Lesson Planning - Easy and Effective

As a teacher, I know that lesson planning everyday can be a real pain. On the other hand, it's usually the best way I can reach my students as individuals and really express my creativity.

When designing a great lesson, no matter what template you use

(click here for a good example of a lesson planning template)

Are you trying to put together a lesson plan? Confused about where to start?

Begin Here...

Below are 5 points to keep in mind to make creating great lessons both easy and effective...

1. Tell the Students WHY You're Doing this Lesson, or Studying this Topic

If you asked a student leaving your class why they engaged in the lesson you just gave, what would they say? Do you ever come up against students who are resistant to your lessons?

I don't know about you, but no one can tell me to do something without giving me a good reason!

This isn't because I'm now an adult and therefore entitled to different rules, I'm a human being - just like your students - and I will likely have something to gain if you tell me to do an activity that will teach me something worthwhile.

Be transparent about your lessons, and perhaps your lesson planning strategies with your students, and give them GOOD reasons for asking them to do things. It's respectful. And isn't that the kind of environment you want to create in your classroom?

2. Know Your Audience

Students of all ages like it when you know their interests, learning styles, needs for encouragement, etc.

It's good practice for you to get to know them in order to deliver the most effective instruction that meets their unique learning needs.

Try this: While lesson planning, picture certain individual students in your class as you plan activities. Think to yourself whether or not those particular students will find this portion of the activity worthwhile or if they stand to gain anything from it. How do you see them acting throughout the lesson? Are they bored? Frustrated? Having fun? LEARNING?

The more you know your students the easier lesson planning for them will be.

3. Break up Activities Within the Block

A good rule that someone once told me was that students will get bored or lose interest in an activity after about 20 minutes.

Maybe that's not the way YOU were taught in school, but to keep up with a world in which many students are conditioned to an instantly gratifying, stimulating environment, I've found that my lessons are stronger when they allow students to shift focus to a new activity (about the same topic) about every 20 minutes.

If you use a template while lesson planning, be sure it's marked off by blocks. Imagine how much time will be spent on each activity, even though as teachers we know this might not work out perfectly!

4. Allow Lots of Time For Students to Talk

Even though most of my experience is with middle and high school students, my mother and sister (both elementary teachers) both agree that children enjoy talking about themselves and sharing intelligent ideas.

When I started teaching, it was a pain to get students to talk when I wanted them to. Taking advice from another teacher, I allowed students to instead journal, or work in groups to discuss or document issues that came up during the lesson or activity.

For example, if I was teaching about the U.S. Constitution, I allowed time (about 15-20 minutes) for my students to design their own version of a constitution.

They could set whatever parameters they wanted, they could call for any laws that would protect them, or limit their government in any setting - society, school or otherwise.

Mostly, they worked in groups. This allowed LOTS of time for rich discussion and honest debate over some current issues.

The point of this activity is that it got them talking. I interjected only a few times to redirect student attention, and to clarify or help students put thoughts into words. The 20 minutes flew by, and students were begging for more time!

5. Always Conclude or Wrap-up a Lesson

How do you know if your students learned anything? How do you know they weren't just gliding through the day or the period and just "acting" like they were learning?

The best way to conclude a strong lesson is to bring the students' focus back to the purpose of the lesson (which hopefully you mentioned in the beginning)!

There are a number of ways to wrap-up a good lesson, such as a "ticket to leave" in which students write 2 things they learned today, 2 things they are confused about, and 2 remaining questions they still have about the topic addressed in the lesson.

These comments and questions of individual students end up being great leads for developing future lessons on the topic!

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