Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Dear Reader,

How do you plan your lessons? Are you methodical and well ahead of yourself, or do you feel like a quick Sunday night Google usually has to suffice?  Do you have enough time for planning lessons?

I suspect there are a very few teachers out there who will answer 'yes' to the final question.  We've all felt the satisfaction of a thoroughly planned lesson - where you've written resources, sourced materials and props, and marked meticulously beforehand - and we've all realised this is not something that can be replicated on a daily basis, or we'd never sleep.  I wonder what is the longest time you've spent planning a single lesson?  Was it worth it?

I've been asking myself today what really constitutes planning a lesson.  The elements involved seem to be the following: selecting objectives for the lesson (which may be differentiated), pondering on the best way to deliver these objectives, and then selecting or creating resources with which to teach the lesson.  Another stage (which could be inserted at any point) would be writing up the lesson plan into the agreed format for your current employer.  Similarly, marking previous work would be inserted anywhere here, but I would suggest the nearer the beginning the better (how can you select lesson objectives without formative assessment?).  So for me, the ideal planning scenario would look something like this:

1. Mark previous work.
2. Set lesson objectives.
3. Sit and think creatively about how these could be delivered in fresh and engaging way.
4. Write or source any materials needed for the lesson.

This looks great.  But I don't do it.  Do you?

The more usual scenario goes something like this:

1. Look at the objective I have for the lesson and try and figure out what exactly it means. ('to recognise thematic words'?  'to visualise objects in a given position'?  'to understand that friends can sometimes be angry at us'?)
2.  Search fruitlessly for original materials referred to in schemes of work, to no avail.
2. Google furiously until I have found something that vaguely relates to my lesson objective.
3. Mark books and realise I should have done this to start with,
4. Change lesson objective and tweak materials.  Realise I could have written my own in less time.
5. Have thoughtful and wide-ranging discussion with my significant other about the lesson.  Realise initial lesson plan was both two-dimensional and utterly mundane.  Despair about state of modern education system.  Wonder whether I am a brilliant or terrible teacher.  Decide probably mediocre.
6. Teach a lesson based mostly on the book marking and thoughtful and wide-ranging discussion, although powerpoint presentation remains on in the background in case the children get bored of looking at my face or senior management come in.

Ross McGill writes here  about his simple solution to teacher workload: give time for planning in the school day. This sounds eminently sensible.  But in order to really address the workload problem, we have to ask some more questions.  How much correlation is there between time spent planning and delivering great lessons?  How efficiently are we really using our planning time?  Is it better to create from scratch or 'tweak' existing materials?  Is it better to use time thinking, discussing, writing, reading, or searching?


  1. Thank you for the reference. I do not physically write lesson plans any more, but rely on schemes of learning and the flow. Although, each individual lesson still requires cognitive thought once in a while. This is where The 5-Minute Lesson Plan can aid the process. As a DT teacher, most of my time is spent preparing resources to support the learning. Sadly, I do not spend enough time on this as I'd like to ...

  2. Anything can be achieved with the help of planning most of the students have more facility even then they cannot complete their task before the deadline. Firstly, they make a plan, then starting work on it so that they can complete their task in a short time without any problem. And online is the best plate form for everyone here much answers are present for us. Nowadays students prefer to take the accredited life experience degree from online college rather than to study in the traditional way.