Teachers don’t plan lessons so why should I?

I’m writing this blog post with a certain audience in mind.   Over the past few weeks I’ve heard several things that have caught my attention. Things that I think I can help with. They are:

  1. Teachers in the field don’t plan lessons so why am I doing a lesson plan
  2. I don’t really get what the four part lesson plan is all about
  3. How do I use an IWB in a four part lesson? Am I making a notebook lesson?

As a teacher, you may be reading this post and forming your own ideas about the answers to these questions.  Please feel free to add comments if you feel I miss anything.  What I’m about to attempt to do is attempt to explain and discuss the points above. Let’s start with point 1.

  1. Teachers in the field don’t plan lessons so why should I?

I can remember when I was training to be a teacher.  I remember the sheer exhaustion as I struggled with what felt like an enormous amount of lesson planning and reflection tasks on each teaching practice.  In England we completed a prac. of 4-7 weeks every year with the amount of actual teaching time increasing each year.  Planning every lesson for every week of that prac. seemed an onerous task and I can remember imagining that once I was fully qualified I’d never had to write another lesson plan again…..

I was wrong.

For the next 10 years I continued to plan every lesson I taught.
Although I could choose to walk into a classroom and make it up as I go along, I know that if I want to teach to a standard that would be deemed as Satisfactory/Good every lesson then I’d need to have a little think about how I was going to inspire, reach and enthuse my students. Why? Because although the content doesn’t change much (National Curriculum and all) the personalities and abilities of my students changes every single year (if not a little more frequently… i do work with teens after all;).
I have never worked with a teacher who doesn’t plan lessons.  Sure, if we’re honest we have times where we might not plan in as much detail as we could but I hope the readers will agree that all good teachers consider how they are going to use their skills to help their students do more than just understand the content they are teaching.
When thinking about lesson plans themselves you have to understand that, just with any other written document, Audience and Purpose are vital.  Obviously, the main purpose of a lesson plan is to allow the teacher to consider how best to facilitate learning in their classroom.  It is a framework we use to help us to consider the many complex factors which go into making a pupils’ progress excel.  The audience of these plans might be a bit different from time to time….
What does “real” planning look like?

As those of you who have worked with me know, I use the four part lesson plan. I have done for the last 5/6 years.  So here’s what my day to day plans look like:

My Weekly Planner:

The plan below represents the notes I make for myself.  The letters at the start of each point represent the stages of the four part accelerated learning cycle.  The audience of this plan is me… As a result,  It doesn’t contain enough information for anyone else to pick this up and run with it not does it need to.  From these notes the reader has no context, no resources, no idea about who I’m teaching because I have all of that information in my head and no one else needs that information right now… What’s important is that I did spend a minute creating a plan outlining how I would be teaching my content, although all of the details are not written down I have spent time considering them.  I also will have created a flipchart (I used Activ Inspire) to accompany this.  The flip chart has the lesson objectives clearly stated within the first couple of slides.

A Screen Shot of my Weekly Lesson Planner -

A Screen Shot of my Weekly Lesson Planner NB: These are plans I’ve used in England. Year 11 is the last year of the GCSE and is equivalent to AUS Year 10 (in age).

In honesty,  When I plan, I usually plan straight into Inspire.  I start by finding my lesson objectives and then I consider the students I’m teaching.  Who are they? What am I expecting of them? What perceived obstacles can I see that might stop them? How do I help them over come these obstacles? How do I challenge the strong and support the weak? How do I personalise learning? How could I use ICT to help improve learning? What questions will I ask? None of this information is displayed above.

 

Although I have considered all of this whilst writing what you see above, if I handed a plan which was as short as this to an observer it would be very hard for them to understand what I’m up to and why I’ve chosen to teach in that way. Also, as a new, less experienced teacher it might be helpful for me to have a template that I complete, just to ensure that I am prompted into thinking carefully about covering all the bases.  When planning a good lesson, there’s a lot to think about!

That’s where the Half Page Plan comes in….

Short 4 part lesson plan - S woodward

Here’s a shot of a more detailed, 4 part lesson plan framework for personal use.

This template is great for allowing you to remember the process of connect, activate, demonstrate and consolidate. it also requires objectives to be listed and you can see there’s a lot more detail here.  This plan, however, would still not be detailed enough to inform an observer who is new to my classroom about everything I’m doing there.

What is an observer looking for?

In an ordinary classroom situation how do you know what you need to demonstrate as a teacher in a lesson?  We’ve now got the National Professional Standards for Teachers here in Australia.  What we still don’t have though is a mechanism for measuring how well you’re meeting them when you teach.  If you want something to measure with then click for the Lesson observation Criteria (OFSTED 2009) used when I was observed.

When we have an observer in the room then the Audience of  my document changes.  Now, through this document, you’ve  got to demonstrate all the skills you’re using as a teacher.  How do you do that?

