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Planning A Lesson

Planning A Lesson


There are two problematic areas when it comes to thinking about teaching and learning. These are essentially the what and how of teaching and learning. Beginners more than often struggle with WHAT has to be learnt. Having considered what has to be learnt (usually identified in a syllabus) then HOW dramatically enters into the equation. How to teach something is perhaps the most difficult part of lesson design if not in the real lesson itself. Central to preparation and planning is an understanding of how students learn and how you would like to be taught! That is why setting learning objectives is for some very difficult.

Setting Objectives

Good teaching is mostly centred around the problem of HOW to learn a topic rather than solely concentrating on what is to be learnt. You might have guessed that HOW is the doing part of any learning. What do students have to do or be able to do in order to learn. We state these questions as learning objectives (student objectives) and those which concern the teacher as teaching objectives or lesson objectives. You might want to think of objectives as a series of tasks or teaching steps if you like (enabling objectives). Indeed, many syllabuses and schemes of work are written in a learning objective format. However, you should carefully distinguish between lesson or syllabus aims and their supporting objectives. An aim is unlikely to tell you how something is to be learnt but it is more likely to give any indication of what has to be achieved at a particular level. Likewise there is a difference between teaching (lesson) and learning objectives.

What do you think the difference could be?

Learning objectives tend to be specific in terms of what the student has to achieve or be able to do. If they can do something then it can be assessed and measured. For example: (As taken from a lesson plan on computer flow charts)

You should be able to

1. List and explain the symbol meanings

2. Arrange the problem in a logical sequence

3. Draw the flow chart

Note the words in red are verbs. These words can be attempted, observed, tested and measured. If completed satisfactorily the student has learnt and therefore met the objectives in a logical learning sequence! Teaching or lesson objectives tend to be general in terms of what the lesson has to achieve. Sometimes a general objective is difficult to distinguish from a lesson aim. Nevertheless, a general , teaching or lesson objective is distinguishable by looking for the verb(s) ( The action or doing part) For example: (A general learning or lesson objective)

The students should be able to translate simple problems into diagrammatic form by identifying and using the correct symbols

Now you can perhaps see why it is that in starting to design a lesson plan we need to distinguish carefully between what has to be learnt and how it is to be taught and delivered.

When writing objectives do not use words which you could use more appropriately in writing aims or in statements which concern the purpose of a lesson.

For example, words such as understand, appreciate, think, etc. are difficult to observe and measure. There is no quantifiable 'doing' aspect to them. How do I know that you understand ? How do I know that you appreciate that poem we have just read? How do I know that students have thought about using the formulae to solve the problem. Only by demonstrating some action or process (e.g., a statement) which reflects learning or indicates what has been learnt can an observer (teacher) measure and test what has been achieved.

The student should be able to state three causes of the disease given a chart of ..........He or she either gets three right or some wrong statements. This would more reliably show their level of understanding. If you just stated an objective as a student should be able to understand the causes of the disease given a chart...........you really have no expectation by which you can measure their performance!

A Teaching Tip

When you start your lesson or training session have ready on a separate OHP, flip chart, handout or white board the learning objectives of the session. By doing this you can refer to the student learning objectives as the lesson develops. It also allows you to stop and refer to each step, task or objective in order to recap, confirm and question or test what has or has not been achieved, learnt or understood. Listed objectives also allow the students to see what they have to attain as well as providing a 'learning map' of the lesson and the list would also show what they are expected to achieve by the end of the lesson. You can head the sheet up simply as:

You should be able to:

1. (Verb) + (topic) + (standard expected) + (condition and or resources used)

Importantly then, as you start thinking about your lesson design you need to distinguish between the WHAT and the HOW. The how being the most difficult! Learning must be enjoyable and fun to do!

What is to be

  • learnt
  • taught
  • assessed

How is it to be

  • learnt
  • taught
  • assessed

You need to translate these two boxes into working teaching and learning objectives. This of course, is only the beginning in setting out to determine the nature of the lesson that you are going to draft and plan

There are other initial tasks that should be evaluated

You should evaluate what teaching methods and approaches are appropriate to you as a trainee or experienced teacher.

The number of students you are likely to teach, their ability and level of attainment.

The resources, facilities, and equipment etc. to be used. Your teaching environment and classroom/lab layout

The time you have available.

The progression of the student(s) in terms of testing and examinations.

Other staff involvement in the teaching programme or scheme of study.

The dynamics of a lesson A lesson is fundamentally a two-way learning 'process'. It must be interactive between student(s) and teacher A lecture is a one-way "teaching" process. (From the notes of the lecturer to the notes of the students without going through the heads of either!) What would I look for in a lesson? In drafting your ideas try and gauge your lesson design and presentation by considering, what I call, the four I's.

