Abraham Lincoln once said: “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” This quote highlights the importance and value of proper planning before executing a task.
However, as teachers know, the process of lesson planning has become increasingly administrative and demanding. The Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) said a rising workload, described as unacceptable by 74% of those who responded to its survey, is contributing to increased stress and falling job satisfaction (Irish Examiner, March 28 2018).
Nevertheless, lesson planning is the bread and butter of teaching and learning – and never ends!
Why should you focus on improving your lesson planning?
Better lesson planning → Better lessons → Increased job satisfaction → Happiness.
Better lesson planning → Better lessons → Better classroom environment → Better outcomes = Increased confidence → Happiness.
This is a simplistic flow-chart which would make more sense as a web as both teacher and student perspectives feed into each other. Ultimately, planning is hugely important for you and your students and should not be ignored.
Let’s look at 5 tips to lesson plan like a BOSS!
1. Self-Assess your current practice
Before you try to change anything or adapt, it is crucial to reflect on what you are currently doing. A fantastic tool to help you do this (with lesson planning or any other aspect of your life!) is the STAR model. This is a coaching tool that can support your reflect and help you identify what the main issues are, what you would like to improve, how you will do it and by when.
S – Situation – What is the current situation? What does your lesson planning look like? How does this effect your lessons and life?
T – Task – What do you want to be different? What would you like to achieve?
A – Actions – What actions could you take? Brainstorm as many as you can!
R – Review – Pick 3 actions and a time-frame to review and evaluate.
We look at the STAR model in more detail during our online CPD course “Smarter Planning for Teachers” and use it as a starting point for our learning and refer to it at the end to support teachers implement change to their planning framework.
The word priority came into the English language in the 1400’s and was singular – it meant the very first thing. Some of the comparable words for priority include urgency, significance, main concern, right of way. In the 1990’s it became plural. However, it is not practical to have multiple prioritise.
With effective lesson planning, it may not be possible to go in all guns blazing and revamp your lesson planning for all your classes (if secondary) or all your subjects (if primary) – you might need to sit down and make a decision on which ones will get your focus for this term or year. Rome was not built in a day – if you can focus on one area and gain confidence, then it will have a multiplier effect on other areas. This is better than trying to do everything, getting overwhelmed and ultimately doing nothing well.
So prioritise a group or subject and prioritise a time (2-3 hours per week or fortnight) and plan every 1-2 weeks’ worth of lessons.
3. Have a System or Structure
According to Albert Einstein, “Everything must be made as simple as possible. But not simpler.” In order to achieve balance in lesson planning and in lessons themselves, it is best to have a system. Of course, in teaching it is necessary to be flexible – as literally anything can happen to thwart your plans! Nevertheless, a system is solid and will help achieve consistency in the quality of lesson planning and lessons themselves.
Using a lesson plan and having a general structure to all of your lessons is a great habit to get into. It doesn’t mean that all your lessons have to be the same, but by creating some sort of consistent approach, it will make the planning process flow easier.
The KISS format for lesson planning was created by Rathú and one that we advocate for its simplicity – we’re bias we know!
4. The Core Focus = Learning Objectives, Success Criteria & Questions
- You have self-assessed your current practice
- You have prioritised a group or subject
- You have chosen a structure
Next, each lesson or group of lessons needs an absolute focus or objective and success criteria must be created to support all learner abilities achieve success in the lesson. By differentiating the overall outcome, you can scaffold the learning and break the lesson into smaller, tangible steps. An easy way to do this is by separating outcomes into “All, Most, Some” or even just 1, 2 and 3. At the planning stage, you should create questions for each grouping that encourages higher order thinking and classroom discussion. You could use Bloom’s Taxonomy to help with this. Once you know what the goal is, you will know how to break it down and you will know what to ask to check learning.
5. Make it memorable
Why do we remember the words of lyrics we haven’t heard in years? Why do some experiences stick in our heads more than others? Something made them memorable!
Make your lessons stick by trying to make some aspect of it different. This could be as simple as playing music (we have played classical music when students were working independently in the past) or hooking them into the lesson with mystery tasks or controversial questions that spark debate.
When planning ask yourself: What can I do to make this lesson memorable?
And there you have 5 tips to plan lessons like a BOSS!
If you would like any more information about this, please get in touch with us at Rathú.
You can also check out “Smarter Planning for Teachers” for more on this!