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How to build a great lesson plan (with a template!)

Monica MccutchenOctober 30, 2019

No matter what content or subject you’re teaching, having a lesson plan prepares you for class by providing a clear outline for the day. Your lesson plans don’t need to be complex or lengthy — they just need to contain elements about what you’re teaching, how you’re going to be teaching this material, and what goals and objectives you want your students to meet as part of the curriculum.

Regardless of the sections within a lesson plan, each class you teach should build on the previous lesson and move seamlessly into the next. Of course, it’s easier to build lesson plans that flow from class to class when you know what goes into creating one!

4 advantages of building a lesson plan

In any class, there are going to be things that you can’t predict. But the more prepared you are, the easier it will be to adapt to the unexpected so you can effectively teach and respond to your students. Here are some of the main benefits of lesson plans:

1. Inspire personal confidence

Having a lesson plan lets you stay in control of the class and the lesson. As your confidence comes across to students, you’ll find it easier to keep them focused and on track.

2. Evaluate your own lessons

Lesson plans allow you to evaluate your own teaching performance as you compare your methods with the plan you’ve prepared. This is a good way to make adjustments to your teaching style and/or techniques.

3. Organization

Lesson plans help you think in an organized manner, visualizing each step of the outline as you work from one concept to the next. A disorganized class presents too many opportunities for students to get off task and misbehave.

4. A guide for substitute teachers

With your lesson plan as a guide, substitute teachers will know exactly what your students are learning that day, making it easier for them to stay on track to meet any curriculum objectives that are set for your class.

The components of a great lesson plan

While there’s no single way to create a lesson plan, there are some important components that go into building each one.

Every lesson that you build is an entire segment that you create to teach your students something new. As you build a lesson it’s important to keep all your students in mind and ask the following essential questions before you begin:

Who are your students?

This may seem silly — of course, you know who your students are … right? Before you can write an effective lesson plan, you need to really know your students. This includes information such as their interests, ability levels, whether they work better independently or in groups, any special needs that may require lesson tweaks, and their backgrounds. Knowing their learning preferences can also be helpful — some students learn better with visual aids, while others do better as auditory learners. You can incorporate videos to appeal to both kinds of learners!

What do your students already know?

Knowing your students’ prior knowledge of a subject can help you plan lessons. If you’ve been building lesson plans all along to follow a curriculum, you’ll already know what you’ve previously presented to your students; this allows you to continue with the flow.

What’s the best way to get them to learn?

Determine the best ways to get your students to learn. Younger students may do well with a lot of interactive teaching, while an older class may do better with a lecture and slideshow. After the first few classes, you’ll have a better idea of how to keep your students engaged.

You can break down the teaching techniques that you can use in your lesson plan into:

  • The types of students you have in your class; including auditory, visual, and kinesthetic learners.
  • The type of learning and goals you’re aiming for. As an exercise, fill in this blank: “By the end of today’s class, I’m hoping my students will have learned or be able to ___.”
  • The resources, materials, and teaching environment that are available to you, such as a classroom, a field trip, or selected readings in a study hall.

Steps to building your lesson plan

Once you’ve identified the components that need to go into teaching your class, you’re ready to use these eight steps to build your lesson plan:

1. Identify the objectives

To build a lesson, you first need to identify the objectives of each class. What do you hope to accomplish by the end of the period? Are there specific things that your students should know or be able to do? If you’re teaching younger students, a lesson objective may be that they’re able to identify animals that live in the rainforest after reading a chapter about animals in Brazil. For older students, this goal may involve having learned how to solve algebraic equations.

2. Determine the needs of your students

With this particular lesson, are you introducing new material or reviewing what you’ve already taught in a previous class? At the start of the class, be sure to let students know what to expect so they can stay focused on meeting your objectives. When reviewing material, some of your students may need more encouragement than others. Identifying these needs in your lesson plan will help you prepare.

3. Plan your resources and materials

Make a list of the resources and materials you’ll need to teach this lesson, such as paper, pens, and rulers. Don’t forget to include technology resources in your plan when appropriate — laptops, and gamified learning tools, like apps or educational websites.

4. Engage your students

What’s the point of a lesson if your students aren’t engaged? You want them to be interested in what you’re teaching. Thus, to prepare, you need to get them interested in what this lesson is all about. Give them an outline of what you’re going to be presenting. Then, introduce the subject more informally. For example, if you’re teaching students a formula, try deriving it from scratch to build their intuition for where it comes from. Or, if you’re discussing certain historical events, try to draw parallels between those and any current events so students can relate to the material.

5. Instruct and present information

Once you’ve set the stage for what you’ll be teaching, it’s time to present the information to your students. This is the time to instruct and use whatever resources you’ve included in your lesson plan. Involve your students in the process whenever possible so they’re engaged. For example, you could ask students to come to the board and solve certain problems or answer questions.

Whether it’s reading from a book, using props such as blocks for younger students, or displaying graphics on the screen for older students, it’s all about presenting information and concepts in a meaningful way. Don’t forget to account for the different learning styles of your students so you can use teaching methods that work for everyone.

6. Allow time for student practice

After teaching new material, leave time for students to practice. There are three practice methods that, when worked in order, are a good way to reinforce what you’ve just taught:

  • Guided practice — With a guided practice you’re taking students back through what they’ve just learned, letting them add their own input as they gain confidence with the new information.
  • Collaborative process — With partners or in a group, the collaborative process is all about students talking with their peers as they explore these new concepts. Circulate among your class and offer additional instruction or help when needed to clarify points.
  • Independent practice — After the collaborative practice, it’s time for students to practice what they’ve learned on their own. Adapt independent practice according to the material you’ve just presented, such as using worksheets or having students write a short essay.

7. Ending the lesson

Finish the lesson with a quick wrap-up. Do a brief overview of the lesson, including the main concepts the class learned. Ask students to identify the key ideas as a refresher, and leave them with a preview of the next lesson so they know what to expect.

8. Evaluate the lesson

Did you achieve your learning objectives? Provide students with the opportunity to show they know the material by using a short quiz or test. Depending on the results, your next lesson plan may include a review of information before moving on to new material.

Sample lesson plan template

You can find many teacher lesson plan templates online. You could even ask your colleagues to share their format! The lesson plan template included here is easy to use and you can adapt it to your own needs.

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