The Joy of Planning by Franki Sibberson Reviewed by Donalyn Miller

Big books don’t intimidate me. Epic fantasy tomes, doorstop-weight textbooks, fat dictionaries—there is something about reading a hefty book that fills me with accomplishment. Years spent studying reading research built up my stamina for dense books full of educational theory, too. This time of year, however, when teaching demands most of my mental energy, I admit to doing what my students often do—selecting shorter books over long ones. When research-laden professional development books arrive in the mail during October, they stack up on my office floor collecting dust until a holiday break. Exploring the latest thinking about teaching reading matters to me, but it’s hard to find the motivation for reading such books when I would rather grab 30 more minutes of sleep after a hectic week.

When Franki Sibberson’s new book, The Joy of Planning: Designing Minilesson Cycles in Grades 3-6 appeared in my mailbox, I confess that the first thing I noticed was how short it is. Just 90 pages long, it’s the perfect-sized book for overwhelmed teachers who want new ideas, but have little time. Knowing Franki’s work like I do, she always gives me practical, smart ideas. While unread books pile up around my house—judging me for not reading them—Franki’s book offers stress-free, accessible learning. Flipping through Franki’s book, gave me hope. Ah, yes. There is good stuff in here.

Beginning with an overview of what minilessons should offer, Franki invites teachers to fall back in love with lesson planning. Reminding us that, “…the planning process always involves combining what we know about the curriculum with what we know about our students,” she presents a concise, thoughtful process for planning meaningful lesson cycles. Through reflective questions that probe what we know about students’ abilities and examine our learning goals, Franki provides a path connecting standards and students.

Like all good teachers, Franki unpacks her thinking for us. From analyzing character traits to examining text features, each lesson idea follows a sequence listing possible texts, ideas for teaching the lesson, guiding questions to ask students, and tips for following up the lesson with deeper reading and discussion. Supporting both new teachers who need a scaffold for how to plan good lessons, and experienced teachers looking for fresh thinking, Franki’s new book shows a common sense, manageable approach to planning while allowing teachers to develop their own lessons instead of following a rigid script.

The best books appear in our lives when we didn’t know we needed them. Thank you, Franki. The Joy of Planning is just what I needed. It’s what we all needed.

Check out yesterday’s Nerdy Book Club post for Franki’s thoughts about knowing our readers.

Katherine Sokolowski interviews Franki about her new book and her thoughts about lesson planning.

Franki Sibberson and Mary Lee Hahn write one of my favorite blogs about book and reading. Visit A Year of Reading for continual learning and inspiration.

Franki Sibberson regularly contributes to Choice Literacy, an outstanding resource for literacy professionals. Sign up for the weekly newsletter, The Big Fresh, and receive the latest resources and smart thinking about literacy instruction from leaders in the field.

In the comments, please share a favorite children’s book, short story, poem, or informational text that you use or recommend for minilessons, and I will select one lucky winner to receive a copy of Franki Sibberson’s The Joy of Planning: Designing Minilesson Cycles in Grades 3-6.

Donalyn Miller is a fourth grade teacher at Peterson Elementary in Fort Worth, TX. She is the author of The Book Whisperer: Awakening the Inner Reader in Every Child. Donalyn co-hosts the monthly Twitter chat, #titletalk (with Nerdy co-founder, Colby Sharp), and facilitates the Twitter reading initiative, #bookaday.