Remember the days you spent hours creating beautiful lesson plans (for imaginary students!) only to be reviewed and assessed by college professors who perhaps have never taught in a k-12 setting? While we may have moved away from writing lesson plans that include the detail necessary to earn passing grades, formal lesson planning may be an exercise worth revisiting.
Examining a traditional lesson plan template forces us to consider who our students are as learners, the learning objective of each lesson, what mastery of that objective will look like, and the materials needed to engage our learners by differentiating for their needs. Your overall instructional plan will also include interventions and extensions for those who fall below or far exceed the learning target.
That’s a lot to plan for, and for some, our pedagogical tool boxes are just full enough to carry us through the instructional phase; however, mindfulness about the desired learning results and evidence of learning should not be overlooked as we plan. Through John Hattie’s extensive research on student achievement published in Visible Learning (2009), we know that there are some educational practices that are more impactful than others. He found, “effective teachers set appropriately challenging goals and then structure situations so that students can reach these goals.” Being mindful about what we want our students to know and be able to do as a result of the learning experience and determining what that learning looks like is what Hattie termed “teacher clarity.” Teacher clarity ranked in the top 10 or over 100 positive influences on student learning that Hattie studied. He further defined teacher clarity as “organization, explanation, examples and guided practice, and assessment of student learning,” which brings us back to the lesson plan.
The process of creating a narrow focus for learning when lesson planning—writing it down and determining what success looks like—is one of the most effective things we can do as teachers. Making the learning visible for our students, offering precise clarity about what they are learning and what it should look like when they have learned it, matters. When we consider that framework, creating meaningful and engaging learning experiences becomes more targeted.
Identifying academic learning targets for each lesson as part of more formalized lesson planning will help us problem solve the “what ifs...” What if students appear bored? What if they struggle so much they give up? What if they get through the learning experience in half the time I had planned? What if they just don’t get it? What if…
What if my lesson plan included:
You might be thinking: “Won’t this take a lot of time to plan? I teach many grade levels or different content within the same grade—I am not sure I have time.” Determining the learning objective and success criteria are often already embedded in curriculum; making a purposeful plan to share them with students in a meaningful way may take time. Most classrooms post daily learning objectives already; taking those visuals a step further to include what success looks like may be the first step you could take to make the learning more visible.
Planning instruction that engages students, increases student voice, includes instructional dialogue, and is differentiated takes time; however, you do not need to reinvent the wheel. Many instructional strategies work well within many different content areas and for various ages and can be used in rotation. See what works for you and your students. Knowing what it looks like when they have met your objective, though, is an important piece of the plan.
This post brought to you by Kari Kolling-Anderson, Instructional Coach, Gibbs Elementary
Feel free to follow Kari on Twitter @KollingAnderson, to call her at 507-328-4122, or to connect with her via email
Hattie, John. Visible Learning: A Synthesis of Over 800 Meta-Analyses Relating to Achievement; Routledge, 2009.
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