Here’s the good news. If you’re new to teaching, you won’t need to plan each lesson from scratch. A wealth of materials about lesson planning exist online and in published form, so you have a lot of resources and templates at your disposal. Unlike writing a term paper in college, creating an effective lesson plan should involve copying the work of more experienced teachers. Fortunately, you can pick and choose the activities, handouts, and lectures that you like best. If you’re interested in the material, your students will probably find it interesting too.
Think of the lesson plan as the road map for the class. Just like a map of your city or town, you could represent the terrain in a number of different ways. As you can imagine, your plan will vary, depending on whether you’re teaching a four-hour college course or a fifty-minute high school class. Two different lesson plan formats or templates could work equally well to record the same real-life lesson. Even with a standardized template, two lesson plans on the same topic could vary significantly, depending on the learning goals, the student engagement, and the students’ attention span. For instance, you’ll likely deliver a lesson in a different way over video conference software than you would in a classroom. For this reason, the best lesson plans leave teachers room for flexibility.
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Many teachers, especially those who teach younger grade levels, have strict guidelines about what the students must learn over the course of the semester. You get limited time in the classroom to meet these learning objectives, so it’s important that every class contains learning activities that support the larger goals for the course. In other words, the content of each class should help students accomplish incremental objectives that reinforce the timely completion of quarterly and semesterly learning goals. Educators should write these learning objectives down and share them with students, as appropriate.
Keep the objective for each lesson as simple and straightforward as possible. By keeping the lesson focused, you’re better able to assess the success of the students. You may complete everything on your lesson plan; however, if the students don’t retain the information, you can hardly congratulate yourself for teaching a successful lesson. By keeping the objective for each lesson simple, you can present the information in formats that work for different learning styles and ensure that the majority of the class understands the topic before moving on.
Overview and Timeline
Most lesson plan templates feature an overview section. This contains a summary of the activities you’ll use to accomplish the learning objective over the course of the lesson. For example, you might plan to teach something through vocabulary review, lecture, and a small group discussion with worksheets. When building a good lesson plan, you should aim to make modifications based on the learning styles that you’ve observed in your students. You may make adjustments to include more visual, auditory, or tactile exercises, depending on your students’ needs. Many students benefit from a mix of group and partner work, while others need the opportunity for independent practice. Good classroom management requires a thoughtful mix of activities that will enable the largest number of students to thrive.
After writing an overview, you should build a flexible timeline with a number of different activities, including a warm-up and wrap-up. Estimate how long key components of the lesson plan will take, listing the amount of class time you think they’ll require. Many teachers divide the lesson into 10-15 minute periods. Depending on the age group you teach, you may have longer periods. Either way, you should base your timeline on experienced teachers’ lesson plans or your own classroom experience. It can be helpful to add an optional activity to the timeline, something you can use in case the class finishes the lesson early.
Usually, a timeline will begin with a brief review of previous material or introduction. Next, you’ll select an activity to share information with the class. After that, many teachers lead the students in guided practice, such as a worksheet, before assessing their progress. If the students do well on the guided practice, they’re likely ready for an unguided practice activity. At the end of the lesson, you should leave time for questions and review.
List of Materials
List all of the materials that you and your students will need to complete the lesson. Bring extras, especially if students need particular items in order to participate in an activity. This step seems simple, but forgetting crucial materials can spoil even the most well-crafted lesson.
In addition to giving yourself a roadmap for a successful lesson, the lesson plan also serves a secondary function. When an emergency happens, a substitute teacher should be able to use your lesson plan without any additional information or materials. Provide clear links or physical copies of educational resources you plan to use in the lesson, including powerpoint presentations, printouts, and videos. A small amount of preparation goes a long way, ensuring that student learning can continue in your absence.
Many veteran teachers also have backup lesson plans prepared and available in the classroom. This way, in the event of an emergency, a substitute will be able to provide students with a lesson that contributes to the semester’s learning objectives. Backup lessons prove useful in extended periods of absence, in cases where you are unable to provide the substitute with your lesson plans, or when you are unable to complete a new lesson plan.
I’m an award-winning playwright with a penchant for wordplay. After earning a perfect score on the Writing SAT, I worked my way through Brown University by moonlighting as a Kaplan Test Prep tutor. I received a BA with honors in Literary Arts (Playwriting)—which gave me the opportunity to study under Pulitzer Prize-winner Paula Vogel. In my previous roles as new media producer with Rosetta Stone, director of marketing for global ventures with The Juilliard School, and vice president of digital strategy with Up & Coming Media, I helped develop the voice for international brands. From my home office in Maui, Hawaii, I currently work on freelance and ghostwriting projects.