Every year, I get so excited about lesson planning and what I am going to do differently and better this time around. I contemplate how this new year will be full of more effective lesson planning than the year before. And every year, by the time I am a month in, I am just trying to make everything work.
I've been lesson planning for 23 years now. For the first few years, it steadily improved and became easier the more I did it. But I have to admit, the later years have gotten much drier than the earlier years. I think part of it was because I feel like I am not learning the process anymore. So I just kind of go into auto-pilot mode. And it doesn't take very long into the school year to see the fruits of that problem.
So this year, I started to think of ways that I could keep things fresh, new, and exciting. I did some research online and came up with a few things to help make my lesson planning more effective.
So I came up with these ways to accomplish more effective lesson planning. I hope that you find them helpful as well.
Table of Contents
1. Remember that you are Teaching and Relating to People
Sometimes we get so focused on the plans and getting through them completely (which actually never happens anyway) that we forget we are actually relating to people. We forget that each one of our students came from a complex life of other relationships, difficulties of many different magnitudes, different levels of health, and so many things that we have no idea about.
We have an opportunity to relate to each one of our students in ways that can help give them strength to succeed in their difficulties, feel like someone is listening to them, and help them develop skills and mindsets that propel them to a successful life. Will it be us that makes them successful? Definitely not. That is up to them. But we can certainly help them along the way.
So how does more effective lesson planning play into this? We can plan activities into our lesson plans that keep in mind that our students are not one-dimensional. They aren't just in school to take in information, pass tests, and then go home. They are there to learn how successful life is lived. We are great tools in that endeavor.
We don't want to add a bunch of fluff into our lesson plans for the sake of adding stuff. But we can be careful that the things we are planning show sensitivity to issues our students may be facing. And we can make sure that we also give them the tools to succeed in life, regardless of what they are and will be facing.
If we make sure that most or all of our plans have these thoughts built into them, we will have super-human strength in character building and life skills.
2. Maintain Continuity in your Lessons
Most of my education as I was growing up was given to me in daily independent lessons. After several weeks of this, I then would take a test of all of the material. It drove me crazy trying to remember what I had learned in the first couple of weeks. So I would spend the last couple of weeks cramming to see how much of the independent lessons I could pull up from the back of my mind.
Then, as an adult, I discovered incremental education. My world was rocked. Spending time on a new lesson every day without a bunch of overkill worksheets was amazing. But even more amazing, I saw the value of spending a significant amount of time daily doing one or two review exercises from several previous lessons.
My students were able to remember the concepts they were learning because they were working on them daily for several weeks until they were set in stone. And when it came time for testing, they performed well without all of the cramming and stress. This is one of the best ways to make lesson planning more effective, because it cuts down on so much time in the long run.
We have the ability as lesson planners to do this for our students. Even if it isn't written into the curriculum, you can still implement ten minutes of review of the past week or two. And if you have to cut off the last row of the current day's exercises, your kids will think you're the bomb and that they are getting away with something!
3. Always Include Something Memorable in your Lessons
Memorable doesn't always have to be huge or expensive. It is usually brought on by the senses. So with that knowledge in mind, we can plan our lessons by using various senses for various activities. It can be the smell of something related to the story or concept, an unusual sight, a tasty (or not-so-tasty) bit of food, something that feels different than normal experience, or something that sounds a certain way. Adding two or more senses at a time drastically increases the memorable factor!
Literature is one of the best avenues for this type of lesson planning. This is because the best books are filled with experiences, dimensional characters, and memorable scenery.
You can add this concept to literally every subject you teach. Foreign language lessons can use rich cultures to bring home points using all of the senses.
Math can use examples that require the children to figure out real-life concepts through real-life examples using physical or experiential props to drive home the process. For example, use a dramatic story to show the kids a math problem. Guide them through the story, using objects that appeal to the senses in order to help them remember the problem they are trying to solve. Then guide them to the solution. They will have a whole range of experience to remember what they have learned, rather than just trying to remember a mathematical process. And not only does this help them to remember concepts better, it also makes their school day so much more enjoyable.
4. Simple is always better
So I realize that what I've said so far seems complicated. But get in the habit of keeping these concepts in mind as you do your lesson planning. Then you will find it is quite easy to implement.
And that is where this point takes us. The more simple you keep your object lessons, concepts, and facts, the more quickly and easily your students will be able to pick them up and retain them.
Most concepts can actually be made even more simple. Here are some examples:
- A picture to explain a process that is harder to see in words than pictures
- A store-bought snack instead of the homemade version
- A craft that allows you to combine your literature class with your art class for the week
- A game that gets the kids' energy out so that they will settle in for the lesson. Once you drive the relationship of the game to the lesson home, they will be more eager to hear the lesson and draw their own conclusions.
5. Always Keep Your Goal in Mind
This is probably the most obvious of the ways to accomplish more effective lesson planning. We get several hours every day to fill with great academic endeavors. But our goal is not to just fill time.
Keep in mind exactly what you want your students to learn. Then figure out which ways you think will accomplish that most effectively and quickly. When you plan your academics and activities around this concept, your lesson planning will go much more smoothly. And so will your class routine.
You will still run out of time every day. But hopefully, you will have driven home many more concepts. And hopefully you have shown your students that learning doesn't have to be boring or tedious. And by keeping your students actively engaged in their learning, you will have fewer distractions or behavior issues with the kids, which will enable you to accomplish even more.
Implementing these concepts into your classroom will change lots of things for the better. Your students will be excited every day to see what is in store for them. What an amazing classroom when your students are engaged in an enthusiastic way! You may even gain some lifelong lovers of learning.
By the way, if you are looking for a good planner (or a better one than you have at the moment), the Bloom Daily Planner is my favorite and is available here on Amazon.
For some other great lesson planning concepts, click on these options: