5 lesson plan essentials and how to hack ‘em

My five lesson plan essentials include standards, an anticipatory set, a list of adaptations, a clear closure, and meaningful reflection questions. During this episode, we describe these lesson plan tips and how to hack 'em to save you lesson planning time. We also discuss three important mindset shifts that need to occur related to lesson planning. The first is before you sit down to plan make sure you have all of your resources ready. Nex stop spending every night of the week planning lessons. Finally, use a template and a lesson at a glance.

First, before you start planning your lesson, gather all your resources. That means having your books, worksheets, websites, etc. ready so you don't have to search for them. Now that you've taken a deep breath, you can fill up your coffee and start planning.

Next, schedule in time to plan. Don't spend every evening planning lessons and get into the habit of planning day by day. You can burn out on lesson planning quickly if you do that sort of planning. In my opinion, lesson plans should be viewed as a series of lessons built on one another, rather than one lesson at a time. Student teachers need to learn how to plan longitudinally. This means you plan for a few days at a time and make adjustments as you go.

If you are a student teacher in middle or secondary education, plan your week in advance. Plan two days in advance if you are a student teacher in an elementary school. This will give you time to plan and time for yourself. For example, use Sunday to plan for Monday and Tuesday. Tuesday is the day to plan for Wednesday and Thursday, and Wednesday is the day to plan for Friday. Then use the rest of the days of the week to grade and provide feedback, make adjustments, and create materials, etc.

By planning a little at a time, it will allow you to adjust your delivery and pace based on the class. In addition, turn in your lesson plans on time if your college or cooperating teacher requires you to do so in the format they require.

Last but not least, use the lesson plan model that your college or cooperating teacher requires. Using a lesson at a glance template, you can pull pieces of your larger lesson plan for review. This lesson plan at a glance template can be used while preparing for the lesson or as a review before teaching it. A lesson at a glance should include:

  • Standards

  • Objectives

  • Anticipatory set

  • Instruction

  • Materials

  • Assessment

  • Adaptations

  • Closure

You can download the lesson at a glance template on Teachers Pay Teachers as part of the student teacher planner.

Let’s talk about those lesson plan essentials

1. Standards

Learning standards must be tied to content objectives and outcomes - we cannot just teach whatever we want. It's a good idea to bookmark your state standards on your computer so you can easily refer to them in this part of the lesson. You could also create QR codes for each link to the standard website. You should then print out the QR codes for each page and place them in your student teacher planner.

2. Review content and gain attention

Review the content of the lesson before delivering it to students. Before delivering the lesson, brainstorm and research some ways to capture the students' attention. Be creative! Make sure you review previous lessons. The students get a glimpse of what they learned in a previous lesson and it helps them focus on the lessons at hand. They can also connect previously learned knowledge with new ideas.

3. Adapt

Make sure that you are adapting instruction content for students. Keeping a record of the accommodations and modifications you provide will help you to be aware of the needs of your students. Make a list of accommodations that you make frequently in your lessons so you can easily refer to it.

4. Closure

We all know that every lesson should begin with an introduction and conclude with a clear conclusion. This is like sealing the envelope of learning for that lesson with a sparkly sticker. A closure should summarize what was learned. Providing a visual or story to tie learning together is a fantastic way to do that. You can do so many amazing end-of-lesson activities with your students - just choose one that suits their needs. Exit tickets can also be differentiated according to the needs of the students. Check out some examples below.

  • A mindmap or a drawing.

  • On the exit slip, they write down two things they learned and a question they still have

  • Emoji scale of how they feel about today’s lesson

  • Create a test question

  • Relate the topic to the real world

5. Reflection

Whenever you teach a lesson, change up the reflection questions. Since you aren't teaching the same lesson twice, your reflection questions shouldn't be the same. Make your reflection questions meaningful to you.

Reflection is an opportunity to learn, so take advantage of it. You should go beyond what went well and what you would have done differently during the lesson.

Ok, let's recap! Okay, let's get three points squared away before jumping into the lesson plan essentials. First, collect all your resources, then don't plan lessons every night of the week, and finally, use a template and a lesson at a glance.

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