How to Write a Lesson Plan
A good lesson plan will break down the lesson into different stages, which will act as a guide for you to systematically work through. The process of writing a lesson plan should help you really focus in on what you want your students to learn, and how they will learn it. Such preparation is hugely beneficial as it provides structure for the lesson, allowing you to focus on teaching your pupils, keeping them engaged and willing to learn in the most effective way.
What makes a good lesson plan?
First and foremost it is important that you have a clear and deep understanding of the lesson’s content and context.
We believe that a good lesson plan should be split into five segments (OMCSA):
- 1. The Objectives and Outcomes
- 2. The Materials
- 3. The Content
- 4. The ‘Stickability’
- 5. The Assessment
Objectives: Firstly think about your objectives for the whole topic, and then for each individual lesson. What is your main objective as the teacher, what key elements are you trying to get your students to do and learn?
Once you understand the objectives of the lesson you can then begin to think about learning activities to ensure these objectives are met. At PlanBee, we write our intended outcomes as assessment questions, which we can then use to check students progress and understanding of the topic as you go.
Materials: What teaching materials and resources do you have at your disposal? What can you use, and how can you use them to benefit the learning experience for your students? Using different resources to ensure that the way learning is shared changes throughout the lesson is a great way of ensuring your students are fully engaged.
At PlanBee you may have come across our range of primary teaching resources as well as a great selection of free teaching resources.
Content: Using your lesson objectives and knowing what materials and teaching resources you have available to you, you can begin to plan your lesson’s content. Planning your lesson’s content is more to do with how you teach, rather than what you teach. Here’s where it’s good to annotate, highlight, change or scribble around the edges of your plan if need be – make sure that the information you need at your fingertips when teaching can be seen clearly.
Secure subject knowledge is key, so include any information that you want to be absolutely clear about when working with your students. Consistent use of language, particularly technical vocabulary will help your students make sense of new ideas and remember information, so find a place on your plan to include key words and phrases, even if you’re just scribbling them around the edge!
Find a place to include some key questions, too. Breaking up your input with philosophical questions, dilemmas or questions about your students’ points of view is a great way to shake things up and ensure everyone is really thinking about the learning.
Stickability: This part’s all about figuring out what the fundamental part of the lesson that you need your students to take away. What key skills, knowledge or understanding do you want your students to grasp?
In short, what should ‘stick’ with your students, and how can you help them retain the information they’ve learnt? Try asking students what stuck with them, and you might be surprised at some of the responses! Asking this is a great way of quickly assessing the learning for your lesson (and finding out what your students actually thought they were learning!), which leads us to…
Assessment: Finally you will want to know how effective your lessons have been, and whether or not you’ve met your teaching objectives stated at the beginning. Refer back to those learning outcomes – perhaps you could write assessment questions based on them (like we do!), or consider creating some ‘fun tests’ (surely an oxymoron?) to help you determine whether or not your lesson plans have been effective.
How to effectively plan and write a lesson plan
Ask your students questions before you start:
Before you start a new topic it could be worth asking your class a few simple questions to assess their knowledge and understanding of it before you begin planning your lessons.
This will help you to find out what they do and don’t already know, allowing you to decide how you structure your subsequent lessons. Take a survey, ask students to draw a mind map or write questions they have about a subject.
You can make these activities as fun as you like - just remember that you’re doing it to gain as much of an insight as possible into your student’s strengths and weaknesses with regard to the subject you’re about to teach.
Be clear about what you want your students to learn during the lessons:
Carefully think about the time you have got, the level of understanding the students already have in the topic, and how much you think they can learn within the timeframe. You want to push and challenge your students while also being mindful not to give them too much work to do or having to rush over a topic or part of the lesson because you are running out of time.
Think about what you want your students to take away with them at the end of the lesson; what knowledge is essential for them to grasp? Carefully consider the topic and pick out what is crucial for your students to understand.
Make a list of key points that cannot be left out:
What are the key points you’d like your students to take away from the lesson? Those key points are what you should concentrate on to ensure the lesson is a success and your students have retained the right level of information.
Put your key learning objectives in order of importance so that you know which ones need to be covered as a priority, and which ones could be looked at another time if you run out of time.
Begin with an activity that gets your students thinking, keeping them engaged:
Getting your students to work together via an interactive activity is a definitely good way to introduce a new topic. Interactive teaching is fantastic for engaging students, and particularly great for getting what they’re learning to stick, which brings us to…
Adding in elements of fun to break-up the lessons:
We think it is important to plan your lessons to be fun and engaging to keep your students motivated and keen to learn. Think about things that could evoke their interest; a fascinating fact, a story, a video or perhaps a game?
Different students respond better to certain types of learning; that’s why it is a good idea to come up with several different ways of explaining the topic so that you can cover all bases. This doesn’t need to be a chore! Everyone loves sharing their own ideas, or organising ideas in a way that makes sense for themselves. Include opportunities for students to debate, discuss, draw, mind map, use sticky notes to move ideas around in a physical space, draw flow charts, act out, write mnemonics – even sing or rap!
These ideas require little more than a few pens and paper or a bit of free space. You won’t have to spend time crafting bespoke resources, and you’ll be handing responsibility for the learning to your students – everyone wins!
Use real-life examples and stories:
Consider using real-life examples or stories that you could use to explain the topic. Ask questions that encourage students to empathise, or consider an idea from a personal perspective. Always be thinking about how to keep your students engaged, and what they might need to help them understand the topic better.
Assess the progress of your students:
Plan for, and include on your plan, assessment/mini-plenary questions throughout the lesson. These will tell you if your students are on track, and remind them what it is they are supposed to be learning.
The responses of your students will provide a very telling indication of whether or not they have retained what you have taught them.
One effective mini-plenary task is to ask students to summarise what they have learnt. This will give you another opportunity to ensure they have understood. Once you have concluded the lesson you can then follow on from this by giving them a preview of what the next lesson will be about, and how it relates, to help them fit concepts together and gain a broader understanding of the subject overall.
Give yourself plenty of time:
Timing is so important when it comes to planning your lessons. Be realistic and always factor in unexpected disturbances into your lesson plan. It is easy to run out of time and finish the lesson feeling deflated because you were not able to cover all the topics you wanted to.
It is difficult to get right, but try to estimate the length of time it will take for each activity, and then allow extra time for each one. In the same light it’s a good idea to have an ‘emergency activity’ just in case you underestimate and run out of things for the class to do. Make sure you leave enough time at the end of your lesson to answer any questions your students may have. Above all remember, anything can happen in the classroom!
Sometimes lessons do not go as planned so try to be flexible and adaptable to your students’ needs. Lesson planning is not easy, and each lesson will be different from the last – don’t shy away from rewriting upcoming lessons if the one you’ve just taught hasn’t gone so well.
There will always be unexpected surprises and to keep your lesson fresh and interesting you will need to be thoughtful, creative and put the effort in. Remember, for every lesson that doesn’t go to plan there will be hundreds that do. A great lesson is one where students come out feeling excited, engaged and that they have learnt something of value; that is what all-good teachers should strive to achieve.