Updated: Jan 28, 2022
You probably already know that lesson plans are essential to help keep your students on track, keep you organized, and ensure that all parties are on the same page regarding the expectations.
However, whether you're just starting out with your teaching career or have been in the classroom for a while and feel like you're stagnating, it can be hard to figure out how to create great lesson plans. The key is finding a structure that works for you and your students — and then following it.
Here are five tips to get started.
1. Develop a structure for your lesson plans
The best lesson plans have a structure, just like the best essays or reports. They have an introduction that gives students an idea of what they are going to learn. They have a main section that makes this learning process clear. And they have a conclusion that draws these points together and helps students see how to apply them.
This structure is difficult to pull off. It's so tempting to start with the fun part, or the part where you are strongest, or the thing you are most interested in. But if you do that, it is like starting on page six of a seven-page paper: it's hard to keep track of where you are and what you've done; your argument can get confused; and it's hard to make your conclusion as strong as it should be.
A good way to develop the habit of using a structure is to write an outline for each lesson plan before you write it. This will help you think through the logical flow of ideas and avoid unnecessary digressions; and if you save these outlines, they will give you some ideas for next time.
2. Write out the steps of your lesson plan to help you stay organized
Lesson planning is one of the most challenging parts of classroom management. It's hard to plan lessons that are both interesting and aligned to state standards, but it's an essential part of teaching. When you take time before class to write out the steps of your lesson plan, it helps you stay organized and focused.
If you just sit down and start teaching something, it's easy to get off track or lose sight of your goals. But if you've already figured out what you want to say, and how to say it, it's much easier to stick with your plan.
Here are the steps for planning a great lesson:
In advance, take some time to brainstorm your lesson idea. Brainstorm by yourself or with a group of colleagues, but you should always try to be creative in your lesson planning. Teachers who take more risks in their lessons tend to get more positive results.
Decide the learning goals for the lesson and make sure they're aligned to state standards.
Outline the three main points you want students to learn from the lesson. Keep it simple: no more than three main points per lesson.
Write a detailed plan for how you will structure this information within the lesson itself. Include a rough timeline for each section of the lesson, and note any instructional materials you'll need from the class textbook or from other sources.
Your lesson plan should include everything from the resources you’ll need to the order in which you’ll present your lesson. You should also include a list of any resources you might use to help you teach your lesson and references you might use to help you plan your lesson.
3. Use technology to create and store your lesson plans
Once you have written your lesson plan, you can store it on an online portfolio so that others can see what you are doing. The portfolio will allow you to upload or download your lesson plans, as well as document the context in which it is used.
It could be a collaborative project with other teachers who are interested in the lesson plan. It could also be a resource for students to use for reference. There could even be an app that lets them access your lesson plans on their phones or tablets.
Students are part visual learners, so technology used rightly in the classroom will help engage them more in the lesson.
You can organize your thoughts for each lesson with slide decks. They are easy to use, have templates available, and integrate with other applications in the teachers' tech suite.
Think of your deck presentation as a conversation with your students. Before creating each slide for the lesson plan, ask yourself:
What do I want my students to see?
What do I want them to know?
How can I best show that information?
A lot of great apps and tools out there can help you track, organize, and share your lesson plans. The best thing you can do is to try to see which ones you like best, and which ones work best for the way you like to plan.
4. Understand and follow appropriate pacing and planning for effective teaching
A lesson should be well planned and paced to help students learn. It should be appropriate for the age of the students, their developmental stage, and their readiness to learn certain concepts. Teachers often refer to pacing as "speed of delivery." The pacing is decided by the teacher, given their audience, the subject matter, and other factors.
A great lesson should also include understanding your students' prior knowledge or misconceptions that are hindering their learning. The teacher should set up the lesson in a way that helps students move toward greater understanding. This includes using appropriate questioning to gain insight into students' thinking.
The teacher also needs to know when to slow down or speed up the pace of the lesson. Students learn at different rates, so teachers must be able to adjust according to need. Teachers who are aware of the pacing of their lessons are better able to manage student behavior by knowing when intervention is needed.
5. Review and revise your lesson plans to keep them fresh and up-to-date
Great lesson plans start with relevant, interesting content which develops into an engaging and memorable experience. The most effective way to achieve this is to design your plans with careful attention to the learning outcomes you wish to achieve.
You can also use the following tactics to make sure your lessons are fresh and up-to-date:
Review your lesson plans at least once a year. Look at them with a critical eye to see if they are still relevant, interesting and achieving the learning outcomes you want. If not, change them.
Revise your lesson plans when new teaching resources or technologies become available. Incorporate these into your teaching for maximum effectiveness.
Review your lesson plans after every major unit of study in order to keep them fresh. This will help ensure that students learn what they need to know within each unit, before moving on to the next unit, subject, or topic.
Develop great lesson plans that will engage your students and enhance the quality of their learning experience
Ultimately, the lesson planning process is all about planning for your students. Make sure that you are setting them up for success before you even implement your curriculum.
By evaluating the skills that your students have already developed, you can help them understand what is expected of them in future lessons. And, by making sure that they practice the skills that they are most likely to forget, you can make sure that they stay on track with their learning objectives.
It may take some trial and error as you get used to the lesson planning process, but as long as you try to stay flexible and creative as a teacher, your advanced students will probably benefit from these lessons as much as your novice learners.