Why Lesson Plan?
The overarching goal of lesson planning is to make learning more impactful for students.
Building a plan is a process that’s equally creative and critical, as teachers incorporate a wide range of strategies to engage students, assess progress and support learning and understanding, all while thinking about the students on the receiving end. It’s a time when teachers envision all the pieces of the puzzle and analyze how they’ll fit together into an effective learning experience.
Planning lessons ahead of time means teachers enter the classroom each day fully prepared to teach new concepts and lead meaningful discussions – instead of figuring things out as they go. Without a lesson plan, students can quickly lose focus and teachers may be left scrambling, thinking of what to do next.
Having a daily structure in place helps teachers:
Approach each lesson with confidence: The planning process gives teachers a chance to check their own knowledge of the concepts being taught and ensures they’ve gathered all the materials they need to teach those concepts ahead of time, so they can more effectively pass that learning on to their students. That, in turn, helps inspire more respect and engagement from the learners throughout the lesson.
Manage classroom time more effectively: How will the lesson flow from the moment students sit down at their desks until the bell rings at the end? Lesson planning helps teachers break down each lesson into a defined flow with specific classroom activities – and gives them a schedule they can stick to. Well-managed classroom time aids in the pace of learning as well, meaning important parts of the lesson aren’t crammed in as time runs out (or cut altogether), and that students are kept engaged evenly through the class.
Align learning with standards: While each lesson should have an objective of its own, it also fits into a much larger landscape of national, state or school standards that dictate what students need to learn in each grade level and subject. When a lesson plan includes those standards, teachers can make sure students stay on track with expected milestones, while making it easier to look back and measure progress. At the end of the year, they should be able to see how all the lessons add up to meet those standards.
Bring substitute teachers up-to-speed: A detailed and well-organized lesson plan is a perfect way to make sure a substitute teacher knows what he or she needs to cover during class. It creates a consistency of learning for students, as their progress isn’t interrupted. It helps the substitute lead a class they may not be familiar with. Plus, it gives the regular teacher confidence knowing that class time is being used effectively – and that he or she won’t need to repeat the lesson later.
Plan – and perfect – into the future: Daily lesson planning is demanding. It requires a repeated upfront investment of time and effort. Even after the lesson, teachers should gather feedback and practice self-reflection to identify things they can improve for next time. However, once a teacher creates a plan, they have a solid foundation upon which they can create future lessons – for their current class and the next – with only minor iterations needed.
Document their own progress: Lesson plans provide a full and ongoing picture of all the learning that’s occurring in a classroom, as well as a quick reference of learning that has happened in the past, making them a perfect resource for teachers to share with administrators and supervisors who need a front-line view of classroom progress. They can even help measure teachers’ professional performance and even become portfolio pieces when looking for teaching jobs.
Keep learning consistent: When lesson structure varies wildly from day-to-day, keeping up with learning can become a challenge. A set structure with phases that can be used across every lesson helps form good habits around how class time will be used, while signaling to students what they can expect each time they walk through those classroom doors. It also makes lesson planning a little simpler, as teachers don’t need to reinvent the wheel each time they create one.
What makes a lesson plan effective?
Creating an effective lesson plan is much more than filling in a template. If a lesson is going to achieve all the benefits mentioned above, teachers need to consider its structure, the goals they set for themselves and their class, the way they deliver the material and much more.
That’s why, during the planning process, we recommend incorporating these eight strategies to make learning more successful.
1. Always plan with students in mind
Think about what learning looks like from the other side of the classroom. What might students think, feel and question? Are there points where they’re likely to get confused? Is the amount of new material overwhelming? Is learning interesting and relevant to their everyday lives? Putting themselves in their students’ shoes helps teachers make each lesson more engaging – and helps the information stick.
2. Keep the same overall structure every time
While the material and delivery will change with each lesson, the broader flow – from recap of previous knowledge to introduction of new concepts to reinforcement and conclusion – should remain the same. Consistency helps students know what to expect and build good classroom habits while making the planning process more efficient (and less time-consuming) for teachers.
3. Set SMART objectives for each lesson
What should students know or be able to do at the end of each lesson? Having a goal in mind means teachers have a yardstick against which they can measure student learning, and helps teachers work backward in creating the class’ learning activities. But those objectives need to be SMART ones – meaning they’re specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based.
4. Plan a variety of classroom activities
It’s not enough to stand at the front of the classroom every day and deliver a lecture. Students learn best when they’re actively engaged with the content, meaning teachers need to plan variety into their lessons. Whether it’s a group activity, film, presentation, quiz, independent reading assignment, class discussion, journal entry, or hands-on experiment, keeping things fresh and interactive takes a lesson from bad to great.
5. Leave room for discussion
A lesson should never be a one-way flow of information from teacher to student. The best lessons leave room for an open-ended discussion about each day’s learning – before each lesson, teachers can even prepare questions ahead of time to probe student thinking. The same goes for questions your students have, as well. Setting time aside in-class to answer fuels dialogue and gives teachers an extra opportunity to check for understanding.
6. Gather (and listen to) feedback
What did students think of that last learning activity? Do they feel like they understand that core concept? Is there a particular place where students seem to repeatedly get stuck? What could be done better next time? Teachers who use their own self-reflection, student feedback and peer guidance are in a better position to respond to their class’ needs in the lessons to follow.
7. Keep an even pace
A good plan considers how much time the class needs to spend on each learning activity, and how those activities are spread out. Front-load the class with too much information, and students might not have enough time to absorb the material. Move too slowly through the plan, and the last part of class will be rushed. If the pace is too slow, students may lose attention. It’s a balancing act that requires careful thought to flow and pace.
8. Leave room for flexibility
Even the most carefully planned lessons can go awry under unforeseen circumstances. Maybe students didn’t grasp a concept in the time allotted, or a class discussion ran longer than expected. Having some wiggle room built into each lesson helps keep things on track. Prioritizing learning objectives, concepts, activities or skills also helps teachers figure out what they can skip for today and revisit later if they need to make adjustments on the fly.
Chapter TwoWhat Makes a Great Lesson Plan?