Lesson Planning – The Art of Organization

Lesson planning can be an art form, if done properly. For too many teachers, lesson planning can be the black hole of a week – taking several hours out of planning time. Or leaving no planning time, so the lessons, teacher editions, materials, etc. are toted home to be done in front of Thursday night primetime television. For seasoned teachers, the lessons may not take as long, but they are stale. These lessons need some serious updating. For all teachers, new and veteran, I encourage a plan of action to envision interesting lessons that benefit the students, but are not time consumers to create.

Make sure to start each plan with the same lesson plan template. Many free templates can be found online. Purchasing a lesson plan book is also an option. Or creating your own template in a word processing program could also be done. Whichever way you decide, make sure to stick to that template each and every time to create a few shortcuts each week. After deciding upon the template, make sure you have all the necessary teacher editions, materials, and resources in one spot to create the plans. If you are constantly moving from location to location to pick up and return materials and books, you are wasting valuable work time.

When you are ready to begin planning, use a master calendar to input any major events or changes to the schedule for that week, such as student birthday celebrations or assemblies. Next, add in the specials schedule. After that, place all weekly recurring events into your plans. This could be lunch (everyday), silent reading time, weekly assessments, daily read alouds, morning work, etcetera. Now, when you look at your plans, you should have only chunks to fill in. Immediately, you have created only pieces in which to fill in, and you have only been working for ten minutes!

Finally, the last step in your planning is to quickly review materials, websites, resources, and old lessons from each chapter or section of the subject area you will be covering that week. From there, you should have a pretty good idea of how to cover the material. You may need to review your basal and look for new ideas that have not been tried yet. Or, you may look for a new interactive whiteboard lesson that is already created for the concept you will be teaching. Attempt to position in at least one new idea from previous years’ lessons for a little variety for yourself and for the students. Each subject area should only take 10 minutes or so to create if you are quickly staying on task, and not getting bogged down in scouring every website on the internet. In total, your plans should take no longer than 30-45 minutes to complete. If you are spending more time than that, you are not using time effectively, or are not keeping good files of materials previously used. If the lessons are taking considerably less time, maybe they need to be a little more creative or interactive. You want to be excited to teach them!

Lesson planning should not be a chore that is dreaded each week, but rather an exciting opportunity to create lessons that involve students. It should instill a love for learning and teaching for all involved. Have fun and get planning!

Write A Book – Be An Expert

“Write a book and get recognized as an expert.” How many times have you heard that? Hundreds? Thousands? It is a fact that people acknowledge you as the expert when you have put your knowledge in print. It could be a book, a column, a booklet or a white paper that has been published. If people find what you wrote helpful to them, you become an expert!

The good news is you can write about anything and become an expert. It doesn’t necessarily need to be something you know right now. Yet, I do encourage my writers to write about what they know as it is the easiest way to write your first book. It is important to write about what you know if you are promoting your business and want your clients to recognize you as an expert in your business.

Yet, I have learned from my clients that you can write about what you don’t know and be highly successful at it. Here are some tips to get any writer started writing about what he or she doesn’t know.

1. Have a passionate idea. Some of my clients wanted to do something different: Write a Zen book, a comic book, and produce a positive, motivational rap music CD. These passionate ideas had a thread of relationship to their business, yet they were obsessed with creating these projects. And that is the key: You have to want it so bad that it becomes an obsession. You think about it day and night and you know you will not rest until you do it.

2. Research your idea. Get some basic ideas and resource information by doing research. For many writers this is not fun: Then get a college student to do it for you. Tell the student what information you need to get started. For example, the comic book author would want to see if anything like an educational comic book for adults has been done before in the same topic she has chosen. She will want to check out comic book publishers and their criteria. Also, find some articles on comic book publications and “how to” articles. You can use the Internet, the library, and even the bookstore to get the information you need.

3. Find and ask the experts to help you. “Flattery will get you anywhere,” the saying goes. Experts love to hear that their ideas are helpful. They are willing to help you if you ask. For example, the author who wanted to create a comic book knew nothing about how to do that. She met someone who was a graphic designer. She told him about her dream to create her comic book. The designer was excited about it and showed her his drawings. Collaboration was born to create a comic book. Just keep on asking people who you know that can help you with your idea. The Law of Attraction will take over and in no time you will have the right person to help you write your book. Other ways are to visit networking groups or visit organizations that are related to your topic.

4. Go to seminars or take classes. There are many great writing seminars and classes available to learn more about your subject. We even have Internet online classes and teleseminars we can take without even leaving our house. Learning in an environment with other students is a valuable opportunity to make new like-minded friends. So don’t be a wallflower and keep to yourself. Share your ideas and be actively involved in the class so people will get to know you. Class participants could give you some great ideas for your book, especially if you are writing on a new topic and gathering information for your book.

