Lesson Planning 101
For me, sitting down to plan my first lesson went something like this:
“Oh, I have to do lesson plans. What should I teach? Tick. Tock. Crickets…”
So, let’s get right to it and have you ready to tackle the planning from day one.
Understand Your Teaching Standards
Each state has its own set of standards that it requires us to teach. In Texas it’s the TEKS. In some states it’s Common Core, in others it’s another version. They all have a common structure, though:
- When they will learn it
- What the learner will learn
- To what level they are required to learn it
- In what situations they must use it
So, in other words, the standard might sound something like this:
6th Grade Math Standard #6.5C (from Texas TEKS) The learner will use equivalent fractions, decimals and percents to show equal parts of the same whole.
We know they will USE something(s) to show equal parts of the same whole. We know they will have to do it with equivalent fractions, with decimals and with percents.
This process of breaking down the standards is called “unpacking the standards.” We do this to make certain that we teach exactly what students are to be held accountable for.
To teach this standard, we will need to make sure that students can calculate equivalent fractions, decimals and percents. They will need to look at a representation of a part of a whole and write two equivalent fractions that represent it, write a decimal to represent it and write a percentage to represent it.
Your job is to unpack the standards you are given for the week and plan lessons that meet each part of the standard. In the example above, you must be sure they can USE the forms, not just recognize or identify them although they may have to learn recognition and identification to be able to then USE them.
Looking at that standard, let’s estimate that it would take at least two days for each representation, so six days to teach that standard. Your district or school may have a pacing calendar that only allows you three days to teach the standard. To be sure, you can look at the standards from the year before to see if they were already taught to calculate each representation. Maybe they have already learned to calculate one, two or all of them. That would cut down on the time it might take to teach this standard.
Use the Standard to Plan Your Lessons
Now that you know exactly what you must help students master, you are ready to start the actual planning. Most K12 schools require that you list the objective (the standard), the warm up, the lesson activity, how you will evaluate whether it has been mastered and then what homework might be assigned. Some require more, so you will have to add those components, as well.
Your PLAN on paper for the first day on this standard might look like this VERY BASIC example:
* note that each stage involves the same activity and that the activity is aligned with the standard.
There are a multitude of activities you could have students do to get to the same end. Some of those might be: a set of prepared fractions to use that are self-checking, perhaps you would use a worksheet, or as in this case perhaps you would use a set of fractions written on sticky notes that students must then match to its equivalent part of a whole on a workmat or on sections of the board.
The next day, you might build on the first by then using decimals to represent the part of the whole. You might need one day to refresh creating decimals, then the next day to have them use decimals to represent part of the whole. It’s a good idea to follow the same format as the day before so that students can focus on the math, not the novelty of the brand new activity.
How Do You Come Up with Activities to Use?
Finding or developing the activities you will use is part of the art of teaching. In the example above, I just made up possible activities by playing out the math problems in my mind and then making up a situation where students could practice what they need to do to solve those problems. My modeled problems and guided practice for my students will ALL be set up to work the same way as their independent practice, exit ticket and planned test. That way EVERYTHING aligns with the stated objective. I chose to let them use sticky notes and place them on the board to provide opportunities for acceptable movement during class.
There are MANY places to find ideas for how to teach the concepts you are expected to teach. The first place to look is in your own school in the textbooks you have or with the other teachers who teach your grade and subject. If you are the only one in your school, then you are a “onesie,” and you will need to reach out either to other teachers in your district or online resources.The internet is abound with sites that offer free lesson plans, and lesson plans with all the materials you would need to teach them for nominal fees.
A Note of Caution for Using Online Resources or Plans
Choose carefully from reputable sites. Frequently you will either need to adapt those plans to your particular needs because they call for a skill that you have not taught yet, OR you will need to correct typos or misinformation (gasp!).
ALWAYS WORK THROUGH THE ACTIVITIES BEFORE YOU USE THEM.
After You Write the Plan
1. Assemble and organize all the materials you will need to implement your plan. Those usually must be ready before you leave work on the Friday before school on Monday—some schools require earlier, some may wait until Monday. You are better off getting them done early.
2. Determine what strategies you will use to differentiate your plans to meet the needs of all students in your class, including those on 504 plans, those with IEP’s and those who are non-English speakers. Your strategies should be noted and ready to go so that they are smoothly included in the lesson. Some districts may require you to include your differentiation in your plans.
3. Plan questions that you will pose to your class for each lesson. By writing those questions in advance, you can address different Blooms’ levels and make certain that you include higher level thinking questions as well as other, less rigorous questions.
4. Review your plan carefully and amend it before you hand it in. Look for alignment of each lesson to the standard you are teaching. Make sure everything is in place.
As you develop your skills in planning, you will add more to your plans to make them more developed. If you already can add high yield strategies, differentiation, brain breaks, etc., then go ahead. If you are wondering what those are, then start basic and add more as you learn these different aspects of teaching.
The very next thing you should do as soon as you can is to try writing a plan--at least just one lesson. You literally have to train your brain to start thinking in this manner. There's "no better time than the present" to start practicing!
All the best,