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How Long Should Lesson Planning Take?

Even though it is still the within the first month of summer vacation at the time I am  writing this, my mind has already started drifting toward planning for the next year, and with it thoughts about how long lesson planning should take.  Of course, we all know that how much things SHOULD take versus how long they actually WILL take are usually quite different.

In actuality, I can’t give you a direct answer to this because the exact time depends on what material you are researching, how much time you need to fill, and how difficult the projects and activities around it will be.  It also depends on how much material regarding your subject material is on the internet.  Of course, the more coverage of your subject, the quicker and easier it will be.  Sometimes it’s super quick and easy.  Everything you are looking for pops up easily and you’re good to go.

More often, though, it takes a lot more time, especially when it is an activity/class you are planning for the first time.

What I can give you is a range.  The following chart should give you a good idea of how much time it should be taking based on where you find yourself in the teaching journey.

How Long Should Lesson Planning Take?

I do know that once I have my resources planned out, the rest does come pretty quickly. Because I have been doing this for 25+ years, it does actually pare down quite nicely now.  But more often than not, for that one thing that I decide I want to change up, inevitably, I think I’m just going to jump online real quick and find it.  But before I know it, hours have passed. I’ve done about three other things, and I still don’t have the thing I went there to find in the first place.  Sounds like a trip to the store to get milk and then forgetting it, doesn’t it?

So, in the interest of helping others spend less time than I have in the past, I have a few ideas to share from what I have learned over the years by trial and error.  I also scoured the internet to find a couple bonus creative ideas to share.  Maybe your lesson planning for the coming year will be faster and more productive than ever before!

Lesson Planning with a Time Limit

The first thing I learned to do was set time limits for myself.  If I didn’t do this, then I would inevitably end up surfing the web for hours on end.  And usually, I was no longer even working on my initial project.  One thing had led to another which led to another, etc..  By the end of an hours-long session online I realized that I hadn’t even come close to finishing the task I had set out to do.

So one Saturday morning, I set the stove timer for the kids to get their rooms cleaned up and I was instantly inspired to do the same thing for myself.  So I set my phone timer for one hour and laid it right next to my computer and lesson planner.  It worked like a charm!  In fact, it worked better than just keeping myself focused because I found myself trying to beat the timer.

Making a Lesson Planning Form to Fill Out

This may have been one of the best ideas I ever had.  I jumped on Microsoft Word and in about 5 minutes made a very general form to fill out with any lesson planning ideas I had.  That included anything online, at the library, in a book at home, on tv. It was just something simple so I had to fill in the spaces in order to feel like I had plenty of good material for the upcoming class.  I made it suitable for any subject.  Then I placed a small line to the left of each of the writing lines.  Those were so that I could number them in the order that I wanted to prioritize them in the lesson.

Once I filled the form out, my class was pretty much ready to go.  This combined with the timer actually cut my lesson planning time to about a quarter of what it was.  And I didn’t even miss all of the online puttering that I had been doing.

The To-Do Pile

Okay, we all keep piles around our houses of things that we need to take care of.  And then those piles just kind of sit there.  And sit there.  Well, at least I want to believe that I’m not the only one that finds it hard to get all of those piles done.  Just humor me here.

Those piles became the inspiration for my next streamlining idea.  I put all of the subjects that I still needed to do for that week in a pile in the center of my desk.  I did not allow myself to move that pile until it was done.  If it was out of sight, it was out of mind.  Having that pile in the middle of my desk drove me crazy.  So it was a great motivator to get it done so I could have my desk space.

The couple of times that I did move the pile, the work did not get done.  That was pretty good motivation after a couple of eleventh-hour planning jobs. I learned that the only way to move the pile was to get the planning done.

Get Advice from Other Teachers

There is nothing new under the sun.  Even though we would like to think that we created some new thing that has never been done before, it has probably been done before somewhere at some time.  That certainly doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to think outside of the box.  But it does mean that another teacher might have a really good idea that you would never have thought have.  Ask around.  Most teachers are eager to share their best ideas with you.

At the end of the day, the majority of teachers want to see happy kids that have productively learned something.  And if something they shared accomplished that, then everybody is satisfied–students, teachers, and parents.

Invest in a Really Good Planner

When I first started lesson planning, I just bought a very basic planner that had the grading charts, schedule, and attendance sheets.  It looked kind of like this:

It fulfilled its purpose well at the beginning of my teaching years.  As time went on and my plans became more complex, I collected so many papers and extra things and crammed them into that book.  It was a mess.  And I was no longer organized.

I will preface the rest of this category by saying that there are tons of planners out there and teachers with myriads of different styles.  What was a dream planner for  me will not work for everybody.  And I can guarantee that there are some amazing teachers out there that are still rocking the Ward planner and have no need for more.

But I want to share with you what changed the game in my lesson planning because it put almost everything together for me in a way that my mind could keep up with.  I tried out  the bloom daily planner (this links to Amazon) and it was amazing.  There are currently four different choices for cover.  I chose the marble one.   The extra features that it provided were a page for substitute teacher instructions; a page for web addresses, phone numbers, and other important information; pages for important dates and birthdays; a page for contacts that you made through the year; and a page for field trips.

The only thing that I really missed that this planner didn’t include was attached pocket pages.  No  matter how complete a lesson planner is, it can’t have everything.  Hmmm.  Maybe publishing my idea of a perfect lesson planner is in my future!

Bonus #1: Backward Lesson Planning

Here is the first suggestion I got from checking out what teachers were suggesting online:  backward planning.  The concept is that you think first about the learning objective you are trying to accomplish.  Then you think of activities/projects that will accentuate that in the best ways for the students that you have.

You can find an excellent web page explaining this concept in detail here.

They even include templates for lesson planning using this method for your own class.

Download Existing Lesson Planshow many questions should be on a test

This is the last bonus suggestion that I got from online.   While I definitely recommend doing this if you find yourself in a time crunch, it is not a perfect solution. While I say that, I realize that sometimes as teachers, “we’ve gotta do what we’ve gotta do.”

Teachers teach with a personal style that is as individual as their fingerprints.  And for that reason, the best classes are ones in which they had enough time to plan according to their style and the abilities/interests/learning abilities of their students.  But when we find ourselves in a pinch, this is a very good idea.  And oftentimes, we can tweak those plans just enough to put our personal touch on it, either in discussion with the students while working on it, talking with them about it in casual conversation, or maybe even in tying that lesson in with the next lesson that you are able to design on your own.

At the end of the day, teachers do so much behind the scenes that nobody realizes–lesson planning, field trip planning, party planning, grading papers, building relationships with students and oftentimes their parents, and much more.  It is arguably one of the most time consuming vocations in the world.  And they certainly don’t get paid for the hours/weeks/years that they put into it.

To take a peek at a very detailed lesson plan/guide (the teacher assistance sheet) along with the supporting documents, check out this link.

This Post Has 84 Comments

  1. Amber

    I bet this can get tricky. I don’t know much about lesson planning, but I do plan my monthly calendars, which can get crazy.

  2. This is great advice! I’m not a teacher, but I am a blogger, and I do need to plan the content that I desire to share. I am going to use these tips to help me!

    1. Marie

      I am glad that you are able to use these tips for blogging! They are great for any work that needs to be planned!

  3. bmcharnley

    AMAZING! Great tips on creating a lesson plan!! So organized. Love that planner!

  4. Nyxinked

    I’ve never thought about the time it must take to plan out lessons. That on top of all the marking etc. Teachers really do work their bums off.

    1. Marie

      They do indeed, Nyxie!

  5. Cristina Pop

    I can’t even imagine how hard it can be to plan a lesson! You have some very helpful tips here!

    1. Marie

      Thanks, Cris! And the more you lesson plan, the easier it gets. I was fortunate when I started to have a teacher take me under his wing and provide lesson plan templates for me since we were using most of the same curriculum. It got me up and running super fast!

  6. Coralie

    This is great advice. A good planner is so important to stay organized. And getting tips and help from others.

  7. This sounds like it could get a little tricky, you’re so helpful! Thanks so much for sharing this with all of us!

  8. Wow there’s so much work that goes into lesson planning. I like the idea of getting tips from other teachers. It’s nice to have a strong support system. I appreciate all the effort that goes into it.

    1. Marie

      Yes, Lisa! Support systems are critical in all fields, but for teachers it is life-blood!

  9. sri

    I do love to plan my monthly calenders though not about lesson plannings.It helps me to get an idea of how much work I can do in a particular month!

    1. Marie

      It is very similar, Sri. Thank you for sharing!

  10. ohmummymia

    I’m not very good with planning so I will definitely remember some of your tips. I really need to start planning with my work, blog and taking care of my son and house

    1. Marie

      I could use a brush up too! I will be changing some things up once we get past Christmas.

