Teacher Education in India is notorious for its emphasis on preparing lesson plans. And yet, it is one of the most neglected practices among practising school teachers. A large part of what makes a good teacher comes down to meticulous lesson planning. This is because effective lesson planning can prevent or solve many of the challenges that teachers face on a regular basis. Such challenges include poor classroom practice, disruptive student behaviour, inadequate progression, and poorly devised assessment tasks.
What about good teachers who don’t plan?
Some experienced teachers seem to be good at teaching without planning. But this is often because, over time, their planning has become an internalized procedure. They bring to the class huge pedagogical and subject-related knowledge and have built up a bank of classroom activities they can pull from at any given point in time.
Driving can be an internalized process for many experienced drivers. And yet, there is a process that novice drivers need to learn. Similarly, learning the art of lesson planning is crucial for every K-12 teacher.
Things to keep in mind while planning lessons
Lesson planning software tools often offer standardized structures to format the contents of the lesson plan. Teacher education institutions or educational institutions may have their own structures. No matter how you format your lesson plan, make sure you follow these four principles of planning.
Plan towards learning objectives
Many excellent teachers plan creative and engaging learning activities. However, without clearly defined learning objectives, these activities may not have the desired outcome of helping students to learn. Define your objectives clearly.
For example, do you want your students to remember the contents of a story, do you want them to derive a moral lesson from the story, or do you want them to learn how to identify themes in the story? Do you want your students to understand the real-world applications of differential calculus or do you want them to learn the computation of the formulas? Each of these objectives requires a different strategy.
Plan towards continuity
The process of learning involves integrating new information with what you already know. To make the process of learning more effective for your students, consider what your students have learnt before this particular lesson. What did you teach them in the previous class, what did the students learn on this topic in the previous grade, and so on.
A closely related principle is that of progression. One helpful way to consider progression is to ask whether students are progressing to higher-order thinking skills. To define these thinking skills, you could use the 7 levels of thinking in the cognitive domain that Bloom’s Taxonomy offers. Or, if you want a more basic categorisation, try KUD – Know, Understand and Do. The KUD format can be used to plan lessons where students progress from merely knowing facts to understanding, and eventually to using the knowledge to create their own models or projects (do).
Plan for assessment
As a teacher, it is crucial to understand assessment. This doesn’t just refer to designing tests. The purpose of assessment can be classified into assessment for learning and assessment of learning.
Assessment of learning helps summarise what students know, understand, or can do, against a standardised benchmark or grade-level standard. They are usually administered at the end of a period of time such as the end of a unit, term, semester, or even a year.
Assessment for learning, on the other hand, assesses a student’s comprehension and learning during the process of learning, creating helpful feedback for the early recognition and remediation of learning gaps. Thus, assessment for learning is a highly powerful tool to not just measure student learning, but also to enable student learning.
Reflect on your teaching
Teachers who have problems in the classroom do not see the relationship between student problems and their lesson planning. Many will blame the students — ‘Nobody can teach that lot, they’re well known for being disruptive’, ‘What’s the point in planning anything for that class, they just don’t want to learn!’ — rather than recognizing that at least some teachers do manage to get such students learning. Teachers who are reflective about their practice will reflect on not just the problems they face in the classroom, but seek to find the reasons for the problems. This will enable them to plan better lessons in the future.
Become a better teacher — one plan at a time
If you are a teacher who doesn’t plan their lessons, you don’t need to start with overly elaborate lesson plans. The overwhelm of planning for each lesson might make the practice unsustainable. Get started by stating your learning objectives, and describing brief activities. Over time, the complexity will increase as you yourself feel the need for it. The end goal of planning is to become a better teacher — one plan at a time!