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Three simple steps for creating lesson plans

Here are some helpful tips for creating effective lesson plans to improve student learning and your classroom dynamic.
Three simple steps for creating lesson plans
Three simple steps for creating lesson plans

Creating effective lesson plans is the cornerstone of successful teaching and learning. When learning objectives are clear, and students are allowed to engage in organized and meaningful activities to help them become proficient at a targeted skill, it will lead to a productive classroom where learners are focused on achieving academic goals. Well-planned, creative lessons increase student achievement and help teachers create a more manageable classroom. When students understand what they are supposed to be learning, why and how they can show that they know it, there are fewer disruptions and wasted time. Learners can spend each moment in class on purposeful, enriching activities. Here are some helpful tips for creating effective lesson plans to improve student learning and your classroom dynamic.

1. Pinpoint the learning objectives, starting with the desired outcome first

Lesson plans serve as a teacher guideline for what students will learn, why they are learning a skill and how they will learn it and demonstrate their proficiency. The first step to planning an effective lesson is to decide what skill you will teach using the Common Core or state standards specific to your content area and grade level. Then, identify the main learning objectives to focus on to develop that skill. Essentially, you want to begin planning with the end goal in mind and create activities that will help the students get there. 

A learning objective describes what the learner will know, understand and be able to do at the end of the lesson. Teachers should share learning objectives with students in a user-friendly language. A depth of knowledge chart can help a teacher formulate tasks to promote deeper learning by determining the types of activities students can embark on to learn the skill. When a concept is first introduced, learners can initially engage in more simplistic learning activities to build their understanding, such as defining, identifying, and summarizing. As knowledge of a concept increases, learners can move on to tasks that require more complexity, such as analyzing, synthesizing and designing.

Some examples of possible learning objectives include: 

  • English class: By the end of class, I will be able to analyze an argumentative article and identify the author’s claim and types of evidence used in the argument, as evidenced by my annotation and rhetorical précis. 
  • History class: By the end of class, students will be able to explain how technological advancements during WWI affected soldiers, as evidenced by creating a main claim and supporting that claim with primary and secondary source documents.

2. Create the learning activities and plan appropriate sequence and time frame to help reach learning goal

To create lessons that focus on achieving learning goals, following the backward design model is helpful. First, start planning with what you ultimately want your students to know. Then, create a sequence of activities, assignments, problems, projects, presentations, etc., to get them to achieve the academic goal. After identifying the learning objectives and essential questions for your lesson, you will want to decide how you will present information to the class. Start by designing engaging learning activities to help students develop their skills, reach proficiency, and assess whether students met the learning targets.

Choose how students will experience instructional content

There are several ways that teachers can convey the desired content to the class such as presenting information with a Google Slideshow during a lecture or discussion while students take notes. Teachers can also prerecord instructional content through videos that learners view asynchronously before the class and can put the ideas into practice the next day with teacher guidance and appropriate supplemental activities in a blended learning format. Hāpara Workspace is a learning platform that seamlessly allows teachers to post lessons online and organize the content by learning objectives. Students can access articles, videos and assignments to understand and practice a desired skill and submit materials all in one place.

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Create activities to help students reach their learning target

Next, design learning tasks that directly help students reach the learning objectives, prepare them for proficiency and then decide how long each activity should take to develop those necessary skills adequately. You will want to determine what background knowledge your students have about the topic, if they need any additional context before the lesson and what vocabulary they will need to understand. Learning tasks should provide students the opportunity to practice and collaborate with peers to gain necessary skills with constructive feedback from the teacher. You will also want to note any materials (laptops, pencils, paper, videos, etc.) students will need to complete each task to be well prepared for the lesson. To determine the timeline and types of activities to use, consider:

  • How will I explain/deliver the content? 
  • What types of activities will students engage in that will adequately strengthen their skills?
  • What resources and background knowledge will students need in order to complete the task? 
  • How do I sequence tasks to build understanding and skills? (Will I need to teach mini-lessons such as grammar reviews, basic math terms, etc., beforehand so that learners can understand the bigger picture?) 
  • How will I differentiate the activity in order to make sure all students have access to the content? 

Creating a timeline for learning activities

When planning for a lesson, prioritize the learning objectives you will cover within the class period and then estimate how much time each activity will realistically take. Be sure to allocate time for questions and answers, summarizing main points, checking for student understanding and closing activities or exit tickets. It is also helpful to have additional enrichment activities planned if the lesson takes less time than expected. Being flexible and adjusting lessons to meet learner needs is a crucial component when planning; if you find something is working well and it is helping students reach their goals, focus on that activity instead of rigidly sticking to the original plan. 

3. Design assessments to measure understanding 

Next, you will want to determine how to measure proficiency and what types of assessments you will use to gauge if learners have met the specified objectives. Will the students take a test (on paper or online with a tool like Google Forms)? Will they write an essay, present a speech or create a project? When planning an assessment, you will also need to create a rubric that details the criteria students must meet to demonstrate proficiency and share that information with them before the assessment so that they clearly understand the expectations. 

After an assessment, a teacher should give constructive feedback on what students did well and how they can improve for next time. They can use the results to determine what they need to reteach and how they can adjust instruction to help students and reinforce learning by providing opportunities for the continued practice of the concepts to meet learning goals. Hāpara Dashboard is a great tool to help teachers give effective feedback to learners. It allows teachers easy access to all of their learners’ Google Files, and by simply clicking on a Student Tile, the teacher can message the learner and offer suggestions, while accessing their work simultaneously. Learners can also easily access the feedback and communicate with the teacher via the Hāpara Student Dashboard

Lesson plan templates and example

There are many types of templates you can use to create a lesson plan depending on your time frame (daily or weekly). This lesson plan example follows a backward design model and is intended for an intermediate-level English Language Development class with a range of grade levels from 9th to 12th grade. 

Using Hāpara Workspace to incorporate lesson plans

Online tools like Hāpara can help teachers successfully implement their lesson plans and help learners reach their academic goals. Hāpara Workspace is a digital platform that allows teachers to post learning objectives, educational resources, assignments, rubrics and provide constructive feedback in one area. This feedback will enable learners to identify the learning targets, access academic content, and submit assignments at the same time. Workspace is divided into four columns that can be separated into different categories: learning objective, resources, learning activities/assignments, and rubrics.

In the first column of a Workspace, a teacher can list the learning objectives for a specific lesson or unit, for example: Students will be able to demonstrate an understanding of the meaning of operations by solving problems involving ratios of parts of a set to the whole set.

In the next column, a teacher can post resources to help strengthen student understanding of a topic, such as video links, articles, slideshows, etc. Learners would access the posted content to help them prepare for the learning activities that will be assigned to them.

In the third column of the Workspace, the teacher can post the assignments or learning tasks that learners can complete helping demonstrate their understanding (for example, an essay, an audio/visual project, a series of problems or questions created with Google Docs).

In the last column, the teacher can post scoring rubrics or any other additional enrichment activities to help students understand the expectations of the assignment.

Learners can complete the posted assignments and submit their work in the learning task column. They can also refer to teacher posted scoring rubrics in the fourth column to help guide them as they complete the assignments. After learners submit their work, teachers could assess and provide appropriate feedback electronically using the Hāpara Dashboard.

Hāpara also helps teachers differentiate their lesson plans by allowing teachers to create groups. Teachers can assign modified assignments to specific groups of students to enable all students to access the content, for example, English Language Learners, students with IEPs and those working on a group project.

Try implementing some of these strategies in your lesson planning to help make your classroom more organized and productive.

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