The essential guide to online lesson planning

The essential guide to online lesson planning

Whether instruction is in person or remote, an effective lesson plan helps teachers and learners meet academic goals. But how do educators adapt lesson planning for in-person instruction to virtual instruction? Teachers need to think about how to best engage all learners in a digital learning environment. Use this guide to make online lesson planning easier across your school or district. 

Gather data about your learners

How do teachers prepare lessons online? First, look at data to determine where to start when creating a digital lesson plan. Use diagnostic, formative and summative assessment data to understand learners’ needs. What do they already know? What do they still need to learn? 

Reviewing previous lessons also gives teachers data. Maybe learners need to review content from a past lesson, or perhaps they picked up skills quickly in the last lesson. Looking at data helps teachers ensure that their plans will best serve their specific group of learners. It can also help determine where personalized instruction and differentiation should fit into online lesson plans.

Teachers should also tap into learners’ background knowledge so that students can relate to the content. Virtual instruction is a great way to connect to how students want to learn since they already spend personal time online. There are many digital resources that teachers can add to a lesson plan to help bridge learners’ interests with online curriculum.

Consider how the lesson fits into a unit or instructional plan

What should a teacher consider when planning a lesson? After gathering data, it’s important to look at the overall blueprint for the unit or instructional plan. Just like traditional lesson planning, digital lesson planning needs to fit into the core concept or big idea. When building the virtual lesson, teachers can add a clickable link to the unit plan for quick access. 

Create an online lesson objective

Online lesson planning should include an objective or goal. What will learners be able to do by the end of the lesson? Include content standards and also digital learning standards, if available. 

For example, the California Digital Learning Integration and Standards Guidance was developed to help “teachers move standards-aligned instruction seamlessly between the in-person and virtual spaces.” Teachers can include their local digital learning standards to make sure they’re meeting goals and also share them with administrators. 

Think about timing for virtual learning

What are the strategies in online teaching? An important aspect of digital instruction is making sure learners are engaged when working via their online device. Since students are not there in person with a teacher, it’s more challenging to hold their attention. Educators can easily lose learners’ focus during an online lesson if it goes on too long. Plan for shorter presentations, videos and activities to keep learners interested. It also helps to get them started on an activity versus listening to or watching a long lecture. 

Make the introduction engaging

A lesson introduction needs to capture learners’ attention so that they’re interested in the new content. It can also review content as a refresher before students learn a new skill. Luckily, there are a lot of options for online lesson plan introductions. 

An exciting or funny video is a great way to grab learners’ interest when presenting new content or a new standard. Learners can also analyze a thought-provoking online image or listen to an audio clip. Another way to get started is to share a link to a virtual game as a review warm-up or bell ringer. Teachers can screen share during the introduction, or learners can view it on their own before a live class session.

Model new skills virtually for learners

With distance learning, teachers can model new skills by presenting on live video or screen sharing. They can also record a video for learners to watch before the class meets together. If teachers use live video or screen sharing, they can also record while presenting so that learners can re-watch the content later. Plus, the recording can be helpful for family members who assist kids while they practice or do homework. 

Give learners a chance to apply their thinking

Students need a chance to practice and apply their thinking in any virtual learning situation. Teachers may want them to practice as a whole class with the teacher present. Or they may want students to work on their own during asynchronous learning. Whether students are working on digital math problems, writing in a Google Doc or Sheet, researching online or manipulating a digital model for science, they’ll need time to practice.

Be flexible with online activities

How do you deliver online lessons? A virtual lesson plan needs to be learner-focused in order to keep students engaged. But sometimes there are hiccups, just like there are during in-person instruction. For example, some online activities or links may not work smoothly on certain devices. Teachers need to be flexible and have backup options in case there are technical issues or learners aren’t grasping a concept.

Include grouping for remote learning

Even when students aren’t learning face to face in a classroom, teachers can still plan for student groups. There will be times that the whole class will work together, while other times learners will need to practice individually. 

Students can also meet in small groups during remote learning. Teachers can use breakout rooms during synchronous class sessions. Or they can have learners meet as pairs virtually outside of a live whole class session. 

Use open-ended questions for online discussion

In online lesson planning, include open-ended questions for learners to ponder, research and discuss. There isn’t always one right answer during a discussion. When students have the chance to look at multiple possibilities or even incorrect answers, they’ll have deeper learner experiences. 

Students can discuss in a breakout group or in a virtual chat as a whole class during a live session. Or they can discuss open-ended questions through an online discussion board or Google Doc after the class meets. No matter where they add to the online discussion, encourage learners to provide evidence from their research or readings to support their ideas and responses.

Design virtual strategies for multiple learning styles

How can teachers plan an effective lesson plan if they’re not in a physical classroom with learners? It’s crucial to think about ways to include visuals, hands-on opportunities, audio and online reading and writing activities. Multimedia and interactive resources like videos, podcasts and virtual models help educators continue to give students deeper learner experiences.

Make modifications and adaptations relevant to digital learning

How do you prepare a digital lesson plan for all learners? Modifications and adaptations need to work for virtual learning. Some students may need technical support, apps or tools to help them during a lesson. Text-to-speech tools like Read&Write for Google Chrome will read passages out loud to learners. Educators can also allow voice typing in a Google Doc. Other strategies could be recording audio or video instructions for a learner and using a larger font size to make it easier for all learners in the class to read instructions.

Virtual learning can be challenging for some students if they have to access lesson plan materials in different places. It helps to keep lesson resources in a central spot for learners to use. Hāpara Student Dashboard Digital Backpack is a tool that organizes instructional materials for learners. Students only need to visit one hub to access everything they need for online learning

Add ongoing assessments

What do assessments look like in a virtual environment? There are many assessment ideas to add to online lesson planning. Using the online chat function is an engaging way to check for understanding. Younger learners can even add emojis like a thumbs-up or a thumbs-down to answer questions. 

Other ideas include having learners record a screencast, answer questions in a Google Form or present to the class during a live online session. Learners can also show their work through a Google Doc, but it’s important for teachers to give timely feedback after the lesson. Hāpara Teacher Dashboard was designed to help teachers quickly give personalized feedback.

Students can also come back together as a whole class to reflect on the online lesson and explain what they learned. Not only does this reinforce students’ understanding, but teachers can also use this as data when they plan their next lesson. 

Keep online lesson planning organized

An online lesson planner organizes each part of the lesson and includes clickable links to make it easy to navigate to unit outlines, digital resources and assessments. For some of the best online lesson planners, check out online lesson plan templates that use Google Slides or Google Sheets. Schools and districts can also take advantage of a tool like Hāpara Workspace. It allows educators to find thousands of digital lessons and easily personalize them for different learners. Educators can also create their own lesson plans and share their Workspaces with the Hāpara community.

Learn what to focus on when building a culture of digital citizenship, including conversation starters for learners and educators!

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