Amazing Resources for Last-Minute Lessons, May 8, 2017


Some days you just didn’t get to plan the quality lesson which you usally take time to carefully and intentionally plan. Usually you develop a lesson aligned to the standards and include all of the necessary frontloading you need. You have your resources ready, which were painstakingly researched and selected specifically to meet the needs of all your unique students. But then something happened.

Maybe your child was sick and you had to stay in Urgent Care all day. Maybe you had a migraine and couldn’t fathom doing anything other than lay in bed with the lights off and a cold washcloth on your head. Maybe you are planning a wedding and were just so swept up with cake-tasting that you didn’t have the time or energy to invest today. That’s okay. Temporary lapses in complete and extensive planning happen to everyone.

I wrote the following email today for suggestions to include in a substitute handbook for emergency lesson plans. But then I thought, this compilation of resources could help anyone who needs a standards-based lesson plan FAST for those days when we lack the time, motivation, or energy to lay out comprehensive lesson plans. Here is the entire email:

“Hello All,

All of my emergency sub lesson plans related to news and current events – there is always news! (Of course, subs should preview the daily content in advance if they can to ensure appropriateness.)

Students can use their phones to access — or teachers can project — a program such as CNN Student News (


They can also assign articles on the following sites:

These first two provide options to customize articles according to reading level:

Other sites to consider might be:


Any activities asking students to do the following meet the California Common Core English-Language Arts standards, and the literacy standards apply to all subjects. The following activities or questions can be used with current events or news article analysis (some might be more applicable to the Opinion/Editorial section):

RI1. Cite evidence

Example: What evidence does the author use to support the ideas in the article? How reliable is the evidence? How well does the evidence support the claim? What evidence did the author miss? What evidence is irrelevant?

RI2. Determine central idea

Example: What is the central idea of the text? How do you know? How would you evaluate the author’s organization? What could the author improve? What are some other topics that this idea could apply to?

RI6. Determine an author’s point of view

Who is the author? What do you know about the author? In which point of view is the author writing? Why? What biases does the author appear to have? What influence might the author’s demographics have on the article? What other points of view might the author consider?

RI8. Evaluate arguments and claims

What arguments does the author make? What claims does the author use? How are these claims supported? What evidence supports the claim and what evidence might need to be investigated further? Why? What are the counterclaims to the author’s claims? How does the author anticipate the counterclaims and how well does the author refute them? What side are you on? Why?


W1. Write arguments

Write a rebuttal to the article, create a chart with pros and cons, create your own argument on a different topic, change the point of view of the article

W2. Write informative/explanatory texts

Write your own article on the topic, explain why the article is important, think of related issues and write a cause-and-effect article, explain the history of the topic

W4. Produce clear and coherent writing

Write a summary, paragraph response, blog entry, letter to the author, social media post, meme

W6. Use technology to produce and publish writing

Create a news video on the topic, make a comic about the topic, report your own research in a screencast, create a Wikiproject on the topic, hold an online interview, publish a letter to the editor, write an article together on a shared Google Doc or Google Slides presentation, create a website or social media account to satirize the article


SL1. Participate in collaborative discussions

Debate the topic, have a panel discussion, interview experts in front of the class, think-pair-share, whip-around the class, four corners (strongly agree/agree/disagree/strongly disagree, class discussion, two sides of the class debate, Socratic seminar, Philosophical chairs

SL4. Present information and findings

Present a speech, research with a partner, find information on a related topic, research the origins of the topic, investigate how the topic has affected people in other places and times, publish a journal or blog with different perspectives from students on the topic, argue a related case in mock court

I hope that these suggestions are helpful.”

Just a little plug for our services: if you are having days like this more often than not, you might want to consider seeking additional support. You can contact an instructional coach to support you with your lesson planning, classroom management, assessments, instructional strategies, curriculum, and more. We are here to assist with instruction and learning.

Also, if you are having significant personal issues, our district offers support through an Employee Assistance Program. Please contact them if you are feeling overwhelmed, hopeless, overworked, depressed, worried about money or family problems, or just stuck.

(And, it might seem extreme, but just in case you are – or someone you know is – in crisis and considering suicide, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24/7. Life is complicated and sometimes overwhelming and you never know when you or someone else might need the help. I keep it in my phone and posted by the desk in my classroom just in case: 1-800-273-8255.)

Best wishes to you, no matter the reason why you need these lesson plans. If something is wrong, I hope that it resolves soon. If you are hurting, please seek help. Teaching can be stressful and cause despair at times, but your influence is positive and powerful. Stay strong! (Summer is almost here!)


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