5. Be an eagle-eye observer. Pay attention to what is going on around you. Read everything with an eagle eye. What are the latest, hottest topics? Do they fit your criteria? Is it something you might want to write about? Start watching TV differently–instead of just for entertainment watch special shows that give you information and news that might perk your interest in writing a book. My rap music CD client wanted to produce a positive rap CD to reach young adults. She began observing Gospel rap musicians and listening to music that had a positive influence. Observe other people’s point of view. Keep your eyes open and watch people in their daily lives.

So by following these five simple steps–passionate idea, research, ask the experts, take classes, and be an eagle eye observer–you can write about what you don’t know. Remember you must be passionate about what you want to write, set up a writing plan, follow the plan, take action and write every day. In no time you will have written your book that makes you the expert.

Copyright 2007, Joan Clout-Kruse. All rights reserved.

Education Plans

The third biggest financial goal for a family is saving for a college education. Buying a house and retirement are the first two goals. With the cost of higher education on the rise, parents are beginning to try and set aside money for education as soon as a child is born. There are two popular federal and state sponsored plans that make saving for college easy: the Coverdell and the 529 plan.

The Coverdell Education Savings Account

The Coverdell is a federally sponsored plan that helps you to set aside money for higher education expenses. These expenses include tuition, fees, books and supplies, and even room and board.

The annual contributions are not tax deductible, making the withdrawals tax-free as long as they are used to pay for eligible education costs. There are limits to the amount of annual contributions that can be made each year.

The Coverdell is established as a custodial account, set up by the parent or another adult to pay for the education expenses of a designated beneficiary. The child must be under the age of 18 to establish an account. All balances must be spent within 30 days of the child’s 30th birthday.

Any financial institution that handles IRAs can assist you in setting up a Coverdell, including banks, investment companies and brokerages. The Coverdell is like an IRA in that it is an account. You can put your account funds into any investment you want – stocks, bonds, mutual funds and certificates of deposit are just a few options.

You can establish as many Coverdell accounts as you want to for a child. For example, you could have one account at your local bank and one at a brokerage. Some plans have many fees associated with them. Make sure that the management fees for the multiple accounts don’t cancel out your overall return.

If your child decides not to go to college, he or she will lose a great deal of money. When he turns 30, he must withdraw the balance of the account within 30 days. Any money withdrawn that isn’t used for educationally eligible expenses is taxed and charged a 10 % IRS penalty.

If your child decides not to go to college, that doesn’t mean that his or her child won’t. The child can roll the full balance into another Coverdell plan for another family member, including siblings, nieces and nephews and sons and daughters.

529 College Savings Plans

These state sponsored 529 plans are named after the federal tax code section that provides for their use. All 50 states and the District of Columbia offer 529 plans. The contributions to the plan are not tax deductible, but your withdrawals are tax-free when you use the money for a qualified educational expense.

529 plans fall under two categories: prepaid tuition and savings/investment plans.

The prepaid tuition plan allows you to purchase units of tuition for any state college or university under today’s price. You are buying a semester of attendance for a child. What you buy today will be good for any future date, no matter how tuition rates rise. With private and out-of-state colleges, the child’s prepaid tuition does not include the rise in tuition costs. For example, if you buy two years of college tuition for an out-of-state tuition, you may only receive a single semester in ten years.

Either the beneficiary or the contributor must reside in the state that the 529 is formed in.

With savings plans, an account is opened and investments are chosen within the account. If you start the plan when a child is young, you can choose some aggressive investments for long term growth. As the child ages, you can move your investments into more conservative options.

The withdrawals are tax-free if they are used to pay for college expenses. These expenses can include tuition, books and room and board. An easy way to think about a 529 savings plan is as a 401(k) dedicated to educational expenses. As with a 401(k), there are many different investment choices. Many states programs are open to nonresidents, so look around for the best plans.

If your child decides not to go to college you have three options. You can hang on to the savings plan in case your child decides to attend college at a later date. The account can be transferred to another family member for college expenses. You could also cash out the account and just take the loss. Most states will charge a penalty of 10% of the earnings for any withdrawal not used for education. On top of this, a federal penalty of 10% will be charged also. There is no penalty for withdrawals due to death or disabled status.

The tax-free advantages of a college savings plan makes 529 plans beneficial, but they aren’t right for everyone. If you have a 529 prepaid tuition plan, applying for financial aid is affected by reducing your financial aid on a dollar per dollar basis. Low income families, who are often eligible for large amounts of financial aid, are advised not to participate in 529 plans.

Coverdell plans will also decrease the amount of financial aid available, but only by about 5 to 6% of the account’s value. College savings plans are great for families that will not qualify for financial aid or only qualify for loans. Many times a family doesn’t have enough money to pay for college, but has too much money to get help.

The tax-free status on 529 plans will end in 2010, but many advisors expect that Congress will extend it.