Lesson planning has always been a time-consuming and complex process for teachers. I’m almost sure if you ask most teachers, novice or experienced, this will be a pain point. I remember when I first started teaching, and I would take at least twice as long as the lesson lasted. I would research the grammar to increase my awareness, find different ways to model or explain it to my students, and explore teaching practices that would support my students based on their needs. Through the years, this process became easier and more streamlined, which is why I wanted to tap into my over twenty-year experience and share some tips to help you plan smarter.
Analyze current lesson plans
- Assess your lesson planning routine
The process may seem complex and time-consuming, so the first thing you need to do is find out why. Analyze your lesson planning routine and determine which part of it is taking the longest or is the most difficult for you. Then, come back to this post and make a list of possible solutions to make the process easier and more efficient. This process of reflection should be done often so that we can evaluate both how we plan our lessons and the lessons themselves to see how well they worked for our students. Once you have identified the weaknesses in your lesson planning routine, it’s time to get to work! Here are some of my ideas.
- Map out learning goals: Before planning each lesson, take the time to map out the learning goals for the entire course. This will help you see the big picture and ensure that each lesson builds towards these goals. I would start your course map with four columns: lesson, goal, and expected outcome. Then plan detailed lessons when the time comes.
- Use reverse planning: Instead of starting from scratch, try reverse planning. Start with the end goal in mind, which you can take from your course map, and work backwards to determine what students need to know in order to achieve it. This makes it easier to plan and makes sure that every lesson is important and relevant. At this point, you’ll need to add a column to the course map with the heading “Student Needs,” where you’ll enter two to three things your students absolutely need to be successful during this lesson. Think of it like a rough outline or brainstorm of your lesson’s needs.
- Simplification of lesson plan formats
Based on the findings of some researchers, a one-page lesson plan could indeed solve many of the issues teachers have when planning lessons. This short and to-the-point version of a lesson plan could have the most important information and keep the expected results realistic. We would go as far as to propose that you continue your lesson plan on the same Course Map. You can add one more column with lesson details, such as Introduction, Action, and Assessment.
- Use technology to your advantage: There are a variety of tech tools available to help streamline the lesson planning process. For example, you can use an app or website that allows you to create and save lesson plans, access resources, and track progress. You can also download our free Course Map and Lesson Plan Format to get you started and keep track on Google Drive.
- Collaborate with colleagues: Sharing lesson planning ideas and resources with colleagues can be a great way to save time and stay motivated. Consider setting up a lesson planning group with other teachers and sharing ideas, materials, and resources. Some researchers even created Wikis to help in this group planning endeavor. This not only saves you time but also keeps the lessons tailored to your teaching context.
7. Prioritize the essential content: When planning a full course, it can be tempting to try to include everything from the text book or curriculum. However, this often leads to lesson overload and can be overwhelming for both you and your students. Instead, prioritize the essential content and focus on delivering that information effectively.
Go with the flow
8. Embrace flexibility: Lesson planning is a fluid process, and it’s important to be flexible and adapt to the needs of your students. Don’t be afraid to change your lesson plans when you need to, and use any teaching opportunities that come up in class. Take notes of those unexpected moments in your Course Map and Lesson Plan Format or keep them in a teaching journal.
All in all, planning effective lessons doesn’t have to be overwhelming; you can find the best routine that works for you by trial and error. So, if the routine you currently have is not wokring for you, roll up those sleeves and get started. This is how I’ve managed to simplify my lesson planning over the years, while always focusing on the essentials. Here’s a brief summary, of how you could do it, too.
Preplanning > Planning > Implementing > Reflecting/Evaluating
Step 1: Analyze current Lesson planning routine.
Step 2: Preplan with a course map.
Step 3: Plan your lessons by expanding the information on your course map.
Step 4: Implement your lesson.
Step 5: Reflect on the effectiveness on your lesson plan and your students’ learning outcomes.