Developing lesson plans is a core component of teaching. However, there is a multitude of ways to approach this process. This post will provide some basic ideas on approaching the development of lesson plans by sharing thoughts on the following…
- The paradox of planning lessons
- The continuum of planning
- Using plans in class
The Lesson Plan Paradox
A paradox is a statement that contradicts itself. An example would be jumbo shrimp. We think of shrimp as something that is small so for something to be really big or jumbo and small at the same time usually does not make sense.
Within education, the lesson plan paradox is the idea that a teacher can plan all aspects of a lesson in advance without knowing what will happen in the moment while teaching in their classroom. Many people believe that there is an interaction that happens while teaching that cannot be anticipated when developing lesson plans.
The Continuum of Planning
In general, the amount of planning needed depends on the skill level of the teacher. Experienced teachers need to plan much less as they have already taught the various concepts before and know where they are going. Inexperienced teachers need to plan much more as they are new to the teaching endeavor.
Experience means experience teaching a particular subject and not only the years of teaching. For example, an excellent algebra teacher would not need formal lesson plans for algebra but may need to plan more carefully if they are asked to teach statistics or some other math subject. Even though they know the subject, the lack of experience teaching it makes it necessary to plan more carefully.
Planning can go from no planning at all to planning every step. Jungle path lesson planning is the extreme of no planning. In this approach, an experienced teacher shows up to class with nothing and see where the journey takes them. Doing this occasionally may break the monotony of studying but continuous use will lead students to think that the teacher is unprepared.
At the opposite extreme are the formal lesson plans developed by student teachers. These lesson plans include everything objectives, materials, procedures, openers, closers, etc. Some even required teachers to indicate how much time every step will take.
Somewhere in the middle is where most teachers are. Uncomfortable with no planning yet too indifferent to planning to plan every minutia of the learning experience like a beginner.
Using Plans in Class
This leads to the question of knowing how thoroughly to apply lesson plans in class. There are several reasons to divert from a lesson plan. One, teaching moments are those opportunities where something happens in or out of class that allows for spontaneous learning. For example, a health teacher may divert from their lesson plan to talk about how cancer works because the students know of a teacher who has cancer.
A second reason to divert from a lesson plan is due to an unforeseen problem. For example, the computer crashes barring access to the internet. This would lead a teacher to find a different way to teach a lesson.
Lastly, a lesson plan can be ignored if the teacher notices that the students need reteaching of skill as they are struggling with it. For example, an English teacher is trying to teach students how to write paragraphs when he or she can tell the students still do not understand how to develop sentences.
Everyone has their own style of lesson planning. It is important to develop an approach while being open to incorporating new ways of planning. The ideas suggested here can help to broaden a teacher’s approach to planning lessons.