  11. Amila Wickramarachchi

    Thanks for sharing such great details on lesson planing.I am not a regular teacher,but I work as a trainer.So these are helpful for me too to plan my activities.

    1. Marie

      I am glad to be able to help! Thank you, Amila.

  12. enrilemoine

    Always thought of how difficult it would be to be a teacher, and that wasnt even considering lesson planning! Im sure this post would make it much easier to be efficient; though.

  13. Laura G

    What a great resource! I need to start thinking about planning my lessons for the kids soon!! Such a daunting task though…

    1. Marie

      I know, Laura! Once I actually started jumping into it, I was okay. It was the starting that killed me.

  14. I have a teacher friend that I know really struggles with lesson planning. I’ll definitely have to share this with her. Thank you so much for sharing you wisdom!

  15. CA

    I’m not an educator so I don’t do lesson plans, but yes I so agree with the need to get a very good planner. As well as putting schedules for everything that you would like to accomplish.

  16. I invested in a really great planner that enabled me to add my lesson plans into it for the 2019-2020 year and I left it there in the classroom with all my belongings. I am sad I didn’t get to celebrate jazz appreciation month and national poetry month with them but next year, I definitely will if given the opportunity. Good idea to start planning your lesson plans for next year. I am still working on the ones for next week. SMH! I love your dedication.

    1. Marie

      Thank you, Stephanie! Believe it or not, I came to prefer doing lesson plans for the following week. I rarely get more than a few weeks ahead because I end up having to spend too much tweaking them when I don’t get the things done that I wanted to.

  17. Adrienne

    I am not a teacher but I can totally relate to having a great planner. I use my planner every day and it helps me keep events/birthdays organized and keeps me on track with my goals and to-do’s.

  18. Young Mommas Life

    I’ve always worked better having everything I have to get done written down. I love everything to be neat or it freaks me out. Your tips are great !

    1. Marie

      I have to agree, so much more gets done when I write it down. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  19. Joanne

    When you first begin, lesson planning can be another job in itself. I have been there and done that. Hope you are able to re-use your lessons plans for subsequent years with some updating here and there.

    1. Marie

      I eventually was able to reuse the lessons. It took a few years to get my bearings though! Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

  20. Melissa Quan

    I have never had to lesson plan but I love your advice for setting a time limit. I think that is applicable for many things we do in life

  21. Tessa

    These are really genius ideas! I love the thought of having a sort of format you can follow and fill out for each plan to help check the necessary boxes to get it done. It’s great you’re already thinking and planning for next year, your students are so lucky to have you!

  22. This is great advice. I am definitely guilty of falling into the black hole of spending FAR more time than I should be spending when I don’t set a time limit. When I started to teach my class, lesson planning was easily one of the hardest skills that I had to develop. It was something new and different, a challenge that I needed to work through. While I’m getting better at it now, there are times that it is still testing my skills. I think you continue to learn, grow and develop. Thanks for the tips!

    1. Marie

      For the first few years, I got so sucked in! But then, don’t we all?!?!

  23. very helpful for teachers. can optimize work and help get things done a lot easier and faster. 🙂 thank you for sharing!

  24. Chantal Gray

    These are really good tips of planning lessons for teachers. I agree with a good planner. The planner and to-do list helps to stay focus on the task each day. Excellent tips🤗

    1. Marie

      Thank you, Chantal! ♥

  25. Agnes Dela Cruz

    Thanks for the tips and advise. Something to review and apply it to blogging too.

  26. Nyxinked

    I’m defo sending this through to my sister. She could use some help lesson planning. I think how long it actually takes and how long people think it takes are two very different things. Some people assume teachers don’t do very much in the way of planning when in fact its the opposite.

    1. Marie

      It is so easy to get sucked into planning the “perfect” lesson. I used to get so sucked in!

  27. Kristyn

    I am not a teacher, but I imagine this would be quite stressful. With there being so many different requirements these days, it must make it quite complex.

  28. Lyosha Varezhkina

    I didn’t plan lessons for ages (I used to be sport trainer before) but it always took tons of time, I even made jokes of needing more time to plan lesson than to actually execute it. It is pertly right for sports, the key is to reuse elements

    1. Marie

      Haha, I can sympathize with feeling like you need more time for planning than for teaching! You are right about the key being to reuse elements. Every year got easier because of that.

