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8 Lesson Planning Hacks for Amazing Literature

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We all remember that one teacher that we had that was able to keep the whole class mesmerized. Somehow, she/he was able to keep the whole class on the edge of their seat. They all wanted to hear what she was going to say or do next. And somehow, she could probably ask the class to do anything, and the whole class would think it was amazing. Undoubtedly, her lesson planning as well as ability to relate to her students was behind her great success.

The Statistics

Those teachers are few and far between. Unfortunately, they are the exception rather than the rule. Most of us teachers would love to hold that significance with our students. But sometimes it’s just hard to figure out how to capture the attention of our whole class on a daily basis. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), in 1990, the average number of students per teacher was 17.4. Of course, this number could change depending on the location of the school, amount of funding the school was receiving, and type of school surveyed (public vs. private). By 2015, that number had only changed to 16.2. See more details on the chart on NCES’ website here.

That is a large number of kids to keep interested in what you want to teach them. The kids are also coming from all different walks of life, different family dynamics, and different levels of learning. Each child in the class is also going to have a different personality, interests, and dislikes. It seems like an impossible task to try to hold everyone’s attention at the same time. Add to that the fact that you feel the need to actually make them excited about what they are learning. A good number of students are already not fond of spending their day at school, so how do we even begin to reach them?

How Does a Teacher Shape Lesson Planning to Reflect This?

Probably the number one thing we can provide for our students is a truly listening ear. We generally hear what they are saying to us, but are we understanding it from their perspective? Are we taking the time to actually listen to what they are trying to communicate? Or are we just physically hearing the words they are speaking to us without true understanding? This is a very difficult task, especially in a large classroom where all of the students are vying for the teacher’s attention and help. And even the best teacher in the world will not succeed in this all of the time.

But truthfully, the students aren’t expecting perfection from you. They are desiring that you genuinely care about them and reflect that in the respect and attention you give them as people. They are used to being treated as “less than.” When an adult actually pays attention and makes them feel like they are worth listening to, it opens up a whole new world for them.

The Practical Stuff that Shapes Your Lesson Planning.

I believe that the majority of teachers aspire to this in the classroom, and most do a great job most of the time. We are all human, though, and even the most patient person has their limits. But let’s look at seven more things that can make all the difference in classroom enthusiasm and participation.

The next seven items in my list are actually under the heading of variety in the classroom. Once the students know they are being listened to and that they are valued, they tend to flourish academically. So, now let’s concentrate on more tangible ways to make that happen!

Developing Great Comprehension

Number two is encouraging students to express themselves through mastery of comprehension. Discussions that are on point but still allow the students to express their thoughts, comparisons, and applications will grow their confidence in everything they read. When students are wrong about certain concepts, we can gently bring their thinking around without embarrassing them. Try to focus on some aspect of their thinking that is correct. Then you can go on to help guide their train of thought to a better conclusion. This allows them to feel comfortable sharing in front of others and develop and grow their analysis skills.

Encouraging Imagination

Number three is capitalizing on those students whose imagination runs wild. This is certainly more common in the younger grades. In middle and high school, though, there are still some students who have not allowed their imagination to be hampered by life. Capitalize on students’ imaginative ideas to help get the rest of the class engaged.

I have taught classes that nearly everyone ended up contributing to the imagination of the original student. It made for such an awesome class. A by-product of this type of class participation is that the students are excited about coming back to the next class. They know that they are allowed to have fun in this classroom. They just have no idea that the fun they are having is constructive. One caveat here is to make sure the imagination is not inappropriate. If it is, you can always guide it back gently without hampering the expression of the students in a hurtful way.

Food Wins Over Everyone!

We all know that food is universally at the center of life. Kids learn this very early on, because they are with us when we eat to celebrate, to mourn, to have fun, when we do just about anything, routine or otherwise. And I didn’t even mention that we have to eat for nourishment above all! We can’t live without food, so we may as well make it fun!

It is generally pretty easy to come up with themes for food within the chapters of nearly every book. So many chapters speak of food directly. This is by far the easiest because it doesn’t require any creativity on our part–we can just procure the food from the store or possibly make it homemade to bring it along with us.

For the chapters that don’t mention any foods specifically, there are usually some key words that allow us to get creative with food choices. I found these to be especially fun for the kids, as they were eager to guess what could be next. Many times, the first question they would ask upon coming to class was, “What’s the snack for today?” The next: “How does it relate to the story?” It could range anywhere from a small snack to a mini meal. The one exception is the final party at the end of major books–that would be a feast.

