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How to write a lesson plan. The thing most new teachers struggle with most. With these 7 strategies you should be able to cut down on planning time and increase the effectiveness of your lessons.
Who are you planning for? A good lesson plan will keep your lessons heading in the right direction and keep you feeling organised. However, the underlying point of a plan is to lead to effective and efficient teaching. This will lead to strong engagement and progress. Consider the needs of the students rather than making lesson planning a box ticking exercise.
In truth, like all parts of teaching, lesson planning is a skill that takes time to master, it is often thought of as something that needs mastering before you can progress to the next level but the reality is, it is only a small part of becoming an excellent educator. I promise you will get it but don’t beat yourself up too much for not getting it straight away.
I hope the following list of 7 strategies helps you. If you have anything you’d like to add, please add your comments to the box below.
1. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel.
Teachers are for the most part the most sharing people, I have not met a single teacher who wasn’t prepared to share their experience, knowledge or lesson plans. You simply cannot do it all alone.
If you have to plan a specific lesson, there will be someone out there, either in your school or the wider world that has planned it before. Ask someone in your department, look on Pinterest (yes…really! It is full of great teaching ideas!) or even buy resources from resources sharing websites like TpT or TES (although I would hold back on investing your money, it’s not sustainable and you don’t know what quality you are going to get).
I’m not saying you should just use someone else’s lessons but, taking inspiration and using parts or the lesson or resources is completely fine. You should adapt them to the students in your class though. Great teachers do this all the time, there simply isn’t enough time to completely write every lesson.
2. Keep in mind your workload.
You will inevitably, have other pressures arriving at your door, both school and personal life-based. Make sure you consider these when it comes to planning lessons. If you know you have an assignment for university or a family event coming up then plan your lessons with that in mind, steer clear of planning lessons that will take a large amount of time.
Similarly, if you are teaching a topic that requires more in-depth planning make sure other lessons you have to deliver don’t take up too much of your time (In this instance don’t set things that require lots of marking).
There are only 24 hours in a day and you have to sleep, eat and have a life….otherwise, what’s the point.
3. Focus on one thing at a time.
When you are training there are lots of strategies you need to master; behaviour management, assessment, differentiation etc etc etc. It’s unrealistic to try and conquer them all at once. Just try learning them one at a time. Use feedback from your mentors to work out which one is the most important and work on that one first. Don’t expect to master everything in your training year (or your first couple of years), it is a marathon, not a sprint.
4. What is the goal of the lesson?
When it comes to planning a lesson, first you need to know where your students are. What do they know already know and where do you want them to get to?
What is the point of the lesson? What do you want the students to achieve by the end of the lesson? A clear objective is important, once you know where the class is to end up, work on the journey they must take.
I used to draw a timeline of the lesson, noting each activity and the time it would take. Visually mapping out the lesson helped me to make sure I had given all students the opportunity to make the required progress by the end of the lesson.
5. Differentiating outcomes.
An easy way to start differentiating your lessons is with differentiated outcomes. You have your objective sorted, now it’s time to provide different routes to get there depending on student ability. Use Bloom’s taxonomy to create outcomes of increasing complexity
6. Get students to do the work.
Cut down on the amount you have to do in a lesson (and therefore in most cases, plan). Plan activities where you give instructions and the students carry out independently. This gives you the opportunity to circulate, check understanding of more students and challenge misconceptions. You can differentiate with scaffolded worksheets. Start with a worksheet that is accessible to lowest ability student and then remove/adapt elements to make it suitable for students of increasing ability.
7. Don’t be afraid to go with the flow.
After suggesting to you earlier to make a timeline of your lesson, I’m now going to tell you NOT to stick to your plan.
At least not so strictly that your lesson suffers. Responsive teaching is the best way to ensure progress in students. Sometimes things happen in lessons that are completely beyond your control (computer not working, a dog runs into the playground or it starts raining) or someone asks a question that takes the lesson of on a tangent, don’t be afraid to go with it, the best lessons are like an adventure.
If you feel your lesson is not working, it’s ok to stop and adapt on the spot; this is great teaching. Mentors and university tutors will see this as you starting to master the classroom.
In summary, lesson planning is hard but it like everything in life, if you practice and self-reflect on how your lessons work, you will get better.
Oh, and don’t be afraid to ask for help. I still do if I’m struggling to work out the best way to deliver a particular lesson. The lone wolf will struggle but the pack will succeed!
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