a script, just decent ideas now and then.

Grace Chen:

I’m not sure they solve for the problems they think they’re trying to solve. It takes time to read / internalize / modify others’ plans.

David Wees:

It’s challenging to sequence, connect, plan, and enact someone else’s lesson.

Mark Pettyjohn:

The plan itself is the least important element. The planning is what’s critical.

2016 Jun 11. Dwight Eisenhower:

In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.

In sum: “Small differences between lessons plans are enormously important, enormously time-consuming to account for and fix, and whatever I already have is probably good enough.” It turns out that even if two lesson plans don’t differ all that much they already differ too much.

Any lesson sharing site will have to account for that belief before it can offer teachers even a fraction of GitHub’s value to programmers.

2016 Jun 8. Check out Bob Lochel’s tweet above and Julie Reulbach’s tweet below. Both express a particular sentiment that the nuts and bolts of a lesson plan are less important than the chassis. (I don’t know a thing about cars.)

I was chatting with EdSurge’s Betsy Corcoran about that idea at EdFoo and she likened it to “the head” in jazz music. (I don’t know a thing about jazz music.) The head contains crucial information about a piece of music – the key, the tempo, the chord changes. Jazz musicians memorize the head but they’ll build and develop the performance off of it. The same head may result in several different performances. What I want – along with Bob and Julie and many others – is a jazz musician’s fake book – a repository of creative premises I can easily riff off of.

(Of course, it’s worth noting here that many people believe that teachers should be less like jazz musicians and more like player pianos.)

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Chris Lusto:

There seems to be a general distrust of “other people’s lessons.” Which I get. But nothing about this model would change the extent to which you do or do not teach other people’s lessons, or the fidelity with which you do it. Again, the whole thing that got me thinking in this vein was the problem of managing, in some kind of coherent way, all the changes that teachers already make as a matter of course. If you’re starting with an existing curriculum, then you’re using other people’s stuff to some extent. And once you alter that extent, it might be nice to track it, for all sorts of reasons. Maybe classroom teachers don’t find that interesting, but somebody in the chain between publisher and implementer certainly does. Not totally sure who the best target audience might be.

Jo:

As an elementary math coach I don’t want a repository of lesson plans either but my teachers long for one. However, when given pre-written lesson plans they’re not happy with them–for all the reasons listed above.
The hardest thing about elementary math is that most elementary teachers go into teaching because they love reading and they want to share that. They rarely feel that way about math. So, they want a guided lesson that will teach the requisite skills. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work for them any better than it works for secondary teachers.

Even in elementary it’s the process of planning that’s important. My brain needs to go through the work of planning–what leads to what, what is going to confuse the kids, what mistakes are they likely to make, what false paths are they likely to follow. The only way to deeply understand the material and how to present it is to plan it. The only way to truly understand the standard is to wrestle with what it really means.

Planning is the work; teaching is just the performance.

Ethan Weker:

I get a lot out of reading other lesson plans/approaches to teaching/ideas, and steal activities fairly regularly, but my actual lesson plans aren’t copies of others’. It’s more like they’re inspired by what other people do. This is where the artistry of teaching comes in.

Brandon Dorman:

I get it – we don’t want a repository of lessons, but what happens once those lessons get downloaded and re-worked? Right now there isn’t a way to see derivatives of those lessons, which could be very important.

Stephanie:

Brandon, I love that idea. Recipe websites do this — what can be substituted for what.. how can different teachers with different ingredients, different tools and in different places.. these are good parallels for the teaching world.

2016 Jun 13. Mike Caulfield offers an illustration of the value of planning relative to plans.

About 
I'm Dan and this is my blog. I'm a former high school math teacher and current head of teaching at Desmos. More here.

38 Comments

  1. Reply

    I’d also add that kids aren’t computers/software. Students aren’t just 1s and 0s and kids are kids, but my students are not the same as your students. Each kid brings their own unique desires, needs, interests, and background to my classroom.

  2. Reply
    I get it – we don’t want a repository of lessons, but what happens once those lessons get downloaded and re-worked? Right now there isn’t a way to see derivatives of those lessons, which could be very important.

