How to write a lesson plan: everything teachers need to know

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What is a lesson plan?

When you think of teaching, what springs to your mind is most likely the image of a teacher in front of a class, but what goes on behind the scenes is just as much part of the job.

Planning lessons is one of the most essential parts of teaching. A lesson plan is created by the teacher in advance and details the activities the class will engage in and the things that they will learn. This is commonly described as a ‘learning trajectory’.

A typical lesson plan generally includes things like:

  • The title of the lesson
  • The time required to complete all of the scheduled activities
  • The materials required for the lesson
  • A list of objectives. These may include:
    • Knowledge objectives (what the pupils learn in the lesson)
    • Behavioural objectives (what the pupils do in the lesson)
  • The set, or means by which you introduce the topic
  • An instructional section describing the sequence of events in the lesson
  • Independent practice, where students work on what they have learned by themselves
  • The summary, in which the you conclude the discussion
  • A risk assessment
  • An analysis in which you reflect on the lesson and see what could be improved
  • A continuity section in which you review the lesson content from the previous class

How to write a lesson plan: alternate lesson plan models

Many educational writers and theorists have proposed alternative ideas about how to write a lesson plan and the best way to prepare for your classes.

The German theorist Johann Friedrich Herbart was among the first developers of teaching methodology and arguably the first to define a framework for lesson planning.

His six-stage learning trajectory includes:

  1. Preparation/instruction
  2. Presentation/development
  3. Association comparison
  4. Generalising
  5. Application
  6. Recapitulation

Contemporary author Gini Cunningham, expanding on the Herbartian model, describes eight lesson plan phases:

  1. Introduction
  2. Foundation
  3. Brain activation
  4. Body of new information
  5. Clarification
  6. Practice and review
  7. Independent practice
  8. Closure

How to tailor your lesson plans to suit you

If you teach in a state school, the curriculum you are following will dictate much of the subject matter of what you are teaching. The ideal lesson plan will also take into account the needs of the students and reflect educational best practices.

A lesson plan does not have to be written down and brought to the class; as you can memorise many components of the plan before the lesson.

If that is how you work best, by all means use your memory, but ensure that you also keep notes of how well the lesson was received and any tweaks you would make to the original plan.

It may also be helpful for you to write down any behaviour management strategies that you are currently employing with your pupils, to keep them fresh in your mind.

After the lesson, consider if there was anything that didn’t work, or didn’t happen quite as planned, then note it down. Although it can be disheartening when a lesson doesn’t go down quite as well as you hoped, including it and what you can do to improve in the lesson plan is enormously helpful.

This is due to the fact that amending a less successful lesson serves both to positively reframe the incident in your mind and to give you the opportunity to learn from your mistakes. It’s a brilliant way to improve that lesson for next time.

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