This post originally appeared on Edutopia’s New Teacher Academy. Thanks to Lisa Dabbs for inviting me to contribute. I will be joining Lisa on Twitter during #ntchat (New Teacher Chat) tonight at 8 PM EST to discuss lesson planning. I hope you and any new or pre-service teachers you know can join. I am looking forward to learning along with all of you!
Without a detailed plan, you may — if you’re lucky — deliver a lesson that turns out to be pretty good. More often, though, a poorly planned lesson is going to be a clunker. Our students suffer when we fail to appropriately plan for them.
Planning a lesson is not as simple as referring to a curriculum map, the next page in the textbook or standards. These resources all have their place, and you should use them — but as guides, not the law. You will find they often don’t account for students’ deficiencies. You have to account for them, or else your teaching becomes meaningless.
Lessons don’t occur in a vacuum. What you see, hear and read from your students today should be directly reflected in what you teach tomorrow. Let the students dictate where you go with your planning. If you are too married to what “needs” to get done, students will fall behind quickly, quite frankly because they don’t get what they need.
“Data” is a four-letter word that strikes fear in many teachers. It shouldn’t. You collect data everyday when you observe your students and take note of what they are doing well and where they need support. Data comes from conversations (between or with students), exit slips, quizzes, questions, journals and more. Use it to figure out what your students still need to learn, and therefore, what you need to teach.
Some people like to plan a whole week at a time. I’ve even heard of people who plan all their lessons over the summer. I question these practices. Planning should be reactive. I generally plan only one or two days in advance. That way I make sure I’m not getting too far ahead of my students.
A lesson plan does not need to be scripted to the letter. However, it should have certain components to facilitate delivery. (These are my suggestions. Your school or district may require a certain format.)
1) Objective Your objective is what you want the outcome of the lesson to be. You might write, “At the end of the lesson, students will be able to _____.”
2) Materials Your materials are the list of resources, articles or manipulatives you need. This helps you organize everything prior to the lesson.
3) Procedure The bulk of the lesson, procedure includes, among other items: your activation or assessment of prior knowledge; teaching and learning activities; and questions to guide student thought.
4) Assessment How do you know they “got it?” You can use various forms of data to see. Remember, though, assessment happens throughout the lesson (so you can see what your next steps might be within the lesson) and at the end (so you can see if the objectives were met).
Lesson planning is pivotal to positively impacting student achievement. My rule for planning: always let your students be your guide!