My Buddy ChatGPT: Ways Teachers Can Use ChatGPT For Lesson Planning

Ashley Valentine is an experienced high school English teacher passionate about innovative and diverse teaching practices that fuel learning, engagement, collaboration, and fun. Here, she shares her experiences of using ChatGPT to support her lesson planning.

Read on for ways ChatGPT can save teachers time, examples of prompts to ask ChatGPT, as well as advice and tips to get the most from generative AI.

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AI chatbot - ChatGPT for teachers

Guh-doop! Twenty years later, I can still hear the ghostly pings of AOL’s Instant Messenger (AIM). As a tween, when an open telephone line permitted it, I spent a lot of time instant messaging.  While I was usually chatting with my friends on AIM, I'd occasionally engage with SmarterChild, a chatbot developed by ActiveBuddy, Inc. Millennials will remember! SmarterChild and I could have rudimentary conversations that would occupy my time as I waited for the door-opening sound of my AOL “buddies” arriving. The chatbot was unlike anything I had ever experienced. Today, the new kid on the block, ChatGPT, is occupying my time as a collegial “buddy,” for certain.

Last autumn, there was a lot of buzz about ChatGPT, developed by OpenAI. According to OpenAI, ChatGPT “interacts in a conversational way. The dialogue format makes it possible for ChatGPT to answer follow-up questions, admit its mistakes, challenge incorrect premises, and reject inappropriate requests.”¹

Getting Started With ChatGPT ...

My penchant for technology led me to start testing ChatGPT’s skills immediately.  I started small: “Hello.” seemed like a polite and reasonable way to warm up. Pretty soon, I was rattling off prompts about everything: “Write 10 healthy recipes that are plant-based” or “Generate a list of top tourist destinations for the winter season.”  To be honest, my first thought was: “Hmm… pretty good” and of course, I was concerned about my students “finding out” and plundering the integrity of academia as I knew it. But, I was hooked almost instantly. In a follow-up session, I asked too many questions in one hour and ChatGPT told me to (please) return later. Oops. On another occasion, I was crestfallen when I couldn't log in because the server was overwhelmed. 

By late winter, my colleagues and I were already pondering how we could potentially use this tool to expedite the litany of tasks that are often required of teachers, especially as it relates to planning. Our discussions were fruitful— there were many tangents of future glory and doom, all fueled by great questions and insights. We agreed: it had potential.

Ways To Use ChatGPT and AI Tools for Instructional Planning

As an English teacher and instructional coach, I am intrigued by anything that will aid efficiency. So, I conducted a few experiments to discover the best ways to use AI tools and AI-generated content for planning and teaching lessons.

#1 - Lists for Research Papers

At the end of their unit on Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, my students complete a research paper about modern American whistleblowers and events of hysteria. Students choose from people and events on a list, conduct research, and compare or contrast their findings to what they've read in Miller’s play. One of my first requests for ChatGPT was to generate a list like the one that I had created. While my initial, human-created list was comprehensive, it had taken me so long to assemble, and here was the AI chatbot, assembling a near comparable equivalent in mere seconds. I was impressed.

#2 - Fill-in-the Blank Activities

As is typical of English classes, my students learn vocabulary. They review ten lists per year and each list contains twenty-five words. The lists have evolved over time. I've personally poured hours into list revision, learning tools (fill-the-blank-with-a-word-bank practice sentences, crossword puzzles, word searches, etc.), and assessments. It’s been exhausting.

I presented one list of words to ChatGPT and supplied the following prompt:

“Using this list of words, create one fill-in-the-blank sentence for each word. Be sure that each sentence has enough context to elucidate the meaning of the word that belongs in the blank.” Off it went!

The fill-in-the-blank sentence results provided an excellent starting point. Again, it turned an otherwise hours-long planning task into a concise, prep-period-friendly to-do item, a game changer.  The sentences weren't perfect, but I also recognized that I needed to spend more time crafting my prompts to be more precise so that I could get a better result. Still, I felt relieved by all the time I had saved and continued editing with relative elation.

A few “noticings”: When I presented ChatGPT with the list of twenty-five words and asked it to write the fill-in-the-blank sentences, the word list predicted the order of sentences. You might be thinking, ”Yes, of course, it did,” but remember that if you intend to create a fill-in-the-blank quiz or activity out of those sentences, your students will likely catch on (and quickly!) that the order of your word list aligns with the order of the sentences. Be sure to rearrange your sentences. As they say, “You live and you learn.”

#3 - Multiple Choice Questions

I’ve also used ChatGPT to create multiple-choice questions for passages that I previously didn’t have questions for. ChatGPT provided me with a solid starting point. I had to vet the questions for accuracy and rigor. I say “accuracy” because, at some points, ChatGPT had instances of miscomputation. Also, when I asked ChatGPT to share the answers to the multiple choice questions it had created, for each question it always listed the correct answer as option A.

#4 - Vocabulary Lists

The final way that I used ChatGPT brought me back to the idea of vocabulary lists, but instead of creating content for existing lists, I wanted to make an entirely new list and some coordinating instructional materials. I asked ChatGPT to generate a list of sophisticated vocabulary words for high school students. In minutes, I had a list with simple definitions, basic translated lists for students who speak languages other than English (Spanish and French), and a few sets of practice sentences. Minutes! With the time I saved, I even added the list to a deck of online flashcards for mobile review. Cool.

Thoughtful Approaches to Using ChatGPT and AI Tools

With ChatGPT and Artificial Intelligence in general, lesson development might be expedited and enhanced. Remember, it's not a catch-all. It’s not going to work (well) for “procrastinate, panic, and print” lesson planning. Ultimately, I’ve found the best use is when I combine with AI to generate and differentiate content. 

Schools can use the exploration of AI to guide learning and host pertinent discussions about academic integrity, responsible use, and the future of AI as it relates to education and the world. 

¹Introducing ChatGPT. (n.d.).

About the author

Ashley Valentine


About Ashley

Ashley is a high school English teacher and instructional coach. Ashley has been teaching in New York State as a proud public educator since 2010. She has a Bachelor of… Read more

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