Several books carry huge opportunities for students to learn about different cultures and/or time periods. Books set in different locations or time periods make perfect object lessons that the students will remember for potentially the rest of their lives. Adding food from those cultures and time periods will add such a huge experience for your students.  It will appeal to senses that will cause your students to remember what they learned for the rest of their lives.

Many schools have limits or rules about food, and allergies are always a concern, but we can almost always work within those bounds.

Lesson Planning in Our Play

Kids of any age love to play–even us adult kids! So what an amazing way to make your students’ day by having themed play around their literature lesson!

In much the same way as finding food ideas to coordinate with what you are learning, you can easily find games or activities to play. Just build it around what the kids are currently reading in their literature for that day or week. For instance, if there is a chase scene, then play freeze tag to incorporate game play and exercise into their lesson.

For days that there aren’t obvious activities in the reading, a game of Bingo using vocabulary words or other concepts in the book is a great idea. Make the Bingo marker pieces Skittles or M & M’s if you are not hindered by the rules of your institution. You will be the hero of the day. Finding play activities is probably one of the easiest things to figure out. You can turn just about any activity into the theme of what you are working on. Just change the terminology of the activity or game into words and ideas used in the book.

Lesson Planning Crafts that Mom will be Proud of

We have all faced this dilemma: our kids come home with a craft that they are so proud of. Immediately, they ask where they can display it. But when you already have a hundred of these crafts around the house, how many more can you absorb before you must choose which ones stay and which ones go?

I also faced the dilemma of how to finance crafts that make the cut in the quality department. This is probably the hardest hack of all the hacks in this article. I can’t even tell you how many countless hours I have spent online searching for the perfect craft. First, I would attempt to find something relevant to an event or item in the chapter I was covering. I often did this as an image search so that I may be lucky enough to find a craft idea that someone else had already done. Most of the time I was not overly successful using this method.

My next attempt would be to look through craft books or crafting websites to get an idea of a great craft. That actually was very successful. But theming was usually off when searching from this angle. That was not so difficult to work with once I had a craft idea, though. I would just change the theme of the craft to a main point, idea or character in the book. One example of this would be seeing some great stained glass crafts but nothing that really matched what we were reading. So I changed the picture to a lion for the theme of The Lion, the Witch , and the Wardrobe.

From Concept to Creation

By the time I presented the craft in class nobody could tell that I had to maneuver to make the craft fit the book. When they took their projects home nobody had any idea that it wasn’t an idea straight out of the mainstream curriculum. Except that it was too well done to be thrown in the trash a month later.

Regarding cost to make better-than-average crafts–thrift stores, the dollar store, and yard sales worked really well. I usually had to be a couple of weeks ahead in the lesson planning process, but it paid off well. Also, Amazon and Ebay had tons of art supplies without having to shop around. They also usually cost less than the local craft store. I was usually able to keep it pretty close to one dollar per student.

Lesson Planning for Great Language

Reading is great for learning language skills, but there are so many more ways to reinforce great language skills. Students listening to you explain concepts they have never seen before, engaging based on your encouragement for them to speak, and showing their ability to write a great summary of what they have learned or thought based on what they read all help to make their language education well-rounded in ways that will make them great communicators throughout their lives. Classroom participation drives communication and language skills exponentially. The better they get at it, the more they will do it.

Lesson Planning that Makes Memories

As adults, we realize that our memories come from times and places that we never could have planned or imagined. But there are also memories that were meant to last–family trips, celebrations, big events (good or bad). We know students in the classroom aren’t necessarily coming to class to make lifetime memories. But what if we could do that for them in some of the best ways?

We already have a lot of components to making great memories in these hacks. Memories are stirred by our senses (a smell, taste, touch, sound, sight, or even a sense). All of the above suggestions will collectively work on making these times great memories for the students. These are things that could encourage them to reminisce about with their own kids one day. Even more, what if some of the crafts they created had survived long enough to be seen by their kids because they weren’t the normal school craft fare?


So that is my list of 8 hacks that will help make lesson planning easier for a most memorable year of literature for your students. All of these ideas work well regardless of the school setting, and the sky’s the limit for how far you can take these! I would love to see and hear what you have done with these ideas in your own school settings. Or you may have an idea that has worked well in your class that isn’t mentioned here.

