Teacher House Cleaning: Determining What Lessons to Keep and Which to Toss

Clear out what is no longer useful in your classroom

Most veteran teachers have accumulated years of curriculum materials, books, and lesson plans. Old materials sit on shelves, in cupboards, or in “digital folders” just waiting to be used.


Is it time to clear out what is no longer useful?


I understand it’s difficult to toss what we’ve worked hard to create. If you’re in a quandary about whether to keep or toss, continue reading.


The lesson no longer works.

Often, when I’m performing music at a nursing home, certain songs don’t work. No one is singing along, foot tapping, or even smiling. The song does not work for the audience, so I start over with a different song. If it happens again with a different audience, I know the song doesn’t work.


It’s the same with lessons. Sometimes a lesson might not work, but it can be tweaked with new activities and/or simplified instructions. Other times, an activity doesn’t resonate with students no matter how much you tweak it. Toss it.


Going through the motions is blah. When you dislike a lesson, ask yourself why.

  • Are the students learning from the experience?  If they are learning and engaged, keep it.
  • You may be going through the motions because you’ve taught the lesson too many times.
  • Is it because you’re starting something new? If it’s new curriculum, keep it. It may be the case of too much new material too soon, which is always overwhelming.
  • If it’s a lesson that never quite works, but you forget how much it doesn’t work until you take it out each year, toss it.
  • If the information and resources are outdated, toss them. Do the same with books that contain obsolete information.
  • In-service lesson materials and anything else that you haven’t used in over five years, give them the old heave-ho!
  • If you have changed grade levels or subjects within the past five years and still have materials from the previous grade, keep what enhances your current grade level for centers, independent projects, etc.  

If someone shares a resource that works better than your own, let the new process in, add personal touches, and toss the old one. If it does not work for you, share it with someone else, or toss it.  


Never-ending lesson plans you strive to make better are a waste of time.  


Let go of perfection.


Again, if the students are engaged and learning, keep the activity, but toss trying to make it perfect. There’s too much else to do!


Do you believe less is more? For some teachers, keeping old lessons is essential. These “keepers” are fine saving that which might come in handy.   


And, that’s perfectly fine too.

Contact Information

Debra Lemieux

If Then Creativity



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