    I would love to see (for example) in BetterLesson the various examples of how a teacher took that lesson and made it better… “forks” to use Github’s terminology. Let’s take a lesson on graphing a line using x and y intercepts.

    There’s a base version that incorporates Desmos to practice this skill: https://www.desmos.com/calculator/9cqnpd6ns3

    Then there’s one that explains everything in spanish perhaps. Or takes that original idea and offers different examples. All of these variations though could be seen from the master lesson. Github itself is fairly easy to use but it would have to be even easier for teachers (IE don’t use the word ‘fork’ use ‘variant’ or … not ‘pull request’ but “submit your idea” or something). This is something that in all honesty should be incorporated into Google docs if we’re all going to agree to use that instead of proprietary formats such as Word (and God help you if you are posting lesson plans for ‘other teachers to use’ in PDF!).

  3. Logan Mannix

    June 8, 2016 - 11:46 am -
    Reply

    I’m in total agreement with most of the comments above. Teaching someone else’s lesson rarely comes off smoothly. Gears Grind. Students can feel you trying to remember which memorized step in the lesson comes next. I am constantly thinking, “Crap! I wasn’t supposed to give that away until step 8”. Somewhere in the lesson there is almost guaranteed to be a vocab term or concept I don’t care about or flat out disagree with.

    However, I have wondered about a different kind of repository. For example, what about a shared assessment bank of some sort. For example, a question bank of “conceptual inventory” type questions tied to different national standards. Or, I would love to have a lot of different ways to assess students on their data analysis or graphing skills. I am trying to develop questions that give students exactly the info they need and require only enough skill to build a line graph, others that require students to know which type of graph to make, others that require students to know which data they need, and finally others that require analyzing complex data sets with multiple graphs. And, I would love to have multiple examples of each. However things like this take time. I could see teaming up with other teachers in an online community to make banks like this.

  4. Reply
    I get a lot out of reading other lesson plans/approaches to teaching/ideas, and steal activities fairly regularly, but my actual lesson plans aren’t copies of others’. It’s more like they’re inspired by what other people do. This is where the artistry of teaching comes in.

    Of course I teach about linear equations, and slopes, and intercepts, and yes, I’m sure I do something very similar to many other teachers out there for any one of my lessons. But to actually adopt another teacher’s lesson, and not just their main idea and influence, takes much more time that I just don’t have, and probably wouldn’t make for a significantly better lesson than the one I can create from scratch or adapt from my previous year’s lesson. Even within two geometry classes this year, my lessons were slightly different because of the different students in the class. Not much different, and maybe not discernible to most, but individualized to the unique class culture and climate that arises in the classroom.

  5. Reply

    I’m not sure though why we don’t have GitHub for math textbooks (and associated instructions/exercises/materials).

    Actually, one big difference between curriculum and software in this regard is that there is no curricular equivalent of Richard Stallman. He modeled the free software process so extensively and obsessively, decades before anyone cared, that certain non-obvious practices took hold long, long before they would have otherwise.

    In other words, in software you had the equivalent of someone writing a what became and still is a standard high school algebra text as an open content project back in the 80’s, pretty much just out of force of will.

  6. Reply
    Brandon, I love that idea. Recipe websites do this — what can be substituted for what.. how can different teachers with different ingredients, different tools and in different places.. these are good parallels for the teaching world.

    Also worth considering.. the order in which some ideas are presented to students can be deeply personal. And if one lesson assumes certain prerequisite knowledge.. I can’t use it without the entire curriculum.

    As a secondary teacher, I want a site where I can search and find lessons to select cafeteria-style.

  7. Reply

    Is it perhaps an issue of granularity? Lessons are larger than, say, activities, so would it be more useful to have a repository of smaller, more simple activities that could be combined to make a lesson? Or is that just semantics? I’m from Scotland, you see…

  8. Reply

    I agree with other comments. Part of it is semantics – we can’t use other’s lesson plans easily. Each of us has enough differences in our classrooms, school expectations, curriculum, that following another plan is difficult.

    But having a repository of the “best” problems, good practice activities, illustrations/explanations of hard to teach concepts that have worked in someone else’s classroom … cafeteria style as Stephanie noted would be wonderful.

    As it is now, I go to various virtual filing cabinets, check another site for 3-Act tasks, yet another for Desmos activities, and I definitely hit the MTBoS search engine.

