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A lesson plan is a teacher's detailed description of the course of instruction, or 'learning trajectory' for a lesson. A daily lesson plan is developed by a teacher to guide class learning. Details will vary depending on the preference of the teacher, subject being covered, and the needs of the students. There may be requirements mandated by the school system regarding the plan. A lesson plan is the teacher's guide for running a particular lesson, and it includes the goal (what the students are supposed to learn), how the goal will be reached (the method, procedure) and a way of measuring how well the goal was reached (test, worksheet, homework etc).
Developing a lesson plan
While there are many formats for a lesson plan, most lesson plans contain some or all of these elements, typically in this order:
- Title of the lesson
- Time required to complete the lesson
- List of required materials
- List of objectives, which may be behavioral objectives (what the student can do at lesson completion) or knowledge objectives (what the student knows at lesson completion)
- The set (or lead-in, or bridge-in) that focuses students on the lesson's skills or concepts—these include showing pictures or models, asking leading questions, or reviewing previous lessons
- An instructional component that describes the sequence of events that make up the lesson, including the teacher's instructional input and, where appropriate, guided practice by students to consolidate new skills and ideas
- Independent practice that allows students to extend skills or knowledge on their own
- A summary, where the teacher wraps up the discussion and answers questions
- An evaluation component, a test for mastery of the instructed skills or concepts—such as a set of questions to answer or a set of instructions to follow
- A risk assessment where the lesson's risks and the steps taken to minimize them are documented.
- Analysis component the teacher uses to reflect on the lesson itself —such as what worked, what needs improving
- A continuity component reviews and reflects on content from the previous lesson
A well-developed lesson plan
A well-developed lesson plan reflects the interests and needs of students. It incorporates best practices for the educational field. The lesson plan correlates with the teacher's philosophy of education, which is what the teacher feels is the purpose of educating the students.
Secondary English program lesson plans, for example, usually center around four topics. They are literary theme, elements of language and composition, literary history, and literary genre. A broad, thematic lesson plan is preferable, because it allows a teacher to create various research, writing, speaking, and reading assignments. It helps an instructor teach different literature genres and incorporate videotapes, films, and television programs. Also, it facilitates teaching literature and English together. Similarly, history lesson plans focus on content (historical accuracy and background information), analytic thinking, scaffolding, and the practicality of lesson structure and meeting of educational goals. School requirements and a teacher's personal tastes, in that order, determine the exact requirements for a lesson plan.
Unit plans follow much the same format as a lesson plan, but cover an entire unit of work, which may span several days or weeks. Modern constructivist teaching styles may not require individual lesson plans. The unit plan may include specific objectives and timelines, but lesson plans can be more fluid as they adapt to student needs and learning styles.
It is important to note that lesson planning is a thinking process, not the filling in of a lesson plan template.
The first thing a teacher does is create an objective, a statement of purpose for the whole lesson. An objective statement itself should answer what students will be able to do by the end of the lesson. Harry Wong states that, “Each [objective] must begin with a verb that states the action to be taken to show accomplishment. The most important word to use in an assignment is a verb, because verbs state how to demonstrate if accomplishment has taken place or not.” The objective drives the whole lesson, it is the reason the lesson exists. Care is taken when creating the objective for each day’s lesson, as it will determine the activities the students engage in. The teacher also ensures that lesson plan goals are compatible with the developmental level of the students. The teacher ensures as well that their student achievement expectations are reasonable.
Selecting lesson plan material
A lesson plan must correlate with the textbook the class uses. The school usually selects the text books or provides teachers with a limited textbook choice for a particular unit. The teacher must take great care and select the most appropriate book for the students.
Types of Assignments
The instructor must decide whether class assignments are whole-class, small groups, workshops, independent work, peer learning, or contractual:
- Whole-class—the teacher lectures to the class as a whole and has the class collectively participate in classroom discussions.
- Small groups—students work on assignments in groups of three or four.
- Workshops—students perform various tasks simultaneously. Workshop activities must be tailored to the lesson plan.
- Independent work—students complete assignments individually.
- Peer learning—students work together, face to face, so they can learn from one another.
- Contractual work—teacher and student establish an agreement that the student must perform a certain amount of work by a deadline.
These assignment categories (e.g. peer learning, independent, small groups) can also be used to guide the instructor’s choice of assessment measures that can provide information about student and class comprehension of the material. As discussed by Biggs (1999), there are additional questions an instructor can consider when choosing which type of assignment would provide the most benefit to students. These include:
- What level of learning do the students need to attain before choosing assignments with varying difficulty levels?
- What is the amount of time the instructor wants the students to use to complete the assignment?
- How much time and effort does the instructor have to provide student grading and feedback?
- What is the purpose of the assignment? (e.g. to track student learning; to provide students with time to practice concepts; to practice incidental skills such as group process or independent research)
- How does the assignment fit with the rest of the lesson plan? Does the assignment test content knowledge or does it require application in a new context?
- Does the lesson plan fit a particular framework? For example a Common Core Lesson Plan.
- O'Bannon, B. (2008). "What is a Lesson Plan?". Innovative Technology Center * The University of Tennessee. Retrieved May 17, 2011.
- "What Is A Lesson Plan?". English Club. Retrieved 15 October 2014.
- "Writing Lesson Plans." Huntington University: a Christian college ranked among America's best colleges. 15 Mar. 2009.
- Mitchell, Diana, and Stephen Tchudi, Exploring and Teaching the English Language Arts (4th Ed.). Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon, 1999.
- Lesson Plan Reviews Introduction. Teachinghistory.org. Accessed 15 June 2011.
- Wong, Harry K. (1998). The First Days of School: How to be an Effective Teacher. Mountainview, CA : Harry K. Wong Publications
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