If you’re like me, you want to make school a memorable experience. You want to improve on the “eat your vegetables” approach to learning.
“But I’m not a creative person.”
“But I’m not good at coming up with new ideas.”
“But I’m not innovative.”
Coming up with cool ideas for learning is tricky. Sometimes, they hit you like a bolt of lightning. Sometimes, your lack of ideas feels like a months-long drought and you think it’ll never rain again.
What you need is a jump-start.
You know, a spark to get your motor running when you’re all out of lesson planning energy.
Read this list of tips and ideas for sparking creative lessons (and check out the video at the end of this post). You can try some of the suggestions — or some new ones you come up with while reading! — and get going.
None of these ideas is guaranteed to generate creative lesson ideas. But they are likely to get you started!
Good luck! And remember … you don’t have to be perfect. You just have to get started.
- Do NOT sit at your desk, empty lesson plan book in front of you, trying to conjure new ideas.
- Think about your favorite moments from school as a child.
- Think about your favorite moments OUTSIDE of school as a child.
- Look through your yearbooks — as a student and as a teacher.
- Take a walk — or go for a run. (Exercise is known to improve brain function.)
- Ask a student about a fun app on her phone and what she likes about it.
- Ask a student about the book he read recently that he loves — and ask for all the spoilers.
- Ask students about their favorite YouTube channels and what they do in the videos.
- Ask students about their favorite board games and what rules/twists make them interesting.
- Ask students what they do at home that’s super, super fun.
- Ask students what changes they’d like to see at school — and in the world.
- Ask students what they want to do when they grow up.
- Look for the story in what you’re teaching — the conflict, the characters, the metaphor, the happy ending, etc.
- Look for the recipe in what you’re teaching — the ingredients, the steps, the tools, etc.
- Browse online/in-person t-shirt shops. (6 Dollar Shirts is a start. Warning: some adult themes!)
- Flip through your movie collection (if you still have DVDs or — gasp! — VCR tapes).
- Open up Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, etc., and look at movie descriptions.
- Open up the App Store / Play Store on your phone. Read the descriptions of the top rated games.
- Grab some sticky notes. Write the different parts of your concept/material on them. See if a new relationship/arrangement emerges.
- Plot locations from your lesson on Google MyMaps. See if their proximity to each other (or something else) sparks a new idea.
- Ask your students to do any of the previous two (sticky notes / MyMaps) and check out their observations.
- Scan the #tlap (Teach Like a Pirate) hashtag on Twitter. (You don’t even need a Twitter account.)
- Scan the #skype2learn hashtag on Twitter.
- Browse the SkypeInTheClassroom.com site for free virtual field trips, guest speakers and classes to connect with.
- Scan the #eduprotocols hashtag on Twitter.
- Scan the #ditchbook hashtag on Twitter.
- Stay away from #TeachersOfInstagram on Instagram. Lattes, cute outfits and funny teacher memes won’t help you write lesson plans. (But check it out later …)
- Spend 10 minutes of your prep period in another class like yours.
- Spend 10 minutes of your prep period in a class WAY different from yours.
- Spend 10 minutes of your prep period asking another teacher on prep what he/she is doing in class.
- Spend 10 minutes of your prep period asking another teacher for ideas on what you’re doing in class.
- Ask for help on Twitter. Post your lesson idea and ask for suggestions. (Use some of the hashtags above for more visibility.)
- Ask for help on Facebook — to your non-teaching friends. Post your lesson idea and ask for suggestions.
- Listen to what your students are talking about during passing period/at recess.
- Ask students later for more details about what you overheard.
- Listen to education podcasts. (There are a BUNCH at the Education Podcast Network.)
- Listen to non-education podcasts. (Check out iTunes/Google Podcasts to browse or search for your interests.)
- See what’s trending on Twitter. (Just log in to Twitter on a computer and click “Moments” at the top. Or click the search button on the mobile app.)
- Flip through old files in your file cabinet (if you still have one … I’ll bet you do).
- Make a list of students you remember from previous years. Your memories of them may spark ideas.
- Make a list of teachers you remember from your school. Your memories may spark ideas.
- Make a list of things you admire about your current students — and what gets them excited.
- Make a list of improvements your community needs. Find ways the standards and your students’ work could help them.
- Make a list of injustices in the world. Find ways the standards and your students’ work could help them.
- Make a list of every TV gameshow you can think of (past and present) for game dynamics and fun twists for lessons.
- Check out this list of attributes employers want to see on resumes. Use them to inspire lesson ideas.
- Check out the Revised Bloom’s Taxonomy. (Seriously. The way it classifies different types of learning can spark lots of new ideas.)
- Check out Webb’s Depth of Knowledge. (This image is, by admission, the notorious DOK wheel. Some people despise it, but I like having all of the words for generating new ideas.)
- Check out the Madeline Hunter lesson plan template. (Yes, that one. It, too, can generate new ideas!)
- Read through your academic standards.
- Read through the academic standards for another content area — or another grade level.
- Read through the ISTE standards for students.
- Read through the ISTE standards for educators.
- Read through the ISTE standards for computational thinking. (We can all promote computer science in small ways across the curriculum.)
- Check out the HyperDocs lesson planning template.
- Check out sample HyperDocs.
- Keep a notebook, a Google doc, a Google Keep note, etc., of teaching ideas whenever they come to you. (The best time to get creative ideas is when you don’t need them.)
- Dream about the perfect lesson, class, unit, classroom. Then turn those dreams into lesson ideas.
- Remind yourself why you got into teaching — and why you’re STILL teaching.
- Ask yourself what the world desperately needs — and include it in your next lesson.
Looking for even more ideas? I created this video called “10 Ways to Generate Great Lesson Ideas”. Check it out … it can help, too!
For notifications of new Ditch That Textbook content and helpful links:
- like Ditch That Textbook on Facebook
- follow @jmattmiller on Twitter
- check out the #DitchBook community on Twitter
- follow Ditch That Textbook on Pinterest
- subscribe to the Ditch That Textbook YouTube channel!
Interested in having Matt present at your event or school? Contact him by e-mail!
Matt is scheduled to present at the following upcoming events:
|Date||Event / Event Details||City / More Info|
04/28/2020||Montgomery County Intermediate Unit||Norristown, PA|
06/09/2020||North Alabama Technology Conference||Huntsville, AL|
06/10/2020||Blended Learning Conference||Sevierville, TN|
06/11/2020||Summer Digital Learn Conference||North Wilkesboro, NC|
06/12/2020—06/14/2020||DBC Pirate Con||San Diego, CA|
12/03/2020||Tennessee Educational Technology Association Conference||Murfreesboro, TN|