Okay, so this really shouldn’t be something I complain about as it is what my future career will require me to do day in and day out, yet, I still feel compelled to complain about lesson planning. I am someone that the more detail the better when it comes to designing a lesson as you never know when another teacher may be asked to use that plan. However, this does not make it easy for me, I am constantly revising the information that I have recorded in the lesson ensuring that I have not missed a step or forgotten a key resource. I keep hoping that as I become more comfortable with conducting lessons the less information I will include in the lessons. Below is a step by step guide of how I go about planning my lessons.
(1) Outline learning objectives
The first step is to determine what you want students to learn and be able to do at the end of class. To help you specify your objectives for student learning, answer the following questions:
- What is the topic of the lesson?
- What do I want students to learn?
- What do I want them to understand and be able to do at the end of class?
- What do I want them to take away from this particular lesson?
Once you outline the learning objectives for the class meeting, rank them in terms of their importance. This step will prepare you for managing class time and accomplishing the more important learning objectives in case you are pressed for time. Consider the following questions:
- What are the most important concepts, ideas, or skills I want students to be able to grasp and apply?
- Why are they important?
- If I ran out of time, which ones could not be omitted?
- And conversely, which ones could I skip if pressed for time
(2) Create a realistic timeline
GSIs know how easy it is to run out of time and not cover all of the many points they had planned to cover. A list of ten learning objectives is not realistic, so narrow down your list to the two or three key concepts, ideas, or skills you want students to learn. Instructors also agree that they often need to adjust their lesson plan during class depending on what the students need. Your list of prioritized learning objectives will help you make decisions on the spot and adjust your lesson plan as needed. Having additional examples or alternative activities will also allow you to be flexible. A realistic timeline will reflect your flexibility and readiness to adapt to the specific classroom environment. Here are some strategies for creating a realistic timeline:
- Estimate how much time each of the activities will take, then plan some extra time for each
- When you prepare your lesson plan, next to each activity indicate how much time you expect it will take
- Plan a few minutes at the end of class to answer any remaining questions and to sum up key points
- Plan an extra activity or discussion question in case you have time left
- Be flexible – be ready to adjust your lesson plan to students’ needs and focus on what seems to be more productive rather than sticking to your original plan
(3) Develop the introduction
Develop a creative introduction to the topic to stimulate interest and encourage thinking. You can use a variety of approaches to engage students (e.g., personal anecdote, historical event, thought-provoking dilemma, real-world example, short video clip, practical application, probing question, etc.). Consider the following questions when planning your introduction:
- How will I check whether students know anything about the topic or have any preconceived notions about it?
- What are some commonly held ideas (or possibly misconceptions) about this topic that students might be familiar with or might espouse?
- What will I do to introduce the topic?
(3) Plan the specific learning activities (the main body of the lesson)
Prepare several different ways of explaining the material (real-life examples, analogies, visuals, etc.) to catch the attention of more students and appeal to different learning styles. As you plan your examples and activities, estimate how much time you will spend on each. Build in time for extended explanation or discussion, but also be prepared to move on quickly to different applications or problems, and to identify strategies that check for understanding. These questions would help you design the learning activities you will use:
- What will I do to explain the topic?
- What will I do to illustrate the topic in a different way?
- How can I engage students in the topic?
- What are some relevant real-life examples, analogies, or situations that can help students understand the topic?
- What will students need to do to help them understand the topic better?
(5) Plan to check for understanding
Think about specific questions you can ask students in order to check for understanding, write them down, and then paraphrase them so that you are prepared to ask the questions in different ways. Try to predict the answers your questions will generate. Decide on whether you want students to respond orally or in writing. You can look at Strategies to Extend Student Thinking,http://www.crlt.umich.edu/gsis/P4_4.php to help you generate some ideas and you can also ask yourself these questions:
- What questions will I ask students to check for understanding?
- What will I have students do to demonstrate that they are following?
- Going back to my list of learning objectives, what activity can I have students do to check whether each of those has been accomplished?
When planning your lesson, decide what kinds of questions will be productive for discussion and what questions might sidetrack the class. Think about and decide on the balance between covering content (accomplishing your learning objectives) and ensuring that students understand.
(6) Develop a conclusion and a preview
Go over the material covered in class by summarizing the main points of the lesson. You can do this in a number of ways: you can state the main points yourself (“Today we talked about…”), you can ask a student to help you summarize them, or you can even ask all students to write down on a piece of paper what they think were the main points of the lesson. You can review the students’ answers to gauge their understanding of the topic and then explain anything unclear the following class. Conclude the lesson not only by summarizing the main points, but also by previewing the next lesson. How does the topic relate to the one that’s coming? This preview will spur students’ interest and help them connect the different ideas within a larger context.
Lastly it is important to reflect about how the lesson went. Think about what went wrong, what went right, what can be improved and how would you do the lesson in the future?