How to Create a Lesson Plan
To a student, a great teacher may always seem like they have the right words, they know how to explain a concept clearly and they plan the best activities to engage the class. How do these teachers do it? In addition to their expertise in pedagogy and love for students, the answer likely comes down to lesson planning. Lesson planning is the important behind-the-scenes work teachers do to make learning a reality.
In this lesson planning guide, we’ll explain the importance of lesson planning and share a step-by-step walkthrough of how to create effective lesson plans for your class.
The Importance of Lesson Plans
Typically, great lessons don’t happen by accident. Lesson planning is critical for both teachers and students to ensure the time together in the classroom is well-spent. Lesson plans can help teachers:
- Achieve objectives: One of the primary benefits of lesson planning is that it helps teachers take a targeted approach to achieving learning objectives. When you start with objectives and plan the lesson to accomplish them, you won’t have to wonder if your lessons are helping you attain your goals — and the state or school goals — for the class.
- Maximize learning: Without lesson plans as guidance, teachers may end up wasting time trying to feel out how a lesson is going and what they should do next. They may also end the lesson thinking, “I wish I had covered X,” or “I wonder if students understood Z.” An effective lesson plan can prevent these scenarios and make every moment of class time count.
- Feel confident: Especially for new teachers, confidence may seem elusive at times. Maintaining confidence is important, though, since confident teachers are more empowering and effective in the classroom. Any experienced teacher knows that the better prepared you are with a lesson plan, the more likely you are to feel confident as you teach.
- Inform substitutes: In the event that you aren’t able to be at school and need to enlist the help of a substitute teacher, a lesson plan takes on a new level of importance. Handing off a detailed lesson plan to a sub can help them pick up where you left off and cover the intended content for that day so you can stick to your unit plan.
- Relay lessons to administrators: Teachers may, at times, need to share their lesson plans with a school administrator to check in. This is especially likely for first-year teachers who may need to make their lesson plans available to the principal on a weekly basis. Having lesson plans written down allows you to share your plan in a straightforward format with anyone who needs to see it.
New Teacher’s Step-by-Step Guide to Creating a Lesson Plan
A study of pre-service teachers found these teachers were aware of the importance of lesson planning, but they found the process of developing lesson plans to be difficult. Lesson planning can feel overwhelming, especially to an inexperienced teacher, but any teacher can create thorough lesson plans by following a series of lesson planning steps.
With these steps, you can feel prepared every day you step into the classroom, and your students will benefit from well-planned, effective lessons and a confident teacher.
1. Identify Your Learning Objectives
To create effective lesson plans, teachers should work backward — by starting with the end goal for the lesson — so they can determine how best to work toward and achieve it. This end goal is often referred to as a learning objective, outcome or intention. Learning objectives may contain multiple parts or be split into separate objectives. If your lesson has multiple learning objectives, consider prioritizing them to ensure you achieve the most important goal if time proves short.
Each learning objective should be concise and specific. A typical format for these objectives is to state what students will be able to do or understand by the end of the class period. For example, an English lesson plan on using past perfect tense may start with the objective, “Students will be able to identify past perfect tense in sample sentences and produce their own forms of past perfect verbs.”
Another thing to keep in mind is that your learning objectives should map onto standards imposed by your state or school. Much of the strategizing for how teachers will meet these standards happens at the level of unit planning, but you should keep these standards in mind for each lesson plan.
2. Plan How You’ll Introduce the Topic
After identifying your objectives, you can shift your focus to how you’ll achieve them. The first part of your plan should be an introduction, also known as a hook or an anticipatory set. Some key elements to a good introduction include:
- Engaging students’ attention: Students may come into the classroom thinking about the conversation they just had in the hall or what they’re going to eat for lunch. In virtual learning contexts, students may be distracted by the technology or what’s going on at home. Teachers must start by getting students’ attention and redirecting their brains from other things to the topic at hand. For example, some teachers will play a short video clip or ask a thought-provoking question to launch the lesson.
- Assessing students’ prior knowledge: During this time, teachers should also get an idea of what prior knowledge students have on the topic of the lesson. For example, an English teacher might ask for a show of hands for anyone who has heard of past perfect verb tense, then ask students to leave their hands up if they can define past perfect tense.
- Previewing lesson material: Finally, an introduction should preview what the lesson will be on that day. Give students a brief overview of what will take place so they can easily follow along. Some teachers write this outline on the board. As you begin to introduce the topic, try to connect it to prior learning. For example, you might point out that yesterday, you talked about simple past tense, but this isn’t the only tense we use for things that happened in the past.
3. Outline the Instruction You’ll Give
Continue from the introduction into the main portion of the lesson. This may include portions of lecture, reading, multimedia resources, examples on the whiteboard, group activities or discussion. Teachers can take many approaches to achieve the same learning objective, and multiple ways can work. Let your training and creativity lead the way as you determine the best ways to deliver instruction.