Imagination It is important to present your teaching material as imaginatively as possible. You have to capture the imagination of your students. How can you go about this? A theme, a particular learning approach, a story, drama, experiment etc.
Interest There is no motivation to learn without interest. How do you develop interest so that learners become involved? Perhaps starting off with simple coherent ideas, a surprise, a new format etc. Classroom and group management techniques matter. Involve the students in the learning process.
Impact Like any good advert you have to create a memorable impression. Students learn by association. In what way can you make an impact. Don't forget you have to sell your material! A good presentation is always memorable. Teaching makes for good actors. Yes, you have to be forward and clear in terms of speech, posture and style. As well as having good up to date relevant material.
Initiative Initiative is your hidden preparation, research, planning and resource utilization. The structure, purpose, style and presentation of your lesson will reflect without a doubt the trouble you took to prepare for it. Poor initiative equals a poor lesson and performance.

    Lesson Plan; Preparation & Transaction

    Getting Started

    Before designing a lesson plan it is desirable that a draft pre-plan is produced. A sketch of your ideas or perhaps a flow chart of procedures and/or set problems with important questions to be asked should be drafted.

    Your Pre plan or brief

    Elements to be considered in the pre-plan are as follows:

    A statement of competence's) to be achieved by students, i.e., the lesson objective(s). Write these down.

    Check the syllabus or scheme of work for accuracy of intention and scope of coverage

    Before any lesson may be effectively planned, it is essential that the teacher states what he and she assumes to be the students' knowledge and understanding at the outset in relation to the lesson purpose. For example, in a lesson dealing with the application Pythagorean' Theorem, a teacher might assume that they already know what is meant by the following: horizontal, perpendicular, angle, right angle, square and square root, substitution. This is the 'known' from which the teacher leads the class to the 'unknown'. It is essential that this 'known' be checked by the teacher at the start of the actual lesson by questioning students.

    If it is apparent from feedback that students do not possess this assumed knowledge, then before the designed lesson can proceed, it must be re-taught and consolidated. (Revision techniques).

    Learning steps of the lesson

    In a brief the learning steps should be listed i.e., enabling competencies or enabling objectives which must be achieved in order that the lesson purpose may be attained by all students.

    Application and relevance

    Under this heading the teacher must include a range of examples and problems which reveal the practical relevance of the lesson purpose. This is an important element in the motivation of students.

    New words/Key terms

    If words to be introduced are likely to be unfamiliar to students, they must be listed here. Their meaning should be explained to students in the early stages of the introduction to the lesson.

    New concepts

    New conceptsmust also be listed so that their meaning and relevance are included in the development ofthe lesson.

    Teaching material and aids to be used

    Teaching material and aids that might be used should be listed so that their preparation and use may be planned. They should be selected because they will give to the lesson impact, interest, memorability, and help clarify meaning and promote understanding.

    Learning activities

    A list of possible learning activities should be compiled so that they maybe considered for inclusion in the lesson plan.

    Self preparation

    At the pre-planning stage, the teacher must ensure that his/her knowledge of the subject matter to be taught is more than adequate and that he can explain and inform in a way that is suitable to the abilities and backgrounds of the students.


    Setting the Lesson Objective

    Use the Pythagorean' Theorem to calculate the length of a side of a right-angled triangle given the lengths of the other two sides in 40 minutes.

    Assumed student knowledge and understanding

    Horizontal, perpendicular, angle, right-angle, square and square root, equation, use of formulae, triangle.

    Steps/Tasks (enabling objectives)

    HOW The student should be able to

    1. Identify a right-angled triangle (could draw, find, calculate etc.).

    2. Apply standard notation to any triangle.

    3. State Pythagoras's Theorem as an equation.

    4. Apply Pythagoras's Theorem to calculate the unknown length of the hypotenuse of a right-angled triangle.

    5. Apply Pythagoras's Theorem to determine the length of an unknown side of a right-angled triangle.

    Notes on Motivation/ interest (How to involve students) Group work with paper squares, suggest a problem of trying to cross a river by felling a tree, finding the height of a building, dividing corn fields up for planting etc.

    Application and relevance;

    1. Checking for a square.

    2. Making a right angle.

    3. Two sides to make a direct line.

    Problems to be solved:

    Could become the theme of the lesson. (Interest, imagination and certainly lots of initiative here could be applied in a host of ways:-



    Building construction

    Production engineering

    Pipe layout

    New words for consideration and development



    Possible learning activities / approaches

    Teacher centred

    Student group work

    Field work

    Individual students' work

    Discussion teacher/students models

    TOTAL TIME FOR SESSION - depending on approach, say one hour


    The actual lesson plan used by teachers may be presented in many different kinds of formats and styles. Develop your own style sheet or plan structure. Whatever the format of your plan, it must have a clear structure. This structure is the same as that which should be used for a lecture, discussion, essay, project and dissertation. Namely one would look for an introduction, the development and a conclusion. The following essential elements should be included in each of these important development stages in your plan whether outline in scope or comprehensive in detail.