Don’t forget to check out my sample lesson plan for chapter 1 of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. You can find it right here on Complete Literature at this link: Sample

This Post Has 62 Comments

  1. Nyxinked

    My sister always has difficultly planning lessons because the kids she deals with are so rowdy. I’ll have to send this through to see if it helps her in any way.

    1. Marie

      Thanks, Nyxie. For my rowdy kids, I learned that keeping them preoccupied helped keep them calm. But it is hard when you have a whole class to work with. And you need soooo much energy. I hope your sister finds this information helpful.

  2. Krysten (@WeirdGirlBlog)

    I have several teacher friends that I know will find this helpful. Thanks so much for sharing this with all of us!

  3. Stephanie

    I’m glad that you’re helping teachers find effective lesson plans with the drastic increase in ratios. Its one of the reasons I’m homeschooling. I love that I can modify these tips for my homeschooling classroom as well.

    1. Marie

      Yes, Stephanie! Most of the concepts I share work well with any type of classroom! Thank you for sharing and congrats on homeschooling! Enjoy your time with them–even the rough days!

  4. Peachy A.

    These are great hacks. I think teachers would love these as they sometimes need help in their lesson plans.


    Interesting article. I believe that motivating students to develop their imagination is really important. It’s a way of self-discovery. Getting them to master reading comprehension is as important as well.

  6. Cindy Ingalls

    I still remember books my teachers read to me when I was in elementary school. They stand out more than anything because of how my teachers made the characters and stories come to life.

  7. CA

    Your post made me appreciate all of my teachers and professors. We had no idea of the efforts that have been placed every day, just so we could be educated.

  8. Krysten Quiles

    This is SO helpful! What a great way to help teachers who may be struggling. Thank you for sharing this!

  9. littlemisadvencha

    every teacher will surely find this post really helpful. <3 i love how you put so much passion into teaching teachers teach students. <3

  10. Taylor

    A good teacher makes an effort. You are obviously a very passionate teacher with lots of empathy. I love the idea of incorporating food in the planning. Food unites us all. 🤗🤗 great resource material for teachers. 👍👍

  11. Infinity Laser Spa

    Food always wins people over. Me first! These are such great tips! And teachers will find it very helpful!

  12. Amber Myers

    My kids love the lessons where they get awesome memories. My daughter likes when they get to act out parts of the book.

  13. Joanna

    I used to have a teacher at my television class during my masters who would always bring snacks with him and share them with the students. His logic was that we were all coming from our day jobs directly to school (which was true, as the master classes were always from 6PM – 8PM), and that we did not had time to eat. And nobody can pay attention with an empty stomach.

    1. Marie

      He sounds like an awesome teacher, Joanna. I’m glad you got that experience.

  14. heatherwriterslifeforyoucom

    I would think that it would be really difficult to capture students attention day in and day out. As someone who’s written many lesson plans, I love your suggestions. My favorite is to encourage their imagination. I think that is an incredible thing to encourage no matter what age you are.

    1. Marie

      Thank you, Heather!

  15. expeditioneducation

    I’m a Physical Education teacher and nearly all of my lessons focuses end up in SERIOUS discussion due to their imaginations haha. When we were in the weight room (I teach MS girls PE) we legitimately had a 3-5 minutes long discussion about the fact that women – despite being women- also have Pec muscles in one of my classes haha a listening ear is my favorite part of teaching.

    1. Marie

      That is awesome! Those are my favorite moments with the kids, when they start talking and tell you whatever is on their heart and mind.

  16. lavandamichelle

    Great tips! You clearly a very amazing teacher fro what i’ve read!

  17. World In Eyes

    I have an experience of teaching of few yeas, and I am well aware about lesson planning. The lesson planning is the teaching strategy of teachers and learning strategy for children. Your post 8 Lesson Planning Hacks are really an amazing Literature.

  18. Shruti

    These are some great hacks. These will come in handy to my friend who is a teacher. I am going to send this to her right away. Thank you

  19. Esterella

    As a student, it was really interesting to see the thought processes of teachers to make lessons engaging. Thanks for sharing

  20. Lyosha Varezhkina

    Awesome tips! I almost wish I was a teacher

    1. Marie

      You can be a teacher in many different ways!

  21. Priya Doshi

    I will try and apply these tips when I am home schooling my kids. My kids always ask me every morning what we are having for lunch and dinner, meals/food are most important to them! My kids keep bringing craft models home after making them in school and they never want to throw anything !