    If in that repository we had an example of how an activity was used, in what context, who to contact to chat a bit … that would be awesome!

  9. Reply

    A couple responses to comments:

    First, having kids with “their own unique desires, needs, interests, and background” seems like an argument *in favor* of having some systematic way to manage curricular modifications. To be clear, I don’t want to keep 3D scans of children in repos.

    There seems to be a general distrust of “other people’s lessons.” Which I get. But nothing about this model would change the extent to which you do or do not teach other people’s lessons, or the fidelity with which you do it. Again, the whole thing that got me thinking in this vein was the problem of managing, in some kind of coherent way, all the changes that teachers already make as a matter of course. If you’re starting with an existing curriculum, then you’re using other people’s stuff to some extent. And once you alter that extent, it might be nice to track it, for all sorts of reasons. Maybe classroom teachers don’t find that interesting, but somebody in the chain between publisher and implementer certainly does. Not totally sure who the best target audience might be.

    Now to try to back myself well out of the techno-utopian camp:

    I don’t think that tech generally dissolves problems by its presence in a strategy. I do think that a problem on the scale of managing curricular resources for more than one person (and maybe even *only* for one person) probably admits a technological component that helps the logistics of a human endeavor. So why not think about what a well suited technological component might look like? I certainly don’t know, but I find community-based models compelling, because teaching can feel so very, very lonely. Maybe that says more about me than about resources or tooling.

  10. Reply
    As an elementary math coach I don’t want a repository of lesson plans either but my teachers long for one. However, when given pre-written lesson plans they’re not happy with them–for all the reasons listed above.

    The hardest thing about elementary math is that most elementary teachers go into teaching because they love reading and they want to share that. They rarely feel that way about math. So, they want a guided lesson that will teach the requisite skills. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work for them any better than it works for secondary teachers.

    Even in elementary it’s the process of planning that’s important. My brain needs to go through the work of planning–what leads to what, what is going to confuse the kids, what mistakes are they likely to make, what false paths are they likely to follow. The only way to deeply understand the material and how to present it is to plan it. The only way to truly understand the standard is to wrestle with what it really means.

    Planning is the work; teaching is just the performance.

    P.S. There’s an awful lot of bad math on Teachers Pay Teachers. I don’t care how cute the graphics are.

  11. Reply

    Thanks for the comments. I’ve boosted several up to the main floor.

    Brandon Dorman:

    I get it – we don’t want a repository of lessons, but what happens once those lessons get downloaded and re-worked? Right now there isn’t a way to see derivatives of those lessons, which could be very important.

    Chris Lusto echoes:

    If you’re starting with an existing curriculum, then you’re using other people’s stuff to some extent. And once you alter that extent, it might be nice to track it, for all sorts of reasons. Maybe classroom teachers don’t find that interesting, but somebody in the chain between publisher and implementer certainly does. Not totally sure who the best target audience might be.

    This Desmos lesson has been forked and modified over 100 times by different people. The changes are almost all substantial. In almost every case the teacher has decided to shorten the activity.

    So you’re both right that this is valuable information for me, the guy making the lesson. My guess is that not a lot of teachers would get the same benefit. Maybe some people modified the lesson in a way that you’d want to copy, but the more likely case is that they modified the lesson for reasons that are particular to them and their students.

    So teachers provide the labor and curriculum developers capture the value. Teachers would need a pretty strong incentive to participate.

    Tom Hoffman:

    Actually, one big difference between curriculum and software in this regard is that there is no curricular equivalent of Richard Stallman.

    Before writing this, I pulled up some circa 2007 emails we traded. (Back then you referenced David Heinemeier Hansson, not Stallman.) I think Justin Reich calls out a more crucial difference between free software and free curriculum above than the lack of a pioneering figure.

    @Jo, thanks for leaving that comment. Super useful for me.

  12. Susan Walker

    June 8, 2016 - 2:10 pm -
    Reply

    The quotes you have in your original thread are spot on. If I get a lesson from someone else, I need to study the lesson to make sure I know the ins and outs of it, then change it to fit me. It is easier for me if I prepare it from scratch.