  29. World In Eyes

    an amazing post…. Thanks for sharing it….. these tips are much beneficial for every teacher…..

    1. Marie

      Thank you, Teerath!

  30. Caitlin Jecklin

    You have such great knowledge. We haven’t tried to lesson plan before – but so many teachers and parents would find this incredibly useful.

    1. Marie

      Thank you, Caitlin!

  31. Peachy A.

    I don’t know much about lesson planning but I know that it takes a lot of time and effort. Great job to all the teachers out there.

  32. the one part i hated about teaching — lesson planning. but i do like your idea of setting the timer and forcing yourself to get it done in that window of time.

    1. Marie

      I still sometimes have a love/hate relationship with it!

  33. Heather

    I have a number of friends who are teachers and they are always talking about their lesson planning. I can’t imagine that it’s easy, especially now with virtual learning.

    1. Marie

      You are right, Heather. Virtual learning definitely makes life and lesson planning more complicated. Thank you for your thoughts!

  34. My husband, sister and sister in law are all teachers. You guys work your butts off! Thanks for sharing about lesson plans and providing advice for those who need it as well as awareness for everyone else. You rock! Teachers deserve tons more appreciation!

    1. Marie

      Thank you, Sara! And thanks to all of your family members that are teachers!

  35. Kathleen Cregg

    Planning out a regular week is tough, I can’t imagine planning as a teacher! Some great tools here for teachers and just us regular folk too!

    1. Marie

      Very true, Kathleen!

  36. Wonderful ideas! There’s really so much other things to do but it’s so easy to spend hours on just one thing

  37. Chei

    This is an awesome advice. My friends are teachers so i am gonna share this to them.

    1. Marie

      Thank you, Chei!

  38. Bright snow Loveland

    This sounds like it could get a little tricky, you’re so helpful! Thanks for sharing this with all of us!

  39. Ann

    Lesson planning sure is a timeconsuming duty, so I am happy to hear that you have found a way that works for you 🙂

  40. Lyanna Soria

    I haven’t tried lesson planning but I really think they help a lot. Thanks for the tips and for sharing!

  41. Colleen

    I am so glad I found this! We’ve opted for homeschooling this year, and I’ve already been feeling overwhelmed with my lesson planning.

    1. Marie

      I was overwhelmed for the first few years, and later learned that it takes teachers, homeschool, public, and private, an average of three years to finally get their sea legs. Let me know if I can help you with anything!

  42. Brianne

    I have gotten so much out of your posts these past few months since I found your site. We’re doing homeschooling this year, and I don’t know where I’d be without these!

    1. Marie

      I am so glad it has helped, Brianne! I still help lots of teachers and moms. If you ever have any questions or thoughts, I would love to hear and help out!

  43. Ben

    I love how in-depth you go in your posts. My kids are all out of the house at this point, but if they weren’t I’d be here for everything. You’re really knowledgeable, and you REALLY make it easy to digest.

    1. Marie

      Thank you, Ben!

  44. TheHappyMommie

    I use to be a Montessori teacher almost a decade ago, this bought back so many memories of making lesson plans and teaching young learners! Lovely post

    1. Marie

      Thank you! I love Montessori and used many of its points in my teaching experience.

  45. tweenselmom

    Planning a lesson seems like it could be stressful at some point, so I’m thankful that you shared these tips with us. Thank you for sharing these with us!

  46. Alexis

    These are amazing lesson planning tips. With school starting, all of us teachers need all the help we can get.

  47. blair villanueva

    Teaching is not an easy job and I admire many teachers’ dedication to this career. Thank you for showing us how you prepare your lesson plan. Now as easy as I thought.

  48. Hannah

    I’ve been thinking of tutoring more and more often and your posts is very helpful for someone like myself who doesn’t even know where to start!

  49. Jackline A

    I knew that lesson planning was a lot of work but I had no idea how much work went into the process. thank you for sharing.

  50. katrina Kroeplin

    i found that when i first started it took the longest and then as time went on it got easier and didn’t take as long.

  51. Minakshi Bajpai

    This Article is really good. looks like fun place .Bruges looks beautiful. thank.

  52. jessa bonelli

    i’m sure Every step you took in planning led to ease of implementation!

  53. Lupe

    Is this for a week long lesson plan? A month long unit? This doesn’t say how long a lesson plan your prepping or for how many classes or how many students.

    Can you provide some of that data please?

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