Transparency – Give the observer EVERYTHING in your head on a sheet of paper.

In order to reach the dizzy heights of “Outstanding” as a teacher (Based on the OFSTED criteria I was constantly assessed by) you’re going to have to do a lot of work to make sure that you prove that you’ve thought of everything.   Now, this is where I would argue that you are beginning to jump through hoops.  There’s NO WAY you would ever plan every lesson in as much detail as this…. However… if you’re being observed or your lessons’ being read by somebody who can’t read your mind then here’s an example of a longer, Full, detailed lesson plan for observation.

Notice all the extra information provided here.  This is evidence of all of the thinking and teaching preparation I have done prior to the lesson.   We have information about how many boys and girls so that I can demonstrate strategies to combat under achievement in boys, we have information about the pupil’s history in the form of SEN and G+T and much, much more.

What will be more interesting to the Audience that this was intended for will be my notes to the observer at the end.  It’s these notes that resemble the Pebble Pad blog post you’ll be writing.  Although in this case my object was not to point out how TPACK was being used, can you identify how I am using technology to enable learning?  Visualisers are electronic document cameras, voting tools have been used at the beginning and end of the lesson to chart progress, the IWB has been used to allow pupils to lead learning there’s a lot going on… perhaps there are some clues there to answer your fourth question?

The main point I’m making here is that the art of lesson planning is an important one.  That, when you are a beginning teacher, you need to plan in more detail so that you can give yourself the time and a framework to operate in to ensure that you can produce quality lessons.  As you get more experienced you’ll need less of a framework  or scaffold and you’ll start to do many of the things you see in this longer lesson plan automatically.  What that doesn’t mean is that someone else who’s observing you can see what you’re doing.  When you’re asked to plan a lesson and share it with an observer so you can show off your skills make sure you give them every detail you’ve used in your head.  Share your expertise with them so that they understand what you’re trying to do.  Here was the resulting observation grade I received from the planning, organising and deliver of this lesson. Selena Woodward Lesson Observation – GRADED OFSTED CRITERIA 09

Don’t be afraid to take a risk either… and don’t forget that sometimes even the best laid plans…..

If you’re a practising teacher why not let our student teachers know that we plan?  Feel free to leave them a message below 🙂

Tomorrow? I’ll tackle that second question!

10 Comments
  1. Teacher Technologies 6 years ago

    I sent this out to the twitterverse…. Here are a couple of responses:

    shannonej Shannon Johnston
    I still plan after 21 ys – to make sure lesson is cohesive, comprehensive, relevant and directionful, all aspects thought of

    shannonej Shannon Johnston
    @TeacherTechnol also when learning to teach – helps to ‘rehearse’ lesson, id potential issues and be ready, to have tight & relevant lesson

  2. mochinbach 6 years ago

    I sent this out to the twitterverse…. Here are a couple of responses:

    shannonej Shannon Johnston
    @TeacherTechnol also when learning to teach – helps to ‘rehearse’ lesson, id potential issues and be ready, to have tight & relevant lesson

    shannonej Shannon Johnston
    @TeacherTechnol also when learning to teach – helps to ‘rehearse’ lesson, id potential issues and be ready, to have tight & relevant lesson

  3. Derek 6 years ago

    I have become aware over the last 30 years that lesson planning is more box ticking than teaching. ALL lesson are laid out in the same forulaic way whether it be Maths and English to P E and D&T. Yes you should have a plan, but make that plan relative to the subject and the class being taught. As with Ofsted, they come and as long as the boxes are ticked and the right standard answers are given then the teacher will get a Good to Outstanding review , depending on how many boxes were ticked. I always used to get Satifactory with an odd Good thrown in . Others would get Good to Outstanding. Strange as it was, when it came to exam results, the Good to Outstanding teachers got 40 – 60% A* – C./ Me, got 60 – 90% A* – C.

    • Selena Woodward 6 years ago

      I think it depends on your audience really. As I say in the post, sometimes your plans are for yourself to formulate a method. Sometimes, they really are what I call a “hoop jumping” exercise. As an experienced teacher you probably don’t need to write it all down to the extent that we do when being observed by an “outsider” however, if we want them to understand what we’re doing, all the little nitty gritty, every little thought then we HAVE to spell it out for them… especially if they’re only watching for 20/30 mins.

      I used to get satisfactory/good all the time until i realised that although I knew what I was doing the people watching me did not.. because I hadn’t made it obvious enough for them 😉 Thanks for commenting 🙂

      For our student teachers they’re going to need to plan in as much detail as they can whilst they’re learning / being observed/ writing reflections. Both because they’re new to the profession and will probably need a framework to help them to develop the higher level skills of an experienced teacher and also because they are constantly being assessed by “outsiders” and they should make sure they show them everything they’ve got!