    The Introduction Scope of the lesson

    By this is meant the topic for consideration, what the lesson is about, e.g. 'our lesson today is concerned with safety in the home', or 'today we are going to consider teaching styles'. Be clear on what you will cover and make sure that it is not too much. Beginners cover far too much material in their first lesson designs. Do time your lesson script. Give a time value to each element.

    Application and relevance

    Unless students see the relevance of the lesson and the learning objectives that they are going to attempt then there is little chance that the lesson will be successful. Ways of making the lesson relevant are without limit. The indication of relevance is an essential component in the introduction of every effective lesson. Remember the four I's!!

    Check on assumed previous knowledge of students

    This assumed previous knowledge must be checked at the outset.

    New words and terms

    It is important that words and terms likely to be unfamiliar to students are introduced at relevant stages during the lesson. Do not introduce terms without explanation and relevance to the work in hand. Too many teachers spend their time explaining things which were introduced out of context! Do not teach by definitions and baffle students psychologically by flagging up issues that deter them from thinking and participating.

    Lesson purpose or aim

    The introduction should include a clear and unambiguous statement and explanation of the lesson purpose (teaching objective) and the learning objectives to be achieved by the students.

    Tasks, steps and or objectives to achieved by the student to satisfy the purpose of the lesson

    These steps are the enabling objectives, the achievement of which will ensure that students achieve the lesson purpose. The introduction to the lesson must emphasize and explain the significance of these steps.


    The development of the lesson is the period during which experiences are provided for students. Each step or enabling objective to be achieved by each student should be sequenced in order to achieve the best results. Remember we learn by practice, association and in small steps. This is where the HOW of learning is addressed. As a teacher you also need to recreate your own learning and understanding of the subject that you teach. You will probably realize that you know very little about the topic you have to teach as you begin to teach it! At least initially.

    The attainment of each objective or enabling competency, must be recapped upon and confirmed before the lesson proceeds to the attainment, by students, of the next enabling objective.


    The conclusion of the lesson must indicate to students that the purpose of the lesson has been achieved. What has been achieved must be summarized and consolidated at this point in the structure of the session. For this, there is no better way than for students to apply these newly acquired skills and learning to a practical situation or problem. This will exemplify the relevance and importance of the newly acquired learning objectives.

    It is not suggested that the above sequence should be followed in rigid sequence. What is important is that all of the elements should be included. The effective teacher does not adopt this sequence but adapts it to suit the needs of his or her students.

    QUESTIONING in all its forms, should take place continuously in a lesson. It is the basis for allowing and facilitating effective learning. Poor questioning skills = poor teachers and performers.

    Important reminders

    When planning a lesson do not take for granted that all your students:

  • Will comprehend your stated learning objectives
  • Will be clear about your intentions Will accept your choice of approach
  • Will relate to your topic
  • Will be clear about your instructions
  • Will follow your argument, logic, plan or structure
  • Will be able to answer pre designed question formats

    Students learn differently and at various speeds.

    Start from the known and proceed to the unknown in your development.

    Do not teach by definitions

    Students need to understand and build a concept before they can or are able to define it (you don't build a house from the roof down!) Your lesson must reflect progression and development of a topic.

    Go from the simple to the complex in developing your subject concepts.

    Remember to plan for looking back (recap on points) before you advance. Recap and indicate objectives achieved by the students. Place a mark in your plan where you would do this.

    Build concepts by using prepared lead questions as a tool. You can stage these in a lesson plan and list down what you would like to elicit from students. Use these as prompts.

    Do not give too much to learn (remember how long it took you to learn what you are trying to teach!). Plan and time your content.

    Always be prepared. (Don't kid yourself, it will show if you haven't planned your work!)

    No lesson is ever the same if repeated. (A lesson is dynamic within a framework of planning and provision)

    Don't do all the work in the lesson for the student(s). (Question your involvement and design of enabling objectives)

    The lesson should cater for slow working students as well as fast students. Have something extra prepared for students to attempt who are fast workers. If not, they will only disrupt your good endeavours and distract slow workers.

    Learning and teaching must be enjoyable and fun to do.

    Plan for this.

    Lesson Title
    Syllabus topic / place in scheme of work
    Lesson aim
    Lesson objective
    Student level
    Previous work
    Skills required
    Relevance and purpose of the session
    Number of students
    Date and time of event


    Enabling objectives / stepslearning tasks Key questions, development notes, points of application and practice. Teaching objectives Resources and aids to be used Time required
    DEVELOPMENT 1 2 3 4 5
    CONCLUSION to session 1 2 3
    Assessment tests Handouts Further work/ assignments New words/terms introduced Concepts explored Revision items Progression identified Evaluation of lesson


Lesson Plan Sample 1

Lesson Plan Sample 2

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