  13. Reply

    I’m drawn towards the differences in needs between veteran and novice (<5 years) teachers, along with the jazz "riffing" references sprinkled through the online debate.

    Now later in my career I appreciate most posts and comments which help fill in the fine empty spaces which occur during a lesson. What do you do when no students reach that "aha!" moment, and how can conversation move us there? What common errors or misconceptions arise during a lesson – what approaches can be used to redirect discussion? And how do we get a class back when it feels like the wheels are about to fall off the wagon? These first-hand anecdotes regarding lessons are what I appreciate most.

    These teaching gems could certainly shared online. Think about a living lesson plan online, with hoverable areas where a teacher can share their experiences with a lesson (including useful adaptations) or provide guidance to novice teachers of "looks fors" which may not be plainly evident in a printed lesson.

  14. Reply

    To think that one lesson plan on a topic can be perfect for the masses is a one-size-fits-all approach. Our district adopted new text books this year and every math teacher felt like a brand new teacher. Even though we shared the materials we were creating based on the text books’ examples and our experience, we found ourselves still tweaking each other’s work, knowing it may not be an efficient use of time, but making it “fit” our individual styles and the needs of our specific students. I was at a disadvantage being new to the district because I did not know when to call my students’ bluff when they claimed the had not been exposed to material they should have mastered (think Geometry students not knowing how to simplify square roots or foil two binomials). When creating a lesson plan, there are so many variables to take into account. Just think of how many variations there are to a simple cotton t-shirt.

    On the other hand, a site that mimics AllRecipes.com could be amazing. The strength of that site is the reviews of the recipes. I can be confident that a recipe that has been reviewed 2K times with a 4.5 star rating is going to be pretty darn good. A quick glance through the reviews tells me how the recipe has been tweaked to suit others’ tastes and the problems they had. I will never buy another cookbook.
  15. Joel Patterson

    June 8, 2016 - 8:31 pm -
    Reply

    See, THIS is why Japanese teachers get to spend half their workday planning.

    (At least, I recall hearing they did. I’ve never spent time in a foreign school.)

  16. Chester Draws

    June 9, 2016 - 12:21 am -
    Reply

    Even if the perfect plan for me existed on a Hub, it would take me longer to find it than it would take me to write it myself.

    This is why I no longer check through YouTube videos trying to find the best ones for my students. It’s literally quicker to film one myself that fits what they need.

    Weirdly, there is another teacher at my school teaching at some courses in common that also has makes his own videos. It’s easier for both or us to make our own than sit down and collaborate — trying to find the time we’re both free, sort out the material etc. And that is despite us being both open to sharing and getting on fine.
  17. Reply
    I like to see how other teachers are introducing/teaching a concept. I don’t need the whole plan. I am more on the lookout for great problems or images or situations that can be used to introduce the cognitive dissonance, curiosity, aha moment, (etc) that will bring my kids to the discussion and keep them emotionally invested…. The time consuming part is evaluating such an item to see if it will fulfill the need I have to hit the learning targets for the kids. It would be great if we could share those, searchable by standard. There’s probably more to it, but that’s my starting wish.
  18. Reply

    Having a list of activities from other teachers is good when you start. Some way it’s missing. MTBOS search covers partially. Ideally we need a search engine for *activities* (not lessons) and a diagram of which activity comes from another and why it is forked.

    In reality, we should not forget that we acustom to change the activities because the needs of our students varies a lot each course. So we have to change the presentation of the activity because presentation focus on the verbs which students do. You could pose a rutine problem like: “how many jumps she will do in 30 seconds if she jumped 17 jumps in 3 seconds”. In this activity you focus on the “calculate” action. But if you transform in 3-act activity [http://theque.somenxavier.xyz/content/3-acts/Salt-comba.en/] you focus on the “model” action. A group discussion or a matching activity will focus on other actions.

    This is why I always change the activities. Depending on group, a set of needed actions are needed more strongly than others.

  19. Reply
    Lesson planning is a thinking process. A lesson plan is merely the product of (and so loose proxy for) that process.

    Giving someone a lesson plan is an inefficient way to reverse engineer that thinking process, and so often the thinking gets bypassed.

    There’s more value in exploring pedagogical patterns > reusable and transferable teaching solutions to recurring learning needs.

