Planning has been something I've loved but also something I need more time for and practice with as I map out a unit of study or think about planning over longer chunks of the year. I embrace it because I feel like it is my time to be creative, think about what my kids need and merge that with the curriculum. After reading Franki's newest book: The Joy of Planning, I have been smiling about her fresh look on what she mentions in her intro as "Falling Back in Love with Lesson Planning." Franki's perspective on planning minilessons while balancing common core and students needs has breathed energy into my own planning. She is a reflective and thoughtful planner. The questions she uses to plan her study have helped me better explain to my student teacher the importance of these four pieces she uses to organize her studies: reflect on goals for students, gather texts needed, differentiate so kids can enter the study where they are as learners and consider if the assessment matches the goals.
She begins the book with ten solid beliefs about planning minilessons and how these beliefs have evolved for her. As I read these, I couldn't help but nod as she mentioned big ideas like interactive, independent, community conversations and planning for the reader. She says, "The teacher is the person who spends time with the students in her care, and it best suited to create lessons that will meet her students where they are. Because lessons are designed to help build understanding, it is important teachers develop the lessons they teach so they can revise and replan as needed, based on student response."
While Franki wrote this book with 3-6 audience in mind, her thinking is still crucial to K-2 teachers. First, because we all plan minilessons. No matter what "grade" we teach, each of the beliefs Franki mentions in her intro help us consider students regardless of grade level. Second, the book is filled with ideas and mentors that accessible to many readers, including primary. With common core, we all will be scaffolding our teaching to address characters, theme, and non-fiction texts. Third, I love how Franki embraces the use of picture books for many of these lessons. She embraces many texts that students in 3-6 may have encountered in their primary classrooms.
Last, I love how she loads the book with questions. These questions give us something to consider when trying to plan our own minilessons as well as set the pace for students to drive the thinking. These questions at the end of each of her lessons really are the heart of her thinking. These questions are also differentiated enough that primary teachers could grab one or modify for their own classroom. In her lesson titled: Talking and Thinking about Characters she uses Today I Will Fly by Mo Willems. She ties the lesson to common core work with "drawing on specific details from text" as she asks her 4th graders to think deeper about how they know the characters Elephant and Piggie. In first grade, we set goals for our students to "describe characters" at the beginning of the year and later to "describe characters using key details in text. Franki poses a couple questions for her fourth graders: How are Piggie and Elephant the same? How do you know? As primary teachers we might use her questioning strategy to pose: Who are the characters? How do you know? and later in the year, What do we know about Piggie and Elephant? How do you know?
If you are looking to reflect back about planning in your reader's workshop, this book will certainly be a great text for developing thoughtful minilessons. It clarifies Franki's planning process and has authentic ideas as well as real questions that have helped me refine my own practice in planning.