By David Winfield Editor, innovatED Magazine and former Deputy Head (Academic)
Contrary to popular belief, great planning does not mean mind-boggling detail, complexity or length. Always remember that the point of the planning process is to allow you to deliver inspirational lessons and excellent outcomes for the children. Anything that gets in the way of this, or is superfluous to it, can be safely removed. All lesson planning tends to have the following elements: include these and you are well on your way to delivering engaging teaching and measurable learning.
Always begin your lesson plan here. What do you want the children to learn by the end of the lesson? Why? How does this objective fit in with the sequence of learning? Are the objectives specific? How will you know if a child has attained them? Do the children have the secure skills and knowledge to achieve the objective?
When setting objectives for the lesson (whether or not you decide to share them with the children), it is always a good idea to have S.M.A.R.T objectives at the forefront of your mind (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant & Time-bound). Teachers still fall into the trap of describing an activity (e.g., 'Write a set of instructions') rather focusing on a specific elements of the task:
Use imperative verbs
Write in the second person
Use time connectives
Use labelled diagrams
Only include necessary detail
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So aim to ensure that your objectives are as precise as possible to remove shades of grey from success. This will help you to measure progress and boost the confidence of the children in your class - success should be black and white in this context, and children should be able to reflect themselves on whether they need more practise on something, or whether they can move on. Differentiation
There are lots of ways to differentiate your lessons to thoroughly stretch every child in your class. Some approaches to consider:
Paired or collaborative group work. By ability or mixed ability. Both have advantages and disadvantages.
Co-operative work. Similar to collaborative groups, but the teacher decides on the tasks to be done and who is doing them.
Cascading. Great for able children; they learn something new and share it with their peers
Envoy. Different groups work on different elements of the same task. 'Envoys' then visit other tables to share their findings. The whole class completes the task, but it is not obvious to the children who had the more difficult activities.
Jigsaw. Split the class into groups, and each group completes an activity so that the class completes the whole task. For example, the class may need to organise a party, so one group might compose an invite, another might arrange the table plan, another to work out the cost of food etc. This is also a superb approach for cross-curricular tasks.
Pupils as teacher. Children in groups plan and deliver a lesson (including making resources) to demonstrate their learning
You should also look to differentiate learning through the use of questions and by extension activities such as:
Drawing a diagram to explain
Work on a demonstration to show the class in the plenary
Turn your findings into a graph
Is there a rule that you've found that explains this?
Which was the best strategy to work that out?
Teaching and Support Assistants
Always ensure that you specify what you would like any support assistants to do to help enable the children to achieve the outcomes for the lesson. This should be shared with the assistant both verbally, and in the planning itself and it is excellent practice to allow your assistant(s) to write comments on your planning, as you would. This will give you some terrific insights as to how learning can be developed with your class. They also aid immeasurably through the differentiated support they can provide.
A brief note on how you will cater for the specific needs of individual children, especially those with IEPs or other Special Needs. It is also a good way of getting you thinking about how you can also stretch the most able.
Noting key resources such text book page numbers, website addresses etc. is also good practice if you have a memory like mine - and also if your support assistant helps you to prepare lessons.
I'm an enormous believer in the transformative power of questioning. I've always found popping in key questions that I want to ask the children into the planning exceptionally useful. It also helps to keep the lesson focused.