    Want to write more on this but gotta go teach!

  20. Reply

    I find this post fascinating. On the one hand, as secondary teachers we say we don’t want a github for lesson plans but we do use them. All the time.

    What is Dan Meyer’s treasure trove of 3-Act Math lessons if not a github of lessons? Or Geoff Krall’s CCSS problem-based curriculum over at emergentmath.com? Or map.mathshell.org? Or Robert Kaplinsky’s website? Or openmiddle.com? Or Sam Shah’s filing cabinet? Or illustrativemathematics.org? And the list goes on. Thank you #MTBoS!

    I’ve found all of these lesson repositories incredibly helpful.

    The main issue doesn’t seem to be just about using other people’s lessons. Perhaps it has to do with a perspective on student learning and even something as simple as curation.

    These resources all have a common way of viewing student learning. That’s not the case over at betterlesson.com. When I search ideas at betterlesson, I have to spend lots of time wading through lessons which differ greatly not just with my style but also my perspective on how students learn best.

    More than that, sometimes there are too many mediocre options. I want someone to curate the material for me. I want them to go through the hundreds of lessons and pick our a couple of gems for me to look at. Otherwise, I lose entire evenings attempting to find fresh ways of approaching a topic and come up empty-handed.

    After awhile I stopped posting and visiting betterlesson.com. Not because I didn’t use/modify other people’s lessons, I found better places to look.

  21. Reply
    The point of lesson planning is that it is education for the teacher. The teacher needs to “own” the lesson, the teacher needs to think through the lesson.

    The reason teachers do their own lesson planning is more like why each kid has to learn to ride a bike themself.

    If lesson plans were like recipes that could be simply followed, github for lesson planning would the answer.

    The best example that I’ve seen of this is a local elementary school with a deeply disadvantaged population (100% free lunch etc) where the principal had the teachers essentially abandon the curriculum and do their lesson planning directly from the standards. Those teachers really “owned” and understood the essence of what they were teaching. Here’a a Edutopia article abou it:
    http://www.edutopia.org/discussion/no-teacher-talk

  22. Reply

    To elaborate my off the cuff point a bit more, while I cited DHH as an example of an effective evangelist with a seemingly satisfying career, what RMS did was completely frame the issues in free software development — setting the terms of the debate — a solid decade before other role players were very interested in the topic. When the “open source” guys split off, they essentially accepted that RMS was right about everything except how to market his ideas.

    The reason this is important is because RMS by coup de main resolved several fundamental arguments and established certain basic policies (you may run the software FOR ANY PURPOSE and freely redistribute) that became the default in the software realm that would probably NEVER be resolved by discussion or consensus among a wide range of actors.

    Open content, including educational content, is thus stuck, probably permanently.

    This would include, for example, discussions of the proper granularity and structure of this kind of content. Getting that right is a prerequisite for getting anywhere with lesson sharing. If a widely used and almost universally known example of a system that resolved these issues in a way that was clearly workable, if not perfect, had existed 10 years before anybody else was interested in this kind of sharing, the entire history of this frustrating subject would probably be different. Everyone in the movement would be working from a proven starting point.

    Obviously, it is not something you can fix without a time machine.

  23. Reply

    Also, by definition a developer who has modified a program has 1) typed the changes in to their computer, 2) in a way that already demonstrably meets the strict formatting requirements of the language.

    For teachers, these are extra steps which are difficult to justify.

  24. Reply

    To follow up on Andres (@22) the idea that there are X different places to search, all of which have a not-so-perfect search interface, and, many of them have things that look like non-routine lessons but are really just procedure dressed up in fancy clothes is a problem (so, yes, curation is important).

    What would be most helpful to me is if instead of having to use a google-based search and typing “linear equations” into a box, you could get to them by CCSS standard.

    A ‘linear equation’ search turns up lessons on 15 different topics, only one of which is actually what I wanted, if I could click into a standard, the level of granularity is smaller and I can be sure that I’m getting lessons that address what I actually want.

    I also agree with the notion of activity vs. lesson–I’m typically looking for challenging activities that I can shape into a lesson, I know how to assemble a lesson once I’ve found the activity.

