The act of lesson planning is more than just filling out the plan book or pulling out the materials that you used last year.  In fact, the teachers that I’ve had the pleasure of working alongside never teach the same year twice…they’re always invigorating their plans by tweaking and adding and deleting and reorganizing what they did the year before.  Not only do their changes help get a better result with their kids, they end up reinvigorating themselves in the process!

With that said, I think we tend to over-think lesson planning – we make it so tough and convoluted that we end up defaulting to our old stuff!  I’m hoping that you won’t fall prey to that default – and that you’ll decide to keep it simple but keep it fresh!

And…here’s how to do just that!

Step 1: What very specific skills do I want kids to master this week?

Get very clear on exactly what you want kids to be able to do following the lessons.  “Read Chapter 4-5 in Wuthering Heights” isn’t a skill.  Using “Wuthering Heights to practice and give feedback on comparing and contrasting” is.  We want to spend time teaching enduring skills and skills that kids can apply widely across different texts/content/situations.

Step 2: What skills do I need to teach to make sure that they can master the new skills?

Every skill that you teach assumes that kids already have something in place.  For example, if I want kids to summarize, I assume that they already know how to recount what they’ve read.  The underpinning skills are the key to mastering the “bigger” skills.  Don’t skip this step

Step 3: How much of what I want to teach this week is new content?  

How much is old? We know that we should be teaching about 85% repeat/15% new content in each lesson.  When the balance is off, we eliminate opportunities for kids to master what they’ve learned because we’re always throwing something new at them!

Step 4: What will it look like when they really know and have mastered what I want them to learn this week?

It’s one thing to know what you want to teach, but a whole other thing when you really, truly envision what it will LOOK like when kids are confident in the skills that you’ve taught.

Step 5: Who will I need to provide extra assistance for/to?

It’s rarely a shock to excellent teachers who will struggle with the task(s) that you’re teaching, so why not figure out ahead of time who will need help?  Worst case scenario?  They don’t need help and you’ve given them an extra boost in their skills!  A win-win!  Plan to pull the few kids aside who might need extra support and PRETEACH the content.  Just say, “Hey guys, tomorrow you’re going to learn to _________________ and I want to sneak in a little practice before tomorrow so that I know I can call on you!” It’s really as simple as that!

Step 6: What kind of engagement techniques will I use to teach the most important content?

Two things are important in Step 6:

  • That you use engagement techniques that really work (you’ve taught them, kids know them, you don’t lose instructional time when you’re applying them)
  • That you use the engagement techniques on the right content

I encourage you to choose to engage students in the content that you identified in Steps 1 and 2 – those are your big ticket items that you’ve already identified!  Engagement on those skills means that you’ll be providing more repetition.  When you provide more repetition, you get kids more to mastery!

What do you think?  Are these the questions that you’re asking?  How are they different from what you currently do during your lesson planning?

Now…I have an idea!  Why don’t you come over to our Facebook page (www.facebook.com/jacksonconsulting) and join the conversations we’re having right now about lesson planning and lots of other things!