Settling into a planning routine as soon as possible supports good practice. Here are some suggestions of things to consider and try out as you settle into a routine that suits you:
Curriculum -> Scheme -> Unit -> Lesson -> Resources / Strategies
As you begin to think about your planning, it is helpful to think of it as a series of nesting dolls. Overarching all your planning is the curriculum document for your subject area. Within this sits the schemes created by your school and department, then the units that have been created to deliver the schemes and finally the lesson plans that make up each unit.
For those of you teaching in established departments, the curriculum, scheme and possibly even unit plans will already be written. (As you progress in your teaching you will want to create your own units and contribute to scheme creation.) Therefore, your first step is to ensure that you are familiar with these documents and that your plan fulfils their requirements. These documents will help you to establish your learning intentions (LI) and learning objectives (LO)for your series of lessons.
Planning Backwards is a popular and useful approach. In this approach you begin with what you are aiming for – what will students know and be able to do at the conclusion of this unit/lesson? Planning backwards helps you to write your LI and LOs and creates a framework to guide each planning decision that you make. Beware! – In using this approach do not let your planning and teaching be limited to the requirements of any assessment – keep your eyes up on the big picture of what you want students to learn.
Once your LI and LOs are clear you can select the activities students will engage with to achieve these.
See the Cult of Pedagogy post below to learn more about planning backwards.
A useful planning routine is the planning sandwich. In this approach the meaty main body of your lesson is sandwiched between an engaging starter activity and a plenary (or review) that allows students to reflect on the lesson’s LI/LOs, and cement their learning.
- The ideal starter will quickly settle and engage students in meaningful work. It should communicate to students how this lesson fits into what they are learning, and allow them to activate their previous learning.
- The main body of the lesson is the meat in the sandwich and is the learning for this lesson. Consider how students will access any new knowledge/skills of this lesson. This might include some direct teaching from you, some research or use of resources to deduct knowledge, or some group work to construct understanding. The main body of the lesson should also provide opportunities for students to rehearse knowledge and practise skills. Plan and create strategies and resources that offer students a range of experiences, to meet different learning needs and strengths and to keep students engaged. The number of different activities or tasks in the main part of the lesson will depend on the length of your lesson.
- The final part of the lesson is the plenary – take care to map out realistic timings for your lesson so that this final, crucial part of the lesson is not rushed or forgotten. (See the Practicum Provocation on Pacing and Transition for some further guidance on these aspects of lesson planning and delivery.) The plenary gives students the opportunity to reflect on their learning (using LI/LOs) and cement new learning.
Within the sandwich, planning in choice for students will support engagement and success. You can plan-in choices around working individually or in pairs/groups, content focus or how they record and present their work.
See the Pātaka post on Pacing and Transition for some further guidance on these aspects of lesson planning and delivery.
For further discussion of effective planning, check out core texts – Schemes of Work and Lesson Planning (Bassett et al, 2016) and also Taylor’s (2012) chapter that focuses on planning for effective teaching and learning in The Professional Practice of Teaching (2012).
This article by Barak Rosenshine is a comprehensive and practical guide to the components of successful planning. Please take note of his phrase “teachers might consider using” – he is describing effective approaches, he is not suggesting that you need to use ALL of these ALL the time!
There are some gems in this Education Hub post that will kickstart your thinking about what needs to go into your lesson planning.
This blog from Cult of Pedagogy gives a helpful outline of backwards planning.