    Finally–in addition to the perspective on learning theory that I wish lessons were tagged with, I’d love one that differentiates between an equation-solving approach and a quantitative-reasoning approach to algebra topics. If I’m coming from a functions-perspective, I don’t want to spend a bunch of time reading equation-solving activities since I’m just going to toss them…

    The big ideas in my comments seem to be about time, much like Chester (@18), if I think I have a decent-enough idea, it’s going to be faster for me to develop it myself than sort through the 5 different search engines and sets of search results trying to find a slightly better activity that will, likely, result in not much difference in student outcomes.

  25. Reply

    It seems a huge problem is the ratio of chaff to wheat and that there’s not very much new under the sun.

    Perhaps we need to get better at using tags? I’m thinking that
    If somebody searches for “memorizing the quadratic formula” there’s no way to tell which will have students singing assorted songs… but I made one for my dyslexic students that teaches a visual strategy for it (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3lr-o2PJM8c if you’re curious).

    Thomas Hoffman, I agree with your analysis of GitHub… From my limited experience with it trying to make and share an app for manipulating a number line, the learning curve just for the vocabulary is *steep,* starting with “forking.”

  26. Leigh Ann Mahaffie

    June 9, 2016 - 1:38 pm -
    Reply

    I like to look at others lessons and activities. I see them as two different things. In lessons, often, for math, it is just a list of problems to work through with kiddos. I wish that these said what example was chosen, and why, and what commentary went with each problem. Why did you use 2 as the coefficient instead of 3? What misconceptions does changing the coefficient uncover? What kind of open ended questions do you use when talking about this problem, or these kind of problems? How do you deepen the conversation?

    For lessons, I would also love a bank of topics, by standard as mentioned by others, and ways to approach them; e.g the swimming pool analogy for negative exponents. I like having a variety of ways to explain something to students available to me.

    In activities, how can you find a fun way to practice the skill? Years ago, I made it my goal to have at least one activity/game/group task per unit. Now, I have a bank of them and can pick whichever one best suits this year’s audience and skill set. It was helpful to find a core set of activities that most topics can “lay over” the top. For example, a scavenger hunt, or stations, or tournament, or Trashketball, etc. are all basic formats that let me build practice specific to the unit at hand. But I would love a larger bank of these activities. The math blogosphere has provided most that I use. What also helped was the detailed description of what teacher’s did, and how they went, and logistic details, and what they would change. These let me be less afraid to try something new and out of my comfort zone.

    I would love a bank of activities that I can personalize to my content and students. I want levels of support. Top level would be “here is the activity”, next level would be key logistics. Then a deeper layer might be what others have learned, and then a deeper level with the thinking into the topic, format, and structure at hand. That way, if I just need an idea, I can just get none, or superficial information behind it. If I’ve never tried an activity like this, I can read more deeply about how it worked and didn’t work and why. I could choose how much support I need before trying it on my own.

    For example, I love the 3-act sets. But if you haven’t approached instruction that way, it is SCARY to just try it and see how it goes. It is helpful to see someone else do it, and watch the questions they ask, and how they lead the conversation with their kiddos. I would love to have a bank of videos of teachers doing 3-acts, and be able to watch them in real time.
  27. Reply

    Leigh Ann – I’ve always loved how the website teachingchannel.org shows the lessons in action as well as supporting materials and a place for comments below. Example: https://www.teachingchannel.org/videos/addition-math-lesson-ousd You see the teacher do the lesson as well as the materials she used. However you can’t search by standard nor is the site itself built for content management/people uploading their own stuff.

    It sounds like people want something decentralized, editable, curated etc. Basically a wikipedia for teaching math with:

    – videos of the teachers teaching the lessons (let’s add student work perhaps “Math Mistakes” style too!)
    – version control to show different variants of the same types of lessons that may be useful
    -a ranking system for the best lessons for a given Topic/Lesson/Unit/Standard/Style of Learning (capitalizing for emphasis)

    But this all goes back to Dan’s premise – would teachers use it? The existing evidence says no, these comments say yes with the right conditions.

  28. Reply

    I agree with Chris Lusto that, math teachers have a trust issue. And Jo, in the featured comments, that I don’t want this repository of lessons, but the teachers that I work with need one. Actually, what they need me for, is someone that is able to see the trees through the forest. And, understand where said lesson fits in the progression of instruction that they are currently delivering. This is the bigger issue.

