An article by Richard James Rogers
Illustrated by Sutthiya Lertyongphati
It was a warm September Sunday evening back in 2006. I was in my second week of my first teacher-training placement for my PGCE. My mentor wanted all of my lesson plans, as full A4 rubrics filled to the brim with activities, learning outcomes and all manner of wonderful musings. I was in hell right now.
Back then I was required to plan my lessons in a certain way. It was difficult – it took up lots of time, required multiple discussions with many people (including the subject teachers who would observe me) and often involved re-drafting multiple times before a perfect plan was complete. Was it a waste of my time? Looking back, I can honestly say NO! It was worth it. I was completely inexperienced back then. I made many, many blunders. The year of hell that was my PGCE was exactly that – my baptism by fire. It forged me into a capable teacher, albeit still with much to learn.
Quick advice for PGCE students or trainee teachers
If you’re going through the same hell that I went through, then keep going! There is light at the end of the tunnel (and it’s not an oncoming train). When I passed my PGCE and started teaching for real, I knew what that year of pain was all about – getting me ready. It was so nice to be finally trusted to teach classes on my own, without being observed every single lesson.
Listen to your mentors and tutors. Do what they say. Don’t argue with them. Listen to feedback, however negative, and genuinely ask for help and solutions. Act on the advice you are given. Regardless of how many mistakes you make (and you’ll make many), you’ll be widely admired if you can accept your blunders, seek counsel and try your best to make progress.
Efficient Lesson Planning for Schools and Teachers
I was honoured to feature in this week’s UKEd Podcast from UKEdChat.com. I appeared alongside a number of guests, and we all vehemently agreed that lesson planning is a vital component of effective teaching. You simply can’t do this job properly if you skip the planning stage. In fact, it’s so important that I even dedicated a whole chapter to planning in my debut book: The Quick Guide to Classroom Management.
But does it need to take ages and ages? Should it be a chore? Absolutely not!
Strategy #1: Plan in a way that works for you personally
This is a message for schools as much as it is for teachers. When a particular method of planning is forced upon a team of teachers, such as filling in a rubric on paper or online, the whole process can become burdensome and unenjoyable. This is cause for regret.
The methods of lesson planning that I use personally have changed and evolved over the course of my career, just as I have changed and evolved too. The methods I use work for me, and that allows me to express myself in the best and most natural way possible.
When teachers do not have the freedom to plan their lessons in their own way, their creativity and self-expression become stifled in the process. Whilst a lesson-planning rubric may be essential for a trainee teacher, schools should not aim to enforce rigorous planning strategies on their entire teaching team. This serves no purpose except to reinforce authority, which can cause resentment.
Now, here’s a funny question: Do you enjoy lesson planning? Most teachers would say ‘Are you kidding?’. However, I can honestly say that I do love the process of planning.
Every Sunday morning I get up nice and early and read over my plans for the week just passed. This allows me to review what worked well and what needs improving, and where to go next. Then, I pen in my plans for the whole week ahead. I personally use this planner from Teacher Created Resources, as it has a nice clear layout and allows me to make special notes for each week (such as house points and homework deadlines). I also like using the TEEP Learning Cycle. There are a number of colourful, teacher-friendly planners available from places like Amazon, which really help to make the lesson planning process fun.
And lesson planning should be fun. If it isn’t fun for you, then something needs to change.
Strategy Number 2: Always get a quick starter activity ready
You’ll often find that there are many great workbooks full of activities and worksheets published and ready for you to use. A small investment of money in resources like this can save you loads of time that you may have spent making resources from scratch.
Strategy #3: Always include a quick plenary
This can be as simple as getting the students to stand at the front of the class and do some quick-fire questioning, playing a learning game or even getting groups of students to verbalise their own summary.
Strategy #4: Keep your plans and reuse them year after year
There’s no point in reinventing the wheel. Keep your planners safe and organised and use them again and again when you teach the same or similar content. Modify as you go along.
Surprisingly, very few teachers do this.
Strategy #5: Look online for Schemes of Work, Programmes of Study and lesson plans that other people have created
You’ll be surprised at the wealth of information available. I’ve personally done this many times in the past. A quick search on a search engine can pull up many documents that you can use, modify and change to suit your own lesson planning.
Why do everything from scratch if a lot of stuff has been done for you? It makes no sense to me.
Strategy #6: Use published Schemes of Work to assist you
All examination boards produce Course Guides or syllabuses, and some will even provide Schemes of Work. Use the content from these to inform your lesson planning, particularly if you’re filling in an ‘Objectives’ or ‘Learning Outcomes’ section. You’ll often find that those objectives and learning outcomes are published in the Course Guide, syllabus or the exam board Scheme of Work already.
Strategy #7: Take a long-term view
This is so vital!
If you teach students who will take exams in May, for example, then you should know which exact topics you’ll need to cover each month in order to give you enough time to do revision and get the students ready for their exams on time.
- Lesson planning is an essential component of effective teaching
- It shouldn’t be a chore. It should be enjoyable.
- Use what works for you. Try out some of the lovely planners available on places like Amazon.
- Start each lesson with a quick starter activity. Build this into your planning every time.
- Always include a quick plenary for each lesson
- Look after your planners and plans. Reuse them, modify them and adapt them as each year passes.
- Look for lesson plans online. You’ll be surprised at what you find!
- Use the Schemes of Work, Course Guides and syllabuses published by your school’s exam board to help you articulate your personal plans.
- Take a long-term view. How many topics can you realistically cover in one month? Check your academic calendar for any events that might scupper your plans and interfere with your lessons!