Keep in mind there are four common learning styles that will likely be represented in your classroom, so it’s best if you can appeal to all these types of learners through your lesson. For example, in an introductory math lesson on multiplication, a teacher could illustrate the concept visually on the dry erase board or using physical objects. They could also use math manipulatives to cater to kinesthetic learners. You may need to differentiate for students with an Individualized Education Program (IEP).
Plan to check for comprehension as you proceed with the lesson and take questions periodically so you can ensure students are following along and no one is left confused.
4. Plan Time for Student Practice
The adage that says, “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I remember, involve me and I learn,” rings true in many instances. Students may only have a tenuous grasp on a topic until they’re given the chance to put their learning into action. This is when their understanding really crystallizes. Plan time for students to practice — either individually, in groups or both — to drive the lesson home.
If you plan to group students, you may want to include these groupings in your lesson plan so no class time is wasted determining how best to split up the classroom. For digital instruction, it’s especially important to plan ahead how you will create breakout groups within the video conferencing platform.
5. Note the Materials You’ll Need for the Lesson
A practical concern for teachers is what materials they’ll need to carry out a lesson. Maybe you need to bring along your math manipulatives for a multiplication lesson or activity sheets to help students practice. In an art class, a teacher may need a longer list of materials to complete a project.
Whatever you need, make sure you write these items down in a list on your lesson plan. This way, you can be sure to gather all those items ahead of time and be ready to go on the day of the lesson. If you need students to bring in any items as part of the lesson, you can let them know ahead of time, as well.
6. Determine How You Will Conclude and Assess Students’ Learning
Like every good story, a good lesson should have a beginning, middle and end. After you’ve introduced a lesson and walked students through its contents, it’s time to conclude. You may want to briefly review what you covered that day and take some time to answer any remaining questions.
It’s also smart to end with a formative assessment. Teachers use formative assessments to check students’ comprehension and help them make positive changes if needed to help achieve learning outcomes. At the end of a class, this often takes the form of an exit ticket — a quick evaluation of students’ uptake in the form of one or two questions. These assessments can take just two or three minutes, and they can help teachers confirm they’ve achieved learning objectives or identify gaps in knowledge they should address next time.
This is also when you can assign homework if applicable. Write the homework assignment on your lesson plan or an assignment sheet so you can relay it to students before the end of class.
Tips for Effective Lesson Planning
Over time, teachers find a rhythm and format that works for their lesson planning. What works perfectly for one teacher may not be ideal for you. Just as teaching styles differ, lesson planning styles may also differ. That said, there are some tips that can help nearly any teacher — especially a new instructor — enhance their lesson planning:
- Use a template: A template with spaces for your objectives, materials list and other lesson plan components can help you avoid any overwhelming feeling you might get from a blank page. It can also help ensure you hit all the important points you should include in your plan. Look for a lesson planning book to write in rather than a typical planner or notebook to help with this.
- Consult others’ lesson plans: A study of novice teachers found that teachers who downloaded and consulted other teachers’ lesson plans had higher-achieving students. Teachers of any experience level can benefit greatly from drawing on the creativity and expertise of other teachers. Take time to look through examples from fellow teachers or sample lesson plans online to help get ideas for your class.
- Estimate times: As you prepare your lesson plan, write down time estimates next to each activity or portion so you can plan to fit everything into the allotted time. If you find that something took much longer or shorter than you expected, make a note of it so you can hone your ability to accurately predict these time estimates in future plans.
- Plan backup activities: In the event that activities don’t take as long as you predicted or that students grasp the concept more quickly than you expected, it’s helpful to have a backup activity or two up your sleeve. Jot down an idea on your lesson plan for how you can productively spend any extra time you might have.
- Reflect on each lesson: Planning happens prior to a lesson, and arguably just as important is the reflection that should happen after the lesson. Choose a lesson planning book with room for notes so you can sit down after a lesson and jot down some key takeaways. This could include things that didn’t go as planned or activities that were especially popular with the students. You can also write down a reminder to recap a concept or fill in a knowledge gap in the next lesson.
Lesson Plan Like a Pro With Lesson Plan and Record Books From The Classroom Store
Though lesson planning takes place outside of class time, it’s crucial in determining how class time will go. A well-prepared teacher can be excited to get in front of the classroom or meet up with students virtually to help them achieve the objectives for the class period, unit and class as a whole.
If you want to lesson plan like a pro, treat yourself to a class record and plan book from The Classroom Store. On our online store, you’ll find all the classroom supplies you need, including lesson planning books in a variety of styles. Choose from sleek, modern options and fun, colorful ones — whatever fits your personality. Place your order today so you can start strong with lesson planning and enjoy a great school year.