George Lucas Educational Foundation
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Welcome to week two of Edutopia's New Teacher Academy blog series! I'm excited to be here with you sharing my passion to support and mentor new teachers. I hope that you will stay with us as we continue to look at five key topics designed to provide resources for new teachers in five key areas. To collaborate in more detail on these and other topics, I invite you to join New Teacher chat on Twitter.

Please view this video as I share a few words on lesson planning.

A lesson plan is a teacher's detailed guide or map. It maps the course of instruction for one class, or maybe many if you teach more than one subject. It's the "recipe" for the day's exciting learning!

A daily or weekly lesson plan is developed by a teacher to guide class instruction. Details will vary depending on the preference of the teacher and the subject matter being covered. Schools or school districts may have guidelines regarding the lesson plan. They may even have mandates.

That being said, there's always a way to make your lesson plan uniquely your own. How to prepare the lesson plan will also be important. Some teachers enjoy using a good sturdy lesson plan book, some a Word document or spreadsheet, or still others a shared Google Doc. Whichever way you choose, the need for a lesson plan is vital. It can be even more challenging to write and prepare a lesson plan when you're a new teacher!

Today's guest contributor is Matt Ray, a fourth-year teacher in New York City with general education and special education experience. He is passionate about his craft and is eager to share, collaborate and offer support to new teachers.

Matt is a fourth-year teacher in New York City with experience teaching general education and special education. He is an active blogger and user of Twitter (@MrMatthewRay). One of Matt's guiding educational philosophies is his belief in the abilities and value of all children.

Lesson Planning with Matt Ray

Without a detailed plan, you may -- if you're lucky -- deliver a lesson that turns out to be pretty good. More often, though, a poorly planned lesson is going to be a clunker. Our students suffer when we fail to appropriately plan for them.

Planning a lesson is not as simple as referring to a curriculum map, the next page in the textbook or standards. These resources all have their place, and you should use them -- but as guides, not the law. You will find they often don't account for students' deficiencies. You have to account for them, or else your teaching becomes meaningless.

Lessons don't occur in a vacuum. What you see, hear and read from your students today should be directly reflected in what you teach tomorrow. Let the students dictate where you go with your planning. If you are too married to what "needs" to get done, students will fall behind quickly, quite frankly because they don't get what they need.

"Data" is a four-letter word that strikes fear in many teachers. It shouldn't. You collect data everyday when you observe your students and take note of what they are doing well and where they need support. Data comes from conversations (between or with students), exit slips, quizzes, questions, journals and more. Use it to figure out what your students still need to learn, and therefore, what you need to teach.

Some people like to plan a whole week at a time. I've even heard of people who plan all their lessons over the summer. I question these practices. Planning should be reactive. I generally plan only one or two days in advance. That way I make sure I'm not getting too far ahead of my students.

A lesson plan does not need to be scripted to the letter. However, it should have certain components to facilitate delivery. (These are my suggestions. Your school or district may require a certain format.)

1) Objective

Your objective is what you want the outcome of the lesson to be. You might write, "At the end of the lesson, students will be able to _____."

2) Materials

Your materials are the list of resources, articles or manipulatives you need. This helps you organize everything prior to the lesson.

3) Procedure

The bulk of the lesson, procedure includes, among other items: your activation or assessment of prior knowledge; teaching and learning activities; and questions to guide student thought.

4) Assessment

How do you know they "got it?" You can use various forms of data to see. Remember, though, assessment happens throughout the lesson (so you can see what your next steps might be within the lesson) and at the end (so you can see if the objectives were met).

Lesson planning is pivotal to positively impacting student achievement. My rule for planning: always let your students be your guide!

More Useful Links for Lesson Planning

As you look at ways to keep your Lesson Plans vibrant and engaging, here are a few additional links that you may want to check out.

We'd love to hear about your lesson planning ideas. Tell us about what works for you and what new strategies you've found.

Was this useful? (4)
New Teacher Academy Series
A five-part series for new teachers that covers best practices for classroom management, lesson planning, delivery of instruction, working with parents and building relationships.

