Tag Archives: educational experiences

Tips for Lesson Planning: Part I

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.

Curriculum Development: The Tyler Model

The Tyler Model, developed by Ralph Tyler in the 1940’s, is the quintessential prototype of curriculum development in the scientific approach. One could almost dare to say that every certified teacher in America and maybe beyond has developed curriculum either directly or indirectly using this model or one of the many variations.

Tyler did not intend for his contribution to curriculum to be a lockstep model for development. Originally, he wrote down his ideas in a book Basic Principles of Curriculum and Instruction for his students to give them an idea about principles for to making curriculum. The brilliance of Tyler’s model is that it was one of the first models and it was and still is a highly simple model consisting of four steps.

  1. Determine the school’s purposes (aka objectives)
  2. Identify educational experiences related to purpose
  3. Organize the experiences
  4. Evaluate the purposes

Basic Principles of Curriculum and Instruction

Step one is determining the objectives of the school or class. In other words, what do the students need to do in order to be successful? Each subject has natural objectives that are indicators of mastery. All objectives need to be consistent with the philosophy of the school and this is often neglected in curriculum development. For example, a school that is developing an English curriculum may create an objective that students will write essays. This would be one of many objectives within the curriculum.

Step two is developing learning experiences that help the students to achieve step one. For example, if students need to meet the objective of writing an essay. The learning experience might be a demonstration by the teacher of writing an essay. The students than might practice writing essays. The experience (essay demonstration and writing) is consistent with the objective (Student will write an essay).

Step three is organizing the experiences. Should the teacher demonstrate first or should the students learn by writing immediately? Either way could work and preference is determined by the philosophy of the teacher and the needs of the students. The point is that the teacher needs to determine a logical order of experiences for the students.

Lastly, step four is evaluation of the objectives. Now the teacher assesses the students’ ability to write an essay. There are many ways to do this. For example, the teacher could have the students write an essay without assistance. If they can do this, it is evidence that the students have achieved the objective of the lesson.

There are variations on this model. However, the Tyler model is still considered by many to be the strongest model for curriculum development.



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