5 Resources I Don't Lesson Plan Without

I think that all teachers have experienced a form of lesson planning writer's block at some point.

Let’s face it. We’re busy people and sometimes the lesson planning process sneaks up on us. Sometimes we remedy this by quickly throwing together a collection of songs and activities that will do the job. . . but perhaps we haven't thought about where that lesson is leading and why each individual activity is important. 

Today I’m sharing my tried-and-true resources for lesson planning. These resources save me loads of time in my daily lesson planning because they've given me a framework around which to create activities.

Zooming Out

It starts with a zoomed-out, big picture view of what I want my students to learn by the time we're done with our time together. What should every student know after being my student? What should every student know how to do? These are big questions but they're important to tackle first. 

Zooming In

Then we zoom in more and more until we're planning daily lessons. What specific learning activities will help my students accomplish their goals? What are bite-sized take aways I can give my students?

These resources have helped me wrestle with these questions and create a framework I use for every single lesson. 

I hope they do the same for you!

But first, let's establish some goals in our planning. . . 

lesson planning resources

Big - Picture Planning Resources: 

Good lesson plans start with knowing the big picture of what you want your students to know. That big picture is based on your teaching philosophy and what you think is important for students at your school to be able to do by the end of their time with you. It's a huge, sweeping view of your teaching. 

When it comes to that important zoomed-out view, these are the books that have been life savers for me.

1. Understanding by design: 

If you haven't read this book already, I highly encourage it.

The basic premise of the book is that instead of starting with daily tasks and learning activities, and then creating assessments. . . we should start with what we want students to know. Then decide how we'll know that they know it. . . then create learning tasks that reflect those goals. 

It's a dense read, but very worth it!

Short on time? Still buy the book and save it for a rainy day. For now just read the chapter 6 (crafting understandings) and chapter 7 (thinking like an assessor)

2. Lesson Planning in a Kodaly Setting: 

I picked up this book after hearing Aileen Miracle mention it on her podcast and I'm SO glad I did! 

This book has been huge for me as I think about what songs to use for what concepts and what my core teaching goals are for my students. When I got the book I was struck by how small it was but I can guarantee it packs a punch with how much information it delivers in a small package. 

You won't be disappointed if you dig into this book. 

Small-Picture Lesson Planning Resources:

When it comes to thinking more specifically about learning activities in daily lesson plans, here are the resources that have helped me the most: 

3. Kodaly in the Classroom series

I'm not strictly a Kodaly teacher but I love the philosophy that encourages students to use "direct intuition" in their approach to learning music. This book is the perfect companion for Kodaly and non-Kodaly teachers alike.

Inside the books, I've found great ideas about listening lessons, songs to use for specific grades, and teaching strategies for when you feel stuck. It's a wonderful addition to my bookshelf and I reference it often.

There are lots of grade levels for which you could buy this book. I'd recommend purchasing one for a lower grade first if you haven't used these books before. 

4. Elementaria: 

This is a more recent read for me, but already SO helpful!

Elementaria is hands down one of the most actionable Orff books I've ever read. It gives very specific examples and music activities, all the way down to the sheet music. There are lots of books out there on the Orff philosophy but I've never come across anything this specific. That makes it perfect for the zoomed-in part of planning. 

I find myself flipping through this when I'm looking for specific engaging music activities, especially for my upper level students. If that sounds like something you could use in your tool belt, I highly recommend this book. 

5. Song Library

The backbone of our curriculum as teachers is the music we choose. I love singing folk songs in my classroom and needed a way to keep track of some of my favorites. That's how the Folk Song Index was born. 

I use it to document songs I've used and songs my students love to sing. It's about to get a major facelift in the next few months with more songs and easier navigation, but it's still a resource I personally use for my classroom ALL. THE. TIME.

If you haven't checked it out yet, it's totally free so click here.

Lesson planning can be a headache, but it doesn't have to be. 

With these resources you can begin your journey to headache-free planning....  And it can actually be fun! 

Don't feel the need to purchase and read all the books at once. Pick your squeakiest wheel in the lesson planning process (big picture ideas or small picture activities), grab a book, and read it in small sections over your morning coffee. 

You'll be glad you did.