    Better Lesson hasn’t worked out because… I don’t trust them. I trust the people on Twitter because I see their conversations and know where they are coming from. I can take a spark of a conversation and know where it fits in a learning progression. As has been said before, it is quicker to do this yourself, than to look for and modify something that already exists.
  29. Reply

    Here’s something I wonder about: do you guys all mean “curriculum” when you talk about “lesson plans”?

    Because seriously, who the hell actually plans out lessons? Like, you guys say I’ll start with this opening activity, and then I’ll turn to page 57 in the textbook and do these problems, and here are the answers to these problems?

    I went to a good ed school; I write a good lesson plan that I only use when I’m getting observed. I never do any of this. Based on the comments, my take is more like Bob’s than anyone–I just want some good ideas. A good problem that I can turn into an activity, or a good worksheet that sequences problems well so I don’t have to.

    I have no need whatsoever for a lesson plan repository, since I don’t use or write lesson plans. I write and develop curriculum that anyone could use in a lesson plan of their choice.

    I actually wrote about this once at Grant Wiggins’ site: https://grantwiggins.wordpress.com/2014/08/01/how-do-you-plan-redux/#comment-12634 and we agreed that a really good survey would be to unpack what teachers mean by planning.

  30. Dennis Decker Jensen

    June 10, 2016 - 3:49 am -
    Reply
    Give it ten years or so, and teachers will have gotten over the idea that the lessons are the small kingdoms of which they are kings. The advantages of letting a few experts making the lessons are too great. It frees up resources to do more important things in teaching. That has been the experience of many teachers here in Denmark, who felt about 15 years ago that they couldn’t give up this particular kingdom of theirs.
  31. Reply

    Hello. First time, long time.

    Agree with all on 3 big issues: Trust, ownership, time-to-modify. Many times, it’s easier to start from scratch.

    I think a repository of Essential Questions, Sample Texts, and Final Assessments (aka Ideas) would be really useful. I believe this because when I do scan lessons, I generally don’t steal much else. The forks could be much shorter and easier to sort than a full lesson.

    Would be way superior to TpT in any iteration, though.

  32. Bill Bradley

    June 11, 2016 - 8:05 am -
    Reply

    I don’t see a lot of mention of “know your audience.” After years of teaching in the same district, I’ve gotten to know the level and academic background of my students. I know what to spend time on, and what I can assume that they know (and those are different for students who have come through different tracks). Even then, I still need to adjust every year for the mix of students that I have, and every few years to make sure that examples and activities resonant well with my students. If you dropped me into a new district, with a different population, it would take several years for me to return to my current level of effectiveness in teaching. That’s why people say that ideas are useful, but the particular details need to be customized.

  33. Reply

    Using someone else’s plan- the bane of substitute teaching. There must be a better organizational plan to provide for the day(s) when a teacher is not able to be in class.

  34. Reply

    My problem with that type of sites is that there are a bunch of unrelated lessons without a sequence. More times than not the lessons don’t fit to the pacing and the reality of my students in my classroom. There are many good places to find lesson plans and tasks but it takes a lot of time to find what you want and then a lot of time modifying to make it fit to my own style and classroom situation.

    For me it would work in one of two ways.

    1. I make everything mostly “from scratch” and forget about the lesson plan repositories.

    2. I use lesson plans made by the same person or group with the whole year planned out in the same style and format.

    It all comes down to time-management and experience.

  35. Reply

    Code and its output can be standardized. Students themselves really can’t be. Because student populations differ so radically and our goal is not to standardize them down to clones, we don’t want or need full standardization of lesson plans. While it would be comforting to starting teachers to have something to start from (hence plans from master teachers have some use), everyone ultimately knows their students better than anyone else knows them. We must honor this. It goes to the root of why full standardization of American education is a bad idea, in the first place.

  36. Reply

    This is something I care about deeply, and I think there will be some solutions to the plans versus planning problem in the coming few years.

    In the meantime, some insight on how different teachers plan. We asked teachers to illustrate their planning process. How many of them involve using other people’s plans? How many involve tweaking other resources to make their own?

    https://planningprocessillustrated.com/

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