Comments (7) Sign in or register to comment Follow Subscribe to comments via RSS

Marjan Glavac's picture

I really enjoyed your post and Matt Ray's lesson play video and post. Linking it to a "recipe" is a very good way of presenting it. It is a recipe and like a recipe teachers are free to fine tune it. One useful tip is to post the main points of the lesson plan as a class agenda. In the old days I would do this on chart paper and on the blackboard and eventually on the SmartBoard. That way students know what the goals of the day are and the teacher knows what should be covered.

Lisa Dabbs's picture
Lisa Dabbs
Educational Consultant. Author. Speaker. Blogger.

[quote]I really enjoyed your post and Matt Ray's lesson play video and post. Linking it to a "recipe" is a very good way of presenting it. It is a recipe and like a recipe teachers are free to fine tune it. One useful tip is to post the main points of the lesson plan as a class agenda. In the old days I would do this on chart paper and on the blackboard and eventually on the SmartBoard. That way students know what the goals of the day are and the teacher knows what should be covered.[/quote]
Hi Marjan,
Thanks so much for leaving a comment. I like your idea of posting a class agenda. I've used it myself and with my teachers. Keeps us focused! Students really seemed to enjoy having a broad sense of what the work of the day was going to be.
Great reminder of remembering to keep our students in the loop!

Jacqui Veal's picture
Jacqui Veal
Teaching and Learning Coach, Secondary Teacher, Australia

Hi, totally agree; teaching without a lesson plan is like driving across unfamiliar territory without a map. But we have to be careful to make that map available to our students too. Explicit statement of the lesson goal at the beginning of the lesson is a part of making the map "available" - having students reflect on what they learned about that goal at the end assists them to connect to that goal, and gives the teacher valuable information about where they are on the "journey" and hence where to begin the next lesson.

Alexandra's picture
Masters student in elementary education

I am a masters students studying to become an elementary school teacher. I found this blog very interesting, I had taught English when I lived in Paris for 1 year and I found that when I did not plan a lesson things in the classroom got out of control and not at all structured. I found myself stressing out in class and decided to start doing lesson plans step by step and it made a world of difference. Lesson planning is something I want to master because I know now how important it is. Matt Ray is 100 percent correct about lesson planning, it is like a recipe because if you're missing one ingredient the recipe could fail. I do not have a lot of experience in teaching but I am hoping to start off my career confident in lesson planning

Isabel's picture
Parent of 1 High School Student in VA

Lesson Planning is important. Even though I am not a teacher yet, my current field of study is recreation. We also have to plan what we will have our children participate in. Even though you have a plan, you find yourself using it as more of a guideline for structure because things happen where you will have to change to accommodate for the circumstance and/or situation. Helpful information for a new teacher to be. Thanks.

Jamie's picture

Though I have not been an educator long, I do realize how important planning is in the successful delivery of information for our students. I think Matt Ray pointed out the importance of data collection and assessments in analyzing the effectiveness of evaluating our teaching. Most of us, especially new teachers, do panic at the thought of collecting data on our students. However, Ray referred to the many ways of informal assessment that we utilize constantly in our day-to-day interactions with our students. As an early childhood educator, informal collection is especially important. If students are understanding the basic concepts, then I can determine that my plans and lessons are effective. Noting the objectives that we have for our teaching, and then using this data to determine our effectiveness is a basic concept that each teacher, young and old, should work to master. I appreciate that this blog and others are helping all of us new teachers with important aspects of our chosen profession.

Justin Yantho's picture
Justin Yantho
High school computer science and maths teacher from Oakville, Ontario.

I agree with the message of being "reactive" to today's lesson when planning for the future. Proper planning, big ideas, shifts in pedagogy all, however, require planning in advance. Consider how project based learning might look if it was planned the day before? Your lesson plans do not need to be made and carved in stone. They can be altered as you go based on reflective practice. You should have your direction mapped out in advance, but be able to take necessary detours along the way.

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