My relationship with lesson plans has been somewhat of a rollercoaster for more than a decade. I first learned about lesson plans in my education classes in college. My professors explained how lesson plans provide teachers with a framework and a sense of accountability to ensure they are walking into their classroom fully prepared on a daily basis. I learned how lesson plans translate a large curriculum into daily snippets, which include learning objectives, daily goals and methods for student learning, assessment strategies and so on.
In each education class, I was tasked with writing lesson plans that paired with the lessons I was creating. However, my entire perspective on lesson plans and writing them changed as soon as I stepped into the classroom. It wasn’t until I was actually using the lesson plans themselves that I was able to see them as essential tools rather than mundane tasks.
Below are 10 quick and simple tips for writing a lesson plan in both an effective and professional manner:
USE A lesson plan TEMPLATE
Writing daily lesson plans will take you half as much time when you use a template. The template must work for you. It should fit well with your classroom content, your teaching style, and your planning style. Depending on the lesson, you may even be able to duplicate specific pieces from a previous lesson plan. Download my free lesson plan template at the end of this post to see if what I use will work for you!
Keep it simple
Be clear, concise and straightforward. Lesson plans should be in bulleted form with sentences kept short and sweet. In fact, there do not need to be many full sentences at all. It is best practice to keep your lesson plan down to one page in length. Check out some of my free lesson plan samples at the end of this post for inspiration.
While writing a lesson plan is essential to guide your teaching, it is important to remember that it may not be for your eyes only. Lesson plans are often looked at by members of administration, colleagues, and sometimes even by your student’s parents. Depending on your school, an administrator may require lesson plans turned in on a weekly basis, during a formal or informal observation, or during department meetings.
a plan is Just a plan
Some things will go as planned, and many things will not. This concept is very familiar to us as teachers, as anything can happen in the classroom. A lab may take longer than anticipated, students may speed through a quiz, or a challenging concept may need supplemental resources to help support student learning. Note the necessary revisions directly on your lesson plan and make the edits before the following school year.
Identify the Learning objective
Each lesson plan should be guided by a specific learning objective or an essential question. This is the learning goal that students should comprehend or be able to answer by the end of the lesson. Learning objectives and essential questions should be written as brief statements. For example, “How do we differentiate between the layers of the Earth?”
Plan Learning Activities
Specific learning activities should be planned and easily identifiable in each lesson. These activities should be sequenced in a logical, engaging and meaningful manner. Each activity should include a short description and an allotted time frame. Speaking of timing…
Create a realistic timeline
Some educators teach a 40-minute class five days a week. Others teach two 90-minute blocks two days a week. Your lesson plan must reflect the way in which your class is set up, with each individual activity set for an allotted amount of time.
For first-year teachers, this could be a daunting task. A question I am often asked is, “How do I know how long this will take my students?” Want to know a secret? Veteran teachers struggle with this as well. Each group of students is different, with unique abilities, skill sets and level of background knowledge. I recommend setting generous time frames when planning your lessons, with backup activities if students work faster than you anticipated. This is a great opportunity for differentiation in the classroom as well.
Student comprehension should be assessed every day in the classroom. Use your lesson plans to identify when student learning will be assessed and in what manner. Will you use a formative or a summative assessment? Will you ask informal “popcorn” style questions during a PowerPoint presentation? Maybe students work in groups on a lab. You can identify these assessments in a specific section of your lesson plan or identify them in a different color.
Now is the time to align the appropriate standards to your learning objectives, activities and assessments. Once standards are aligned, add them into your lesson plan. For my science lessons, I use Next Generation Science Standards, which can be easily aligned using their website. Their quick search navigation tool allows educators to search for standards based on keywords, type of practice, grade level, crosscutting concept, disciplinary core idea and so on.
This is one of the most helpful sections of my lesson plans. At quick glance, I am able to gather all necessary materials for that particular day’s activities and labs without sifting through the activities themselves. This section will include the particular worksheets for that lesson, all materials needed for a lab, any website or video references that will be used that day, and so on.
How do you feel about writing lesson plans? Do you have additional tips and tricks? I’d love to hear them! Share in the comments below.