Write the Perfect Lesson Plan
I would never advise a teacher to forgo writing a lesson plan, no matter how well he or she knows the material. I’ve taught To Kill A Mockingbird more times than I care to count, but I still write a new lesson plan each year before the unit begins.
1. If you do your research, you’ll find that there is always new information out there about a particular topic. You might find a new, more effective way to present the material, thereby giving your students an opportunity to excel in the unit.
2. Staying focused is of utmost priority. If you’ve taught for any length of time, you know that students are experts at getting a teacher off track and leading her off into the barren desert of inane conversation, just to avoid learning about something assigned. A lesson plan will help keep your attention focused.
3. Your memory is imperfect. For example, I always forget to talk about symbolism when teaching The Scarlet Letter. Having a lesson plan will trigger your memory when your mind draws a blank.
For these reasons, writing a lesson plan is essential, whether you write one the night before the unit begins, or you get it all out of the way before the semester starts again. I prefer to write them as the year goes on because by the last unit of the semester, I know my students, and I’ve figured out ways to reach them that might not have been effective with last year’s batch of young minds.
1. Focus Yourself
Lesson plans are only for your eyes, so on the first page of your lesson plan, focus your energy on the unit or topic at hand. This will help ideas to flow later, and will give you an idea of what you want to impart upon your students.
a. Goals – What do you hope your students will take away from this unit? It doesn’t have to be something out of a textbook, but rather what you think is important about the topic. For example, if you are a science teacher and the topic is Newton’s Laws, perhaps you want you students to specifically remember that energy is neither created nor destroyed. This is important since it applies to everyday life, and it is something they will ultimately use in future chemistry and physics classes. This part of your lesson plan is most crucial to success.
b. Current Events – How does the unit reflect current events? What is going on in the world that can be applied to the subject you are teaching? Many students – not all, but many – learn better when they have a present-day application to which they can compare a lesson. It might also interest your students in the unit when they see that the subject still holds water today. Put those notes into your lesson plan.
c. Problems – If you’ve had problems in the past with teaching this unit, record them here in your lesson plan for future reference. Teaching is also about learning – what to do, what not to do, what works and what doesn’t – so it will help you to remember what succeeded or failed in past teaching attempts.
d. Objectives – Here, you should write down what you hope your students will have achieved during the unit. What will they have accomplished, and how will they apply their knowledge. This can be broad or specific, whatever works best for you, but you should have some idea before starting the lesson.
e. Prerequisites – This part of your lesson plan is also important because it determines the readiness of your students. What prior knowledge must your students have obtained in order to understand the concepts presented in this unit? If they don’t have the proper tools, they cannot possibly hope to grasp the full subject.
In order to begin a unit, your lesson plan must detail what materials will be needed in order to complete the unit. Chances are, you will be flipping to this section every night before going home so that you remember anything needed to bring to class the following day. Here are the factors that make up the materials section of your lesson plan.
a. Time – How much time do you expect to spend on this unit, from initial introduction to final exam? This will not only serve to keep you on track, but it will also help you monitor your progress and determine if next year you will need more or less time to complete the unit.
b. Textbooks – This could be actual textbooks, readers, study guides, manuals or any other paper-bound book that your students will need. Include the bibliographical notation so that you can easily find the materials at a later date.
c. Other Materials – This is most important for a science class in which you will need beakers, scales, fetal pigs or toothpicks. It would also apply to a home economics course or even an English class. What objects not routinely found in the classroom will you need in order to properly teach the class?
3. Lesson Description
Next in your lesson plan, write a brief description of the unit. Explain what your students will learn, how they will learn it, what topics should be covered on which days, and any broad notes you feel will help you to effectively teach the class. This should not be a day-by-day, step-by-step account of what is to be taught, but rather a broad generalization. This will further help you to stay on track, and to keep the “big picture” in mind.
4. Lesson Procedure
The last – and arguably most important – section of your lesson plan is the precise procedure you plan to take in order to teach the unit. I’ve broken it down into several parts:
a. Day-By-Day – You can record this on a calendar or on a sheet of notebook paper; whichever works best for you. Break the lesson down into its smallest parts and describe what you will cover each day of the unit.
b. Activities – Describe in detail each activity taking place in the classroom. This could include pop quizzes, lectures, readings, projects and labs.
c. Methods – In this section of your lesson plan, detail your methods for explaining concepts to the students. There are three different types: discussion, demonstration and explanation. In a discussion, everyone in the class participates; in an explanation, you lecture about the topic at length; and in a demonstration, you use applicable activities to show how or why a concept is true.
In your lesson plan, you should include how you plan to wrap up the unit. Whether it be with a test, a presentation of completed projects, or simply with final explanations, you should know from the very beginning. You should also share this fact with your students at the beginning of the lesson so that they are prepared.