Classroom Clinic – Planning 101
“Dear classroom clinic,
I am in a long term supply position but the cover scheme of work I have been left runs out after half term! I’m looking forward to planning my own lessons but lessons here are definitely different to back home. Can I please have some advice regarding the basics of lesson planning?”
Firstly when planning, you must think about the Big Picture. Where do the students need to be at the end of the half term? What’s in their next assessment? Make sure you use the assessments as a starting place to inform your planning to ensure students learn and practise the skills and knowledge needed to achieve. This end goal should then help you plan using the following steps:
Learning objectives & outcomes
- Should be skills-based (what students will learn, not what activities they will do in the lesson). Try using Blooms Taxonomy for task words (be able to… state, describe, explain etc.).
- Objectives provide structure to the lesson and should be introduced at the beginning of the lesson. They should be displayed on every slide and worksheet, be referred to throughout the lesson and be reflected on in the plenary.
- Avoid using ‘All…’ ‘Most…’ ‘Some…’ style objectives as many schools discourage this. All students should be able to achieve all objectives, but some may need more assistance than others.
‘Do Now’ or starter activity
- Use a quick starter for students as they enter the classroom. Many schools call this a ‘Do Now’. This allows students to settle to a task straight away rather than becoming distracted when waiting for their peers to arrive.
- If possible, have simple written instructions so that students need no verbal instructions. Use visuals on the interactive whiteboard to show what they need to do.
- Using mini-whiteboards and post-it notes will encourage the students to begin the task straight away, rather than asking you what the date and title are.
- Unless your lesson will be the start of a new topic, use this activity to quickly assess prior knowledge. You can then adjust the pace of the rest of the lesson accordingly so that all students are sufficiently supported and challenged, given what they already know.
- You can boost the class’ confidence by using your ‘Do Now’ to meet the first of your learning objectives. If your first objective is a ‘describe…’ skill, then you ask students to create a spider diagram describing an image or concept.
- Link each activity to an objective. For example, if in an English lesson the objective is ‘To be able to identify similes and metaphors’, give the students a printed poem and two highlighter pens to make it simple for them to meet this objective.
- Make the activities as simple as possible. For example, if in a Geography lesson the objective is ‘To be able to describe how an oxbow lake is formed’, then the students could simply put images in order and write one sentence to describe each step, rather than writing a paragraph.
- Minimise teacher-talk. If you need to address the class to model a method or explain a concept, then ensure that the students are still actively involved in this. For example, in a Maths lesson where the teacher needs to show the method for solving an equation, they can show the students one example, and then have pupils do the next question on mini-whiteboards to hold up and show their answers. The teacher can then correct any mistakes and show another example.
- Remember: keep it simple! Don’t choose activities that rely on lengthy explanations, as students may lose focus or become disengaged.
- Try to give instructions as efficiently as possible. Don’t over-complicate and keep your examples simple too, so as not to confuse students. If they need more help, then you can do this individually whilst you are moving around the room.
- Don’t pick activities that do not directly link to the objective. You may have a fantastic activity that the students will really enjoy, however, if it does not help pupils make progress against an objective then don’t use it.
- If using worksheets in the lesson, ensure that your learning objective(s) are clearly displayed. Try not to overload students with worksheets, you can take activities from different sources and print them onto one sheet of paper.
- Remember: writing does not equal learning. Students do not have to complete written tasks for each of your activities. They can often make more efficient progress by carrying out a discussion, role play or practical activity. For example, in a Science lesson, instead of writing about how particles behave in solids, liquids and gases, students could move around the classroom and show you how the particles move.
- Use varied activities to engage and motivate students.
- You should check the progress of the whole class against each objective to demonstrate progress to the observer. This can be done in a quick assessment for learning activity between each main task, which will also allow you to break up the lesson and ensure all of the students are still engaged.
- Ideas for checking the progress of the whole class:
- Quick 5-question quiz (you can use scrap paper for this) – use questions with one-word answers and get the students to mark these out of 5. You can then ask students to raise their hands if they got 3 or more to find out if there are any students in the class that are really struggling.
- Mini-whiteboards can also be used for quizzes, meaning students can show you their answers after each question.
- True / False activities are a good test of student understanding and don’t require any equipment, simply ask students to use their thumbs to show you what they think.
- Other ideas for progress checking:
- Using success criteria or a mark scheme to prompt self-assessment or peer-marking
- Ask students to swap work and give each other ‘next – steps’ or ‘two stars and a wish’ as feedback. Post-it notes work well for this kind of peer-to-peer feedback as it keeps the comments short and to the point.
- Consider different groups within the classroom, including EAL, SEN and G&T students.
- Make the lesson accessible for everyone without having to use different resources by displaying keywords, providing sentence starters for students to use if they wish, displaying challenge questions for higher ability students to attempt etc.
- Give simple verbal instructions for each task, display these instructions with supporting visuals on your slides for students to refer to, and check that all students understand what the task is as you are moving around the classroom.
- Summarise learning by referring back to the objectives for the lesson. You can use a summary question to do this if you wish. For example, in a Music lesson with a final objective of ‘To be able to compare current popular music with that of the 1960s’ students could write 3 sentences with similarities and differences.
- If you don’t wish to use a question, a simple written task for a plenary is to write a paragraph using all of the keywords from the lesson.
- Collect students’ work and tell them you’re excited to read it. You can take good examples into your interview as evidence of students making progress. If you have time to mark one or two, that’s even better.