    • Author
      Selena Woodward 6 years ago

      thanks for your comment Derek. As I say in the post above I guess the important thing is knowing the audience for your plan. Everyday planning is a lot less detailed the plans that we produce for more formal audiences (in our case OFSTED or annual observations). When you are an experienced teacher like yourself you don’t need to write everything down, just the map of where you’re going. The rest can remain in your head because you don’t need to share that with anyone else at that time.

      When you’re being observed by someone who has not got your experience with your class/ situation/ subject then you HAVE to give them everything you can to help the see what you’re up to – otherwise they’ll never see what everything you are doing. I had the same problem for a number of years with the satisfactory/good and it had nothing to do with what was going on with me it was helping the observers SEE and understand what I was up to that was the key.

      IN the case of our student teachers, when they’re asked to plan they need to take the opportunity to a) use a framework to scaffold their ideas so that they can develop the skills they’ll need to create fabulous lesson plans. You and I know that there is a lot to consider to get it right. They also need to make sure that they make clear to their audience (their tutor/class teacher) etc. what it is that they are achieving. Especially if the lesson plan is being handed up for consideration without ever actually being taught; as is the case for some assignments.

      I think the key here is that YOU are planning lessons, even after 30 years because, as a great teacher, with great results you know the importance of having a plan in order to complete the journey

  4. Derek 6 years ago

    I have become aware over the last 30 years that lesson planning is more box ticking than teaching. ALL lesson are laid out in the same forulaic way whether it be Maths and English to P E and D&T. Yes you should have a plan, but make that plan relative to the subject and the class being taught. As with Ofsted, they come and as long as the boxes are ticked and the right standard answers are given then the teacher will get a Good to Outstanding review , depending on how many boxes were ticked. I always used to get Satifactory with an odd Good thrown in . Others would get Good to Outstanding. Strange as it was, when it came to exam results, the Good to Outstanding teachers got 40 – 60% A* – C./ Me, got 60 – 90% A* – C.

    • Author
      Selena Woodward 6 years ago

      thanks for your comment Derek. As I say in the post above I guess the important thing is knowing the audience for your plan. Everyday planning is a lot less detailed the plans that we produce for more formal audiences (in our case OFSTED or annual observations). When you are an experienced teacher like yourself you don’t need to write everything down, just the map of where you’re going. The rest can remain in your head because you don’t need to share that with anyone else at that time.

      When you’re being observed by someone who has not got your experience with your class/ situation/ subject then you HAVE to give them everything you can to help the see what you’re up to – otherwise they’ll never see what everything you are doing. I had the same problem for a number of years with the satisfactory/good and it had nothing to do with what was going on with me it was helping the observers SEE and understand what I was up to that was the key.

      IN the case of our student teachers, when they’re asked to plan they need to take the opportunity to a) use a framework to scaffold their ideas so that they can develop the skills they’ll need to create fabulous lesson plans. You and I know that there is a lot to consider to get it right. They also need to make sure that they make clear to their audience (their tutor/class teacher) etc. what it is that they are achieving. Especially if the lesson plan is being handed up for consideration without ever actually being taught; as is the case for some assignments.

      I think the key here is that YOU are planning lessons, even after 30 years because, as a great teacher, with great results you know the importance of having a plan in order to complete the journey

  5. Author
    Selena Woodward 6 years ago

    and here are more from Facebook:

    (Name removed for politeness sake) doing it as we speak! I know I teach in a pool and not a classroom, but surely the theory’s the same. If I don’t plan, my lessons don’t have any structure and I can’t asses how much progress is being made. Surely you can’t teach without planning?
    14 hours ago · Like

    (Name removed for politeness sake) Yes I do!!But if you read my comment, it might give you a different perspective.
    11 hours ago · Like

    (Name removed for politeness sake) yes, but i’m at a stage where i don’t need a lesson plan – good riddance to those! I just jot down in my diary the key points and rely on my brain for the rest!

    See, notes, full plans. Everyone does a bit in one form or another but there are plans being made

  6. Author
    Selena Woodward 6 years ago

    and here are more from Facebook:

    (Name removed for politeness sake) doing it as we speak! I know I teach in a pool and not a classroom, but surely the theory’s the same. If I don’t plan, my lessons don’t have any structure and I can’t asses how much progress is being made. Surely you can’t teach without planning?
    14 hours ago · Like

    (Name removed for politeness sake) Yes I do!!But if you read my comment, it might give you a different perspective.
    11 hours ago · Like

    (Name removed for politeness sake) yes, but i’m at a stage where i don’t need a lesson plan – good riddance to those! I just jot down in my diary the key points and rely on my brain for the rest!

    See, notes, full plans. Everyone does a bit in one form or another but there are plans being made

  7. […] Lesson Planning, although it’s a long read I found this from a blogger regarding the lesson planning topic…… would love to get your thoughts on this […]

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