Lesson planning: the basics
Here are 6 main questions to consider when planning your lessons. Included also are some hints and ideas to help and further questions to consider.
What do I want the children to learn or start to learn?
- Begin with the end in mind. What do I want the children to leave with that they didn’t arrive with?
- Am I going to share this purpose? Don’t waste time getting them to write the objective out in their books though!
- Might the purpose be best articulated in the form of a question to answer?
- Pitch it high – avoid ‘must-should-could’ as it signifies low expectation. A possible alternative is…‘We are learning… (objective) so that we can…’ (tangible outcome).
- Base the purpose of the lesson on their precise need. What have they achieved recently that informs today or this series of lessons? What are they understanding less well?
- The clearer you are about where you want them to get to in this lesson or in a series of lessons, the better you’ll be able to help them get there.
How will they show me they’ve learnt it?
- Have a tangible outcome. Remember this may not be achieved within this lesson. An end task or exit ticket may work well here. Flag this up at the start so that they are aware of the direction of travel.
How will I explain and model it so that they have the best chance of getting it?
- Understand how limitations in working memory may influence the manner of your explanation and modelling. Less is more so be clear, concise and ‘choose the shortest path’.
- Consider the impact of dual coding (pairing words with graphics). Think about how you make the abstract more concrete and therefore make sense to them e.g. drawing diagrams, using manipulatives, providing demonstrations…
- Find out what they already know and then build on this. Possibly through a ‘quick review’, ‘do now’ or ‘cold task’ at the start.
- Use a worked example if they are novices moving onto problems if they are more proficient.
- If you use a WAGOLL (what a good one looks like) deconstruct it, ensuring that you ‘call your shots’ and articulate your expert thinking out loud to the children. A visualiser may be helpful in some subjects.
- Spend more time thinking about how you are going to explain and model than anything else.
- The ‘I We You’ approach from Doud Lemov’s ‘Teach like a Champion’ is a helpful structure to consider here.
What practice will they need to do?
- Plan in adequate time, during the lesson and over a series of lessons, for the children to practise using their new knowledge and skills.
- Be clear about what you want the children to achieve / produce during independent practice time. What are the key tasks children need to do during independent time?
- Relentlessly check their work. Prioritise who you visit – possibly monitor first fast starters and those who may need support.
- Allow for at least 5 minutes struggle time – no input from teacher or TA so that any support is required rather than assumed. Ensure they start well before any intervention.
- Align independent practice to the assessment – match the rigour of the upcoming assessment.
- Consider how many children should receive feedback from you. How could you increase that number? Who might you prioritise?
- During practice time constantly check all children for understanding – avoid traffic lights or thumbs but utilise instead observations, mini whiteboards, exit tickets and hinge questions.
What if they struggle and find it difficult to learn?
- What strategies should we be teaching children so that they can better cope with struggling?
- Some will need focused questioning; some might require a clear or different starting point; some might rush and have to redo the task.
- Some might need you to re-explain but possibly not all. Use ‘drop in clinics’.
- Who is most likely to struggle? Knowing your class well will help you to prioritise.
What if they find it easy?
- How will you be ‘responsive’ if some children seem capable of working beyond the objective?
- Some will reach the objective more easily and need to be challenged further – what constitutes a good challenge without just doing more of the same work? A ‘sideways stretch’?