August 23, 2017
The Teacher's Ultimate Checklist for Effective Lesson Planning
Modern learning environments are about teaching learners to solve authentic problems they could potentially face as citizens of the digital world. It's up to teachers to become the crafters of these problems with effective lesson planning. A stimulating learning scenario with a real-world focus that cultivates the Essential Fluencies while also addressing curriculum sounds like a tall order. But let's be honest; nobody can do it better than you can.
In this article we'd like to provide you with some tools and tips for making effective lesson planning easier. No matter of you're a newbie or a veteran, lesson planning—like any skill worth having—takes time to develop. It also takes a willingness to make mistakes and find ways to improve and excel. In essence, that's what learning is all about.
In the modern classroom, the teacher is no longer the focus in a classroom. Instead, students work in groups to create real-world solutions to real-world problems while the instructor takes on a role as the facilitator of learning. The idea is to present learners with challenges that are relevant to them and that are also aligned with curricular goals.
So the question then becomes how to make learning "stick." Well, for learning to stick it has to have relevance—not to the teacher, but to the learner. Through effective lesson planning, we allow our students to be active participants in their education. By providing them with worthwhile challenges that build important life skills, we shift the responsibility for learning from us to them.
Then it’s up to the students to decide how best to communicate their understanding. From there, stickiness is pretty much guaranteed. Let's take a look now at a simple formulaic approach to crafting such learning scenarios.
Building Scenarios from the Ground Up
In crafting scenarios for effective lesson planning, the possibilities are limitless. Teachable moments exist in the world all around us every day. It may seem overwhelming at first, but after you do it enough, cultivating scenarios will become easier. Additionally, you'll begin to see connections between everyday life experiences and the content you are teaching.
When we write our unit plans for the Solution Fluency Activity Planner, we make use of a formula that works well for any scenario. The best way to write your scenario is by imagining you're addressing your students directly.
Here are 3 simple steps you can't go wrong with, taken from the book Literacy is Not Enough.
1. Write a captivating introduction
Provoking intrigue with a short, well-written introduction that is two or three sentences long. This introduces the focus of the scenario. Anyone reading it will immediately get a sense of what the lesson is going to be about. In addition, it showcases the real-world flavour of the lesson's main concept—the learner understands it will likely be relevant to real life.
2. Describe a relevant challenge for the learners
Next, introduce the challenge and how it involves students. At this point, it should be something that they will be interested in. What topics, problems, or issues would engage them in an activity they would find challenging and fun?
It is important to not give too many details. Leave things out that students will have to discover for themselves. That being said, the details you do want to provide should sum up the project in just a few short sentences. Provide just enough detail to give students an idea that there will be required phases to the project without spelling out exactly what they’ll be. You want to leave as much room as possible for students to innovate their own creative solution.
3. Wrap it up and suggest a few starting points
This primes your learners for moving forward with the lesson because they'll know what the unit's focus is, the general idea of the required tasks, and where they can begin. When you write your wrap-up, it will help to ask yourself, “What is it that I've asked my students to do in this scenario?”
You must be able to pull out from the scenario a clear written definition of the problem. This is essential, because if you can’t do it, then your students can’t do it either. It's a prime opportunity for you to ask yourself how the scenario could be rewritten to be clear and concise without actually scripting the outcome.
A 20-Point Checklist for Effective Lesson Planning
Next, let's have a look at your tools and tips for effective lesson planning. Once you have developed a unit, you need to step back from it, do a Debrief, and find out how appropriate it is. Objectively, read your scenario and ask questions like the ones below. If the answer to any of them is 'No,' go back to the beginning and review all of the steps until you can answer 'Yes' to them.
- Is there a problem or challenge?
- Is this relevant to the learner?
- Does it require higher-level thinking?
- Does it address multiple curricular objectives?
- Does it cultivate the Essential Fluencies?
- Are digital tools used to create a real-world product?
- Are there things that need to be discovered?
In addition to this, we'd like to provide you with this special 20-point unit checklist available on the Solution Fluency Activity Planner to help you with practicing effective lesson planning. It's in a PDF format, and you can check the boxes right in the file itself. Use it as a baseline to debrief your lessons and get an in-depth analysis of them.
It’s presented as a checklist with a simple 4-point rubric attached to each of the 20 questions for self-grading. Once you've gone through it you can edit, revise, and improve your lesson as you see fit.
10 Bonus Tips for Effective Lesson Planning
Finally, we'd like to share what we've learned over the years regarding effective lesson planning practices. This is wisdom we've collected by talking with thousands of teachers over the years, as well as from crafting many of our own plans.
- Effective lesson planning takes a serious investment in time. Your plans must be meaningful, and serve as your own formative assessment tool. Teaching will gain an entirely new focus and direction if you plan lessons properly and consciously.
- The time spent planning will always be more time than the actual class that you will teach. Think of it being as important as financial planning. Lesson planning is about creating a budget of knowledge and then determining how you're going to best impart that to students.
- Do your plans online if you can. The Solution Fluency Activity Planner is the perfect online lesson planning tool for this with all the support you could ever need.
- Write, review, and rewrite lesson plans every night so you can have a reasonable stock. Get a full month's lessons down, if nothing more than simply rough drafts. You can always edit them later.
- Listing the standards you are practicing brings focus to your class. Fundamentally, they're what you're responsible for teaching and what your learners need to learn. Standards not only focus your lesson content, but bring clarity to observing admins who may or may not know your subject matter.
- Translate your standards into layman's language that you can impart to your students easily. Whether working in one subject or across multiple key learning areas, the impact of being transparent with the curriculum is amazing.
- Begin with the end in mind. Make your standards #1 and your behavioural objectives #2. By sandwiching the beginning and the end, you can get a better grasp of your middle.
- Show them how to do it. Your instruction should not be limited to lecture. Include in your lesson plan how you would show students to get to do what you want them to do. Don't limit this to academic material; model and show behavioural excellence.
- Allow for silence after posing queries. Don't jam pack your lessons with non-stop dialogue; remember that some students take longer to formulate answers. This allows them to really ponder and process your questions.
- Personalize the learning by allowing your learners flexibility to arrive at the same goal by different means. This not only challenges them on personal levels, but it also honours their creativity.
We hope these tips and tools for effective lesson planning have given you something useful to bring to your learners. Go forth in confidence, and continue modelling exceptional lifelong learning habits and passionate curiosity for them. And above all, have some fun.