Lesson plans shouldn’t just be something you robotically produce to satisfy the requirements of your school’s administration. Creating lesson plans should be something that helps you to more effectively teach and better understand and serve the needs of your students. The great part about this is, once you develop proper and effective lesson plans these can often be reused with new classes with only an occasional need for updating. Before you can develop an effective lesson plan, you need to first understand what should be included and what shouldn’t as well as what you need to take into consideration in regards to your students.
Why do I need a lesson plan?
As I mentioned above, lesson planning is about more than just satisfying school administration, though, that is an important thing to consider. First and foremost, you should be creating lesson plans to make sure that you have a precise guide for what information you will teach, how you will teach it, what materials you will need, and how the time will be filled so that you don’t find yourself with too little material to teach.
Lesson plans are especially helpful if you are a new teacher. A properly laid out lesson plan with the right information can serve as a go-to for the times you have trouble in the classroom. Trouble can include anything from moving through the content too quickly to unruly students that throw off the pacing of the class. If you teach long enough you will come across everything. Having a solid lesson plan allows you to glance down and always know what you need to do next.
As mentioned previously, a well-written lesson plan can be used year after year. You may need to eventually go back and update things, if the lesson plan talks about technology or societal norms that have evolved, for example. But, if you put the time in to create a solid lesson plan that covers the topic in depth and answers all of your students’ questions you will be able to recycle it. This will significantly cut down on your work each year.
For this reason, you need to make sure that you understand what goes into creating lesson plans and, more importantly, how to structure the lesson plan in such a way that it is actually helpful when you are teaching.
What information goes into a lesson plan?
Before we go into how to actually lay out a good lesson plan, you need to know what information you will need to include. It will be helpful to have this information readily available when you sit down and begin creating lesson plans.
In order to create your lesson plan you will need to know:
- What you will be teaching
- The skill level of your class
- What materials you will be using
- How many students are in your class
- What the length of the class will be
- Any cultural considerations specific to the class
Some of this is obvious like what you will be teaching. That’s why you are creating the lesson plan in the first place. But, other information here may not be as upfront as it seems. For example, the skill level of the class should be put down along with the grade or age level. This will help you in the event that there are students of varying skill level in a single class (which there will be).
Other things you will need to consider is how many students are in your class so that you can make sure to always have the appropriate number of materials (worksheets, books, etc.). The last thing you want is to come up short during class when handing out worksheets and have to go print more.
As far as cultural considerations go you want to make sure you aren’t including anything in the lesson that would be considered inappropriate, or worse, illegal, for the country you are in or the audience you are teaching too. An example of this would be discussing certain subjects in China or creating a lesson about western ideals of women’s rights in a class full of conservative Saudi Arabian students. No matter what your personal opinions are about a topic always remember that you are a teacher and a professional and therefore you are there to do a job. If something in the culture is different than your beliefs keep it to yourself and avoid anything about the subject when creating lesson plans.
How should I structure the lesson plan?
This is where many new teachers become stuck. What you need to remember is that there is no wholly right or wrong answer to this question. If the school you are working for has specific requirements for lesson plans or if they have a template that needs to be followed that do that. If, however, there are no guidelines form the school administration, make sure you are structuring your lesson plans in a way that is easy for anyone to follow and that you can quickly utilize in the middle of a lesson.
You may need to take a glance at the lesson plan in the middle of teaching so you want to make sure that everything is broken down and labeled in a way that is intuitive and easy to follow. You don’t want to constantly have to read from the beginning to find the part of the lesson you are currently teaching or will be teaching next.
Since there are so many different ways that you can structure your lesson plan, I will go through the components you absolutely must have as opposed to a specific template. There are many of those already out there but I recommend trying a few different methods of creating a lesson plan so that you can find what works best for you.
Once you hit on a method of lesson plan creation that works for you I recommend you create a template that can be printed off each year and turned in to the administration if it is required of you.
You will want to have a header with the relevant information listed clearly and neatly. This includes:
- Your name
- The class period
- The grade level of the students
- The number of students in the class
- The topic of the lesson
- The length of the lesson
This information will help the administration organize the lesson plan. It will also help you when you do things like print up copies of worksheets to know how many you need to print up.
This is where you need to list absolutely anything and everything you will need for the lesson. This includes worksheets, books, songs or videos, and anything else you may use. Make sure to always include how many copies of each you will need so that you are never short. Also, include any links to websites or videos if anything you use will be online.
This will need to be broken into different parts. You will want to have a warm-up, an introduction, a guided practice phase, a self-practice phase, and a closing/summary phase. This should be followed up by assigning any homework. You want to go into detail in each phase with what you will be doing and how much time each step will take. You want to write it in a way that you always know what you need to do next. You should be able to look down at any point in the lesson and make see within a few seconds what the next step is.
If you have created a template of the lesson plan then you should be able to reuse the lesson plan year after year. However, there are going to be things that you want to add each year specific to the current group of students you are working with. This is where having a notes section will come into handy.
Make sure you are making note of anything that will affect the lesson. This can include students in the class that may be below level or a particular concept the students have been struggling with that is relevant to the current lesson. Anything you think is important and will impact the lesson in any way include it in the notes section.
What are some final thoughts?
If you create your lesson plan correctly then another teacher should be able to come into your room and teach the exact same lesson with ease to your students. Your lesson plan should be easily repeatable and should provide a convenient and easy to follow map for you to utilize during the lesson. Remember that creating lesson plans shouldn’t be something you do only to please the administrative staff but also something you do for yourself. To that end, make sure you are always including the things that are going to help you when you are teaching and always make sure you are being thorough when adding information. If you do that then you should have no problems teaching a new lesson whether you are a brand new teacher or a 20-year expert.