Chapter 21Chapter 20 Creating Effective Lesson Plans
What is the purpose of a lesson plan?
Lesson plans are a way to translate what you want to teach students into how you will teach them. By writing detailed plans, particularly at the beginning of the term, you will go through the process of thinking through what to teach; how to teach; what to do when students make errors; how to plan for an appropriate amount of instruction for each class; and to reflect on the lesson, decide what went well, what to change, and how to vary the lesson.
Lesson plans are for everyone
When teaching subject matter that is new or when a new teacher, one can expect to write and to use more detailed lesson plans. Yes, even experienced and excellent teachers write lesson plans! As a new teacher, expect to spend more time on creating lesson plans. You will quickly learn what is the most effective way for you to prepare your lesson plans. You also need to be warned: districts and schools have various policies regarding lesson plans. In most schools, teachers are expected to submit lesson plans at the beginning of the week for the entire week. That is a precaution in case you need to miss school; substitute teachers will then have information about what to teach.
Mind you, lesson plans are fallible! Just because one has a "beautiful" lesson plan, that does not automatically mean that the lesson will go as planned. Think of a lesson plan as a road map to guide you through the lesson. Some trips we take go as planned; then there are others that have road construction, detours, extra stops, heavy traffic, or unplanned scenic stops! We might change our journey to stop and walk to a waterfall, which means we won't get to our final destination when originally planned. We then decide to take a break from our original itinerary.
Similarly changes can occur in the classroom that impact on the lesson: it's time for that monthly fire drill; a piece of equipment does not work; students arrive without completing their homework, so are not ready for the next lesson; weather has resulted in a 2-hour delay, so the students who are there are on an abbreviated schedule; or the students get involved in one aspect of the lesson and the teacher decides to pursue that route.
By writing detailed lesson plans, particularly at the beginning of the term, you will go through the process of thinking through what to teach; how to teach; what to do when students make errors; how to plan for an appropriate amount of instruction for each class; and to reflect on the lesson, determine what went well, what to change, and decide how to vary the lesson.
How does one know what each student needs to be taught?
There are many resources available to you. They include: Review the student's IEP and select appropriate short term objectives (STO's). You might want to talk with the student's previous teacher(s). "Know your room:" if you are new to a school find out what materials and other resources are available in your room, within your school, within your district, and within your community. Talk with teachers who "seem to have everything." Find out how they acquired and from what sources they acquired them. Last, talk with the student! Get to know each student in your class and consider each student's likes, dislikes, interests, and so forth when planning lessons. Working directly with parents can also add useful input when deciding what the student needs to be taught.
What does a lesson plan look like?
Each lesson plan will include
- an objective (observable, measurable).
materials listed. List those materials you can not assume to be in the classroom.
an introduction. This is a description of what will occur in the lesson (an advance organizer; this might include new vocabulary, "what we will do today"). This will not be verbatim, but it will be rather detailed. The amount of detail will decrease as the term progresses.
- instructional procedure (the method section), likely modeled by the teacher and then guided practice.
- possibly independent practice will occur.
- a brief assessment might take place, and/or homework might be assigned.
- closure to the lesson needs to be included.
- error correction procedure. This answers the question, what will I do when the students don't understand the lesson.
How does one write a lesson plan? Getting started!
Identify what needs to be taught. This includes reviewing previous lessons and recommended learning outcomes; giving additional, clarifying assessments; determining how the student learns, and observing the student. In other words, take advantage of available information. Answer any questions you might have. What motivates this student (or group of students). for what length of time can I expect the student(s) to work independently, how is what I am going to teach be relevant?
As the term progresses you can expect to write less detailed lesson plans. This refers particularly to the procedures sections in the plan. As you get to know your students and your content, that will affect how much you need to write. The lesson plan is your road map. When you drive to Hilton Head Island for the first time, you need rather specific directions to get there. If you have not visited Hilton Head in a couple of years, you might need to go back and get specific directions again. Teaching a lesson can be similar. Provide as much information as you need in order to be comfortable to teach that lesson.
All sections of the lesson plan become easier after you have written several plans. For plans that relate to one another, you will find that the objectives change minimally from one plan to the next. Similarly you might repeat the manner in which you evaluate student progress. Using a word processor is a good way to begin writing plans--and save copies of what you write on the word processor or on a disk! That way you can re-use lesson plans which are similar and not have to rewrite completely a previous plan!
Lesson plans have three primary functions. First, the process of preparing them helps instructors organize their thoughts for each day's work with children. Second, they provide documentation that becomes the basis for reflection and future refinement of the instruction process. Third, they enable instructors to document and exchange specific teaching strategies in a format that is easy for others to understand and follow. If multiple instructors, volunteers, interns, etc. are working with children in a single class, creating a lesson plan ensures that everyone knows how and when the activities will be done, and why they are being done.
A lesson plan describes a set of activities that are implemented over the course of a single session. In this context, for example, a lesson plan would describe what happens in an out-of-school program with one group of children on one day. This is distinct from a project, which is a series of interrelated lessons, implemented over sequential sessions that result in a product or group of products.
A lesson plan is a working document
Since a lesson plan is first and foremost a personal planning tool for an instructor, each instructor should use a format that works best for him or her. At a minimum, lesson plans should include:
- age of children
- length of time of activities
- objectives (what children will accomplish/produce by the end of the session)
- learning outcomes (skills and competencies that children will practice or develop)
- activity steps/procedures
- strategy for incorporating the use of the Internet and related technologies
Other planning areas might include:
- introductory activities
- transitions (activities that bridge a change of activity or a physical move to another space)
- closure (activities that help children process what they have learned, and prepare them for the next day's work)
- assessment (how to determine what children have learned)
Five mistakes that teachers make when developing lesson plans
1. The objective of the lesson does not specify what the student will actually do that can be observed.
2. The lesson assessment is disconnected from the behavior indicated in the objective.
3. The materials specified in the lesson are extraneous to the actual described learning activities.
4. The instruction in which the teacher will engage is not efficient for the level of intended student learning.
5. The student activities described in the lesson plan do not contribute in a direct and effective way to the lesson objective.
A lesson plan that contains one or more of these mistakes needs rethinking and revision.
* Sample lesson plan to be added as appendix