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5 lesson plan essentials and how to hack ‘em

Updated: Jun 6, 2022

My five-lesson plan essentials include

  • standards

  • an anticipatory set

  • a list of adaptations

  • a precise closure

  • meaningful reflection questions

We describe these lesson plan tips and how to hack them to save you lesson planning time. We discuss three essential mindset shifts that need to occur related to lesson planning. Before you plan:

  1. Make sure you have all your resources ready

  2. Stop spending every night of the week planning lessons

  3. 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.

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 planning day by day. You can burn out on lesson planning if you do that sort of planning. Lesson plans are a series of lessons built on one another, rather than one lesson at a time. Student teachers need to learn how to plan long-range. Meaning you plan for a few days at a time and make adjustments as you go.

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

Planning a little at a time 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 need.

Last but not least, use the lesson plan model that your college or cooperating teacher requires. You can pull pieces of your larger lesson plan for review using a lesson at a glance template. Use the lesson plan at a glance template 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.


Learning standards aligned to content objectives and outcomes - we cannot teach whatever we want. It's a good idea to easily bookmark your state standards on your computer to 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.

Review content and gain attention

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


Make sure that you are adapting instruction content for students. Keeping a record of the accommodations and modifications you provide will help you know your student's needs. Please make a list of accommodations you frequently make in your lessons to refer to them quickly.


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

  • Use a mindmap or a drawing.

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

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

  • Create a test question

  • Relate the topic to the real world


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. It would be best to go beyond what went well and what you would have done differently during the lesson.

Okay, let's a 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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