How to write a lesson plan to maximize student learning outcomes
Learn how to plan a lesson methodically so as to maximize student engagement
Think about the time you walked into a classroom with a hastily written lesson plan or maybe no lesson plan at all. How did your class go? I’ll take a wild guess and say it wasn’t your best.
I've definitely been there. As a new teacher I struggled writing up good lesson plans and it definitely showed. They were too content heavy and teacher centered, my lesson goals were too vague and my planned activities and laboratory practicals were not well aligned with my lesson objectives.
I often times lost my class within the first five minutes with a lackluster introduction. Not to mention, my grades at the end of the semester were dreadful since I failed to adequately incorporate formative assessments in my plans.
But after some careful research and trail and error, I was able to generate a great template that focused on all the things that are required to plan a really objective focused lesson.
The Importance of Having a Good Lesson Plan
Before we get into the formula for writing up a brilliant lesson, we may need some reminding as to why it is important as a newbie and even as a veteran to use a plan for every lesson.
Research does show that there is a correlation between student learning and the level of planning a teacher does. So we may actually be doing our students a disservice when we hastily plan a lesson in our heads on our way to class.
We definitely need to spend time carefully mapping out our lessons as they:
Will have a more unified and logical flow
Allow teachers to focus more on implementing teaching strategies that meet their students needs and
Enable the planning of relevant class activities that are centered around the specific lesson objectives.
With that said it should be stressed that a lesson plan is NOT a blueprint by which teachers have to strictly adhere to. Although your lessons should be methodical they should also be able to evolve as your students' needs change.
In my opinion, lesson planning is more about actively thinking about a lesson’s goal and activities and how they are interconnected and less about filling a template... although a template certainly helps!
Now that we have that out of the way Let's discuss some of the ways we can plan lessons that enhance student engagement and understanding.
Key Components of a lesson Plan
When planning any lesson you should first ask yourself these questions:
What do I want students to know at the end of this lesson? ( Lesson Goal)
What do I need to do (Instructional activity)
What do my students need to do (learning activity) in order to achieve the lesson goal?
How will I know that students have met the goal? (Assessment)
Focus on the four components above drives the conceptualization of a lesson which is goal focused and ensures that the lesson is designed and sequenced such that each activity integrated into the lesson supports the identified lesson objectives.
Planning an Effective Lesson
1. Outline your Lesson Goal
Your main lesson goal should be one sentence. This provides a purpose for the lesson. This statement should be generalized and can usually be found in your subject's syllabus.
Use particle theory to distinguish among the three states of matter
2. Break down lesson goal into specific objectives
The specific objectives should be what you hope students gain or accomplish by the end of the lesson.
Specific objectives should begin with a verb and should be achievable within the allotted time frame for the class. Having more than three specific objectives in a single period runs the risk of overwhelming students working memory and potentially hampering the learning process.
Additionally, avoid using vague statements such as :
“ Students should be able to understand….” or “ students will learn about…”
Instead state exactly what you would like students to do by using terms such as explain, draw, define, calculate, label , plot etc.
At the end of this lesson students should be able to:
Draw a diagram to represent the arrangement of particles in solids, liquids and gases
Explain the differences among the three states of matter in terms of strength of the forces of attraction of particles and the kinetic energy of particles.
Use the particle theory to explain differences in volume and compressibility of solids, liquids and gases.
3. Take note of student prior Knowledge
List everything students SHOULD know before the beginning of the lesson. This could include concepts or definitions from the previous lesson, a different topic, or even a different subject area.
4. List the Common Misconceptions
This is an invaluable step which has improved my teaching tremendously. We as educators know that students harbor alternative conceptions which can affect their understanding of other topics later in their academic careers.
By becoming more aware of these misconceptions, teachers have the opportunity to address some of these in their lesson. This can be done effectively through diagnostic tests.
5. Plan an Engaging Introduction
A lesson introduction incites student interest and curiosity. This is the opportunity to help students link their prior knowledge and experiences to the current topic. This is also an opportunity for teachers to learn about student misconceptions.
A variety of approaches can be used such as a demonstration, anecdotes, real world example , probing questions diagnostic tests and retrieval. Just ensure that you are able to stimulate student interest from the beginning of the lesson.
6. Plan Learning activities
This should include all the activities that you will perform as well as your students' responses to that activity. Each activity planned should be focused on a specific objective.
Specific Objective: Use the particle theory to explain differences in volume and compressibility of solids, liquids and gases.
Teacher activity: Teacher will fill three sealed syringes with a gas, a liquid and a solid and place them on student work benches. Students will be handed out instructions and worksheets for recording observations.
Student activity: Students will work in groups of three. They will follow instructions on lab sheet and record all observations on their record sheet. Students will then discuss their answers and complete activity 2 from hand out.
7. Check for Understanding (Formative Assessment)
We as teachers need to understand this very simple fact. Just because we taught something it doesn’t mean they learned anything.
During our planning we must incorporate ways of assessing student understanding, and these checks should be aligned with each learning objective. It may be as simple as asking a question, asking students to complete a quick activity or write a short summary of what they remember.
These checks are important for both teachers and students as students may not have been aware that they did not understand a concept until they are asked to retrieve it by writing it down. Similarly, teachers will become aware of student difficulties if any and will be able to adjust their lesson accordingly. Even if it means skipping one of their planned objectives and activities to review.
8. Write a Reflection
This is the only part of your plan which should be written after the lesson has been completed. It is a way of assessing whether or not your lesson was successful; to review the results of your formative assessments and determine whether or not your learning goal was achieved. You can then decide what needs to be reviewed in the next lesson whether or not you should move on , and which students need additional support.
Writing such detailed lesson plans will allow you to create more engaging and interesting lessons. As you become more experienced they can be modified to suit the emerging needs of your students.
If you are interested in writing up a lesson following this format, you can down load a free template and guide.
Until Next time teachers! And don't forget to share!
Anderson, Lorin W., and David R. Krathwohl, eds. 2001. A Taxonomy for Learning, Teaching, and Assessing: A Revision of Bloom's Taxonomy of Educational Objectives. New York: Addison Wesley Longman, Inc.
Bloom, B. S. (1956). Taxonomies of educational objectives. Handbook 1. Cognitive Domain. NY: McKay.