Simple strategies for effective lesson planning

Everybody develops their own techniques for effective lesson planning as they grow and develop during their teaching careers. Different methods work for different people, and we all come up with our little hacks that are time-saving enough for ourselves, but rarely share them. I see plenty of ideas being passed about on Twinkl and TES, but they’re often priced at a premium.

Now, I’ve got nothing against anyone wanting to charge (more power to you), but sometimes it’s nice to help each other out. We’re all following the same path, after all, which is getting the best out of the kids we teach. It’s why I shared my top tips that I wish I’d known as an NQT the other week.

These might not be free resources for download, but these are my simple strategies for how I lesson plan effectively. I hope they help!

Electronic mastermind

I’ve made no secret of wishing to carry as little as possible to school with me every day. It’s the number one reason for no longer keeping a notepad in my bag, since it makes it far too heavy.

Instead, I do all of my lesson planning on a school-provided iPad and stylus. This is beneficial in a number of ways:

  1. It cuts down on bag clutter
  2. It means that I no longer panic when I’m getting to the end of a Pukka Pad and don’t have time to go shopping
  3. It keeps all of my notes together.

That final one is really important. When I used physical notebooks, I’d scrap the drawn-up plan after it had transformed into a lesson because, you know, clutter. Now, though, I keep all of my notes sorted into a lesson plans folder. This means that I can refer back to my planning notes whenever I’m struggling for ideas to keep things fresh.

You don’t need to use an expensive device for your planning, but the reason I use the iPad instead of a desktop is because handwriting notes for planning sticks in my head and allows for better thinking than using a keyboard and mouse. Use what works for you, but I can only see benefits from sticking to a touch screen.

Rosenshine’s teacher toolkit

I summarised Rosenshine’s thoughts a while back, but it’s worth revisiting them for lesson planning. His principles are what my school’s shared curriculum is based around: you’ll want a starter, something to connect and engage them, a chance for you to model the activity and for the students to practice with their new information, before performing a learning check.

Plan for a bunch of learning checks throughout the lesson. Simply asking, ‘are there any questions?’ will lead you to assume that there are none – but chances are high that somebody doesn’t understand. Questioning will help you assess whether students are confident enough to move on with the next task.

Ignore the title typos – that’s the iPad turning my handwritten notes into something more eligible (I promise)

Big picture learning

It’s one thing to create an amazing task, but another thing entirely to understand why learners are doing it. I’ve learned in the last year that you need to be incredibly explicit when it comes to students’ learning about why they are doing certain activities. You might know, but if you don’t explain why students are learning something, and how that fits into the big picture, then they will not understand any new content as effectively as they could.

Think about it: you’re probably teaching one, maybe two or three subjects throughout the week. Your whole life is your subject, whereas the kids are learning English, then Maths, then double Science, before finishing the day with a History lesson – and all they might be concerned about that day is a funny meme they saw the night before, or what they’re having for dinner later on.

Before the lesson, you need to think about what it is that students need to take away from their learning, how you’re going to explain that to them, and how you’re going to constantly remind them of how it fits into what they’re already learned. Speaking of which…

Interleaving

For God’s sake, please remind students of what they learned the lesson before – and last week – and a month ago if you have time. They will forget, which is why spaced repetition is such an important facet of the learning process for solidifying new content in their developing brains.

A word of warning

If you clicked on this post for activities to do that work time-and-time again, I’m afraid that you will be leaving disappointed. It’s great having a variety of techniques in your arsenal, but sometimes mixing it up for the sake of it isn’t worth your while. Keep it simple and engaging, remind yourself and the kids of why you’re teaching them these things, and the range of activities will come.

Do you have any tips and tricks for developing pedagogy? I’d love to read them below!


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