Eight Common Lesson Plan Mistakes

In my teaching experience, I’ve learned that teachers make mistakes just as often as the students, and if we don’t learn from our mistakes, we invariably do injustices to the children we teach. Our job is not just that which is defined by the school board or by the state, but by what we hope our students will take away from our classrooms. The first step to effective teaching is through lesson plans.

Teachers who have graduated from college know how to create a lesson plan, but they might not know what they shouldn’t do. We should be well aware of the possible mistakes before setting out to create a lesson plan, so here are the things I have learned through my tenure as a teacher.

1. Do Not…plan several units at once.

Each lesson plan should be confined only to the unit it is supposed to teach. I have met teachers who write one lesson plan for the entire year, and the classroom becomes chaotic in a matter of minutes. You should write one lesson plan per unit – no less and no more – so that you are able to stay focused on the topic at hand. Each unit should have specific goals, prerequisites, materials, activities and end results; your entire semester should not read like one long lesson.

2. Do Not…plan an activity without trying it first.

Just because a book or guide says that it will work in the time frame specified does not mean that it will. This is particularly true of science classes. If you get behind on an experiment and the bell rings before the process is complete, then you have effectively wasted a day of class. To avoid this, have a few teacher friends help you conduct the activity or experiment to make sure that you will have time to complete it. Be sure to give yourself fifteen or twenty minutes of extra time – classroom accidents and incidents happen without notice.

3. Do Not…plan a lesson that is ahead of your students.

This is what the prerequisites are there for – if your students aren’t ready for a particular unit, then you are wasting your time by presenting it. Carefully look at every aspect of the lesson and make sure that your students are properly armed for the task. If you find that they might be shady on a couple of areas, teach them first before progressing with the unit.

4. Do Not…assign erroneous assignments or projects.

Students and teachers alike become bored and frustrated with assignments that do nothing to help them learn or understand a subject. This is commonly known as “busy work” by students, and they despise it. Take this as a positive thing: students don’t want to be bothered with inconsequential information. They want to get right at the core of what they are supposed to learn.

5. Do Not…lecture above or below your students’ level of understanding.

There is only one thing worse than talking above your students’ heads: talking below your feet. If you treat your ninth graders like college sophomores, they won’t understand your lesson and they will become intellectually frustrated. If you treat them like sixth graders, however, they will resent you and tune you out. Relate to your students as peers relate to them, and talk to them on a level that they will understand. In your lesson plan, include activities and lecture material appropriate for the age group.

6. Do Not…include more material in your lesson plan than you intend to cover.

If you don’t have time, don’t include it in your lesson plan. This will keep you from blowing off track and from leading up to an activity that will never take place. As you continue to teach, you will develop an affinity for timing lessons and activities; until then, consult with other teachers and write your lesson plans accordingly.

7. Do Not…read from your lesson plan.

Last year, I randomly dropped in on a teacher friend of mine who was standing in front of her class with her lesson book in hand. She rarely looked at the students, but simply read from a script she had apparently prepared the night before. This will instill distrust in your students – how can they know that you understand what you’re teaching? – and it will make you appear unprofessional. Write your lesson plan, study it, and then leave it on your desk. If you need notes, copy them on a piece of notebook paper and place them on your podium, out of sight of your students.

8. Do Not…share lesson plans with other teachers.

I see no problems with consulting with one another about lessons and how they work for different teachers, but two teachers in the same school should never operate from the same plan. Your lesson plan should reflect your own personality and understanding of the material, and you should be teaching what you think is important – not what other teachers deem essential.

Following these guidelines, you should be steering clear of the major lesson plan problems.

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