A sure ingredient in a recipe for disaster is "winging it." As in: "I'm not sure what I'll do today, I'll just wing it." Good classroom managers plan the lesson, procure the products needed, list the procedure to follow, and prepare for potential problems and pitfalls. Proper planning leads to less stress for you and more learning for your students.
Preparing a Lesson
Lesson plans do not consist of statements such as: "Today we'll cover Chapter 4 in the history book." Rather, lesson plans are designs for learning. They include these basics:
- Objectives. What is your objective or objectives for teaching this? Generally, you should write the objective in terms of learning outcomes. In other words, what do you want the student to learn as a result of the lesson or unit? It should be observable and measurable. For example:
-The student will be able to recite the letters of the alphabet.
-The student will be able to sing a song in three part harmony.
-The student will be able to access information from an Internet search engine.
-The student, given informational-type text, will be able to identify the main idea.
-The student will be able to define basic literary terms and apply them to a specific British work.
-The student will be able to describe the causes of acid rain.
There are categories of objectives including: knowledge and skills. Knowledge, of course, involves cognitive functions. Students categorize, analyze, recall, synthesize, recite, define. A skill concerns performing an action. Students measure, sing, play.
Objectives should begin with an action verb. (A list of verbs to use for writing learning objectives is appended to the end of this article.) When appropriate, you should include performance standards or information on how the student will be evaluated. For example: The student will, within a thirty-minute period, write a five-paragraph essay which includes a thesis statement and contains no more than three grammatical and mechanical errors. Or, the student will be able to perform all five take off and landing foot patterns.
- List of materials needed. This is extremely important to think through ahead of time. Will you need chart paper? A chalkboard? Overhead? Handouts? Art supplies? Power cords? Procure your materials ahead of time and have them ready before you begin your lesson. Much can happen in a classroom of rambunctious fourth graders while the teacher searches for the handouts she wanted to use.
- Procedures. State, step-by-step, how you are going to implement your plan. How are you going to introduce the lesson? How will you activate prior knowledge? If you are using handouts or manipulatives, when and how will you hand them out? Will you close with a review? How will you tie the lesson together?
- Potential Problems and Pitfalls. What will you do if you suddenly realize the students do not have the requisite background necessary for the lesson plan? What will you do if your overhead projector light burns out? What will you do if you plan on showing a video during a history lesson and a student informs you that she feels uncomfortable watching this particular video? Do you have an alternative assignment ready? A place to send her? What will you do if . . .? Think through potential problems and pitfalls ahead of time and have a contingency plan. (Example, in a hands-on science lesson involving rubber bands and a group of eighth graders, when should you pass out the rubber bands? Hint: Not during the introduction.)
- Method(s) of Evaluation. How will you determine whether or not the student has met the learning objectives? Evaluations do not always have to be the formal, pencil and paper type. You may: observe whether the student has met the objectives, conference with the student, orally review as a group. There are many possibilities. Go here for a list of ways to evaluate learning.
As stated earlier, these are just the "basics" of a lesson plan. The type of lesson plan you design will depend upon your individual circumstances, the lesson being taught, and the type of students involved.
You students will learn more with a properly designed lesson in which you have paid careful attention to detail. It is a truism that "students don't do downtime." Students are astute. They know when their teacher is unprepared. And, unfortunately, on occasion, some students will take advantage of the situation to misbehave. Finally, when you are prepared, you are less stressed and more comfortable while teaching the lesson.
Action Verbs for Learning Objectives
Recommend Recognize Reconstruct Record
Report Reproduce Research Restate Restructure Revise
Structure Summarize Supervise Survey Systematize