Lesson plans are like a map for your classroom. You might make it to your destination without the map, but having it there in the glovebox, just in case, sure makes for a more efficient travel plan.
I try to always plan a week ahead, with a general sketch for the unit we are working on. The general sketch might be as vague as I know the next unit we are working on is about Antarctica. I know I want them to be able to map the major landforms, know where the research stations are located, so probably we will do some map activity. I also want them to look at the impact of global warming on that region and how reseach done there impacts our knowledge of global warming in general. They would love to research some stuff about the penguin population, so I think I saw a National Geographic something online about that.
The 'sketch' is nothing more than a general overall idea of the 'stuff' I want to accomplish. Then, I turn that into weekly lesson plans, with an ending assessment always in mind for the activities we are going to complete.
My weekly lesson plans, I work from a copy of a small poster from a Marzano training I attended called "Which of there Classroom Instruction That Works Strategies have you used today?" This simple poster just helps me think through some activities we can use to reach our learning goals - things like summarizing and note-taking, non-linguistic representation, advance organizers, etc... Using this helps me remember to create a variety of learning opportunities to meet the needs of all types of learners, as well as help my students learn to be independent thinkers and learners.
Each weekend, I sit down and structure my week, based on those "strategies", penciling in each day's plan. Often, this changes as the week progresses, students work slower or faster than I anticipated, but I have a good idea of where we are headed overall. I make copies for the week, make teacher keys for anything needed just in case I have to be gone, or just to make it easier for me than searching at the last minute.
With each day's lesson, I try to keep in mind what the final assessment will look like - are we taking a paper/pencil test? Are students designing some project in groups or independently to demonstrate their knowledge? Are we working towards student presentations? With each activity, I purposefully explain how what we are doing will help them achieve their final goal of success on that final assessment - whether it is taking notes/creating a graphic organizer for that final test, or how they might use this information in their presentation, or what parts of today's Venn diagram might help them structure a paragraph in their essay they are writing.
Showing them how all the activities fit together teaches them the process of learning, and helps them realize that everything we do has a purpose, not just a busywork assignment for the day. It holds me accountable in my planning and teaching, as well as holds them accountable in their learning and eventually demonstrating that knowledge.
And... most importantly of ALL. HAVE A PLAN B every day. You never know when the network will fail, when half the class will be gone with some strange virus, or when you will just need something less intense than a large scale group discussion. What you did yesterday may have bombed, and you may need to reteach or reapproach that particular part of the unit. Having built-in Plan B's only makes your life easier!