  22. Tee

    This are amazing tips! Thanks for sharing them, really insightful

  23. Eloise

    My mom was a highschool teacher and I am with preschool … there’s a lot that goes into being a teacher, it’s almost like you’re constantly working! I love your ideas/hacks when drawing students in and keeping their interest ; ) I think it’s also how the plan is delivered that helps keep students interested!

    1. Marie

      You are right about all of it! And just your students knowing that you actually care about them as people does wonders! This is true at any age! Thank you for your thoughts, Eloise.

  24. Chantal Gray

    There is a lot of behind the scenes that teachers do that don’t get put out there. Making a plan can be challenging and you have shown great insight and ideas for it. Helping teachers across the world!!!

    1. Marie

      Thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts, Chantal!

  25. blair villanueva

    I remember my HS teacher always give us treats during his literature class. It is quite a bribe however, it works and we are all eyes-and-ears to him.

    1. Marie

      Haha, sometimes you have to do what works to get the kids engaged! Thanks for sharing, Blair.


    Wow! I have some relatives and lots of friends who are teachers too, they should read this 😚

  27. the joyous living

    as a friend of many a teacher, i am so glad you are putting together these lesson plan hacks for their teaching. it is one really tough season with covid-19.

  28. TheHappyMommie

    These are som nice pointers , I specifically like the one where you suggested exploring imagination !

  29. Kileen

    I’m sure teachers everywhere would love these tips! There is so much work that they put in that no one sees or notices. They are modern day heroes for sure!

    cute & little

  30. emily

    I have a friend who is a teacher and she was explaining to me how she plans her lessons. Looks like you have very similar methods of teaching.

  31. JP

    Can’t agree more with “Food Wins Over Everyone”. I mean who doesn’t like food right? LoL!

  32. Mae

    Great teachers will always make an effort! My mom is a retired professor and I’ve seen such hard work put to everything she does! This is very helpful to other teachers.

  33. Emily Fata

    One of my close friends is a teacher and I think she would find this to be such a great resource! I’ll be passing this along to her.

  34. Ntensibe Edgar

    Hhhhmmmmm….I think we can work with food more, from now on in my lesson plans for school. It is quite remarkable, now that I think of it.

  35. Lyanna Soria

    Those are some great tips to keep in mind. A close friend of mine is a teacher and I’m sure she’ll find this helpful.

  36. Christine Weis

    These are really great hacks that I plan on giving a try. I just took a look at The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe sample. It looks great…thank you!

  37. Matt Taylor

    Yeah, it seems like it would be easier to get students more involved and engaged with smaller class size. Growing up, k-12 seemed like there was always 20 to 25 kids in my classes. Food does win! One of my favorite experiences was in Chemistry class as a Junior in High School. The teacher taught us how to make ice cream with just two bowls, cream, ice and rock salt. It was so awesome! I will always remember that.

  38. Melanie williams

    One of my relations is actually a teacher, I am going to have to send her the link to this post and your blog in general x

  39. Hannah

    Super helpful tips for lesson planning and I agree with you that food wins everyone!

  40. Bella

    This is such super helpful lesson planning. I love how helpful you made it!! so great ill have to share with friends

  41. Ambuj Saxena

    This is a wonderful blog post that has a bearing on holistic learning! In india, there is a new education policy that has a few points in common with what you have mentioned and I’m sure that it would lead to better students and better global citizens!

  42. Emman Damian

    Encouraging Imagination is really important. Make it more fun! Also, food really helps! It really does!

  43. Lily

    These are great tips. I think comprehension is key!


    this can be a great help for teachers when it comes to lesson planning

  45. World in Eyes

    Lesson planning is the most important thing for every of teacher..glad you shared these tips and ideas with us..loved it..

  46. Khushboo

    These are some nice and helpful tip.

  47. Sincerelyjackline

    I had no idea all the things that had to be considered when planning a lesson plan. You have some great tips.

  48. katrina Kroeplin

    these are great. i will have to pass this along for sure 🙂

  49. Elizabeth O

    As a college instructor, I know how much time and effort it takes to create both a curriculum and a lesson plan. This is behind the scenes work many outside folks have no idea that we all do.

  50. Mobile Car Detailing In Burwood

    It’s amazing how resourcefulness can transform a craft project! Your ability to adapt and find affordable materials resulted in projects that seamlessly integrated into the curriculum.

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