Six Routes to a Planned Lesson

Where do lessons come from?

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on

The sun sets on yet another day of teaching and you’re settling down to plan tomorrow’s lessons. You know what you’re going to teach and you already have a lesson planned, ready and raring to go.

And while I’m sure that might be true for some, in my experience, there are five likelier routes to deciding what comes out of your classroom’s projector the next day:

Teach them something they don’t seem to yet understand

You might have recently marked their work and noticed where a lot of the students were going wrong. Or perhaps you assessed their understanding of a topic verbally in your last lesson. You know there’s something they don’t quite yet understand, and you now get to help them understand it better. These lessons can be magic because the students know that you’ve made the effort to figure out what they need help with and you’re taking the time to help them get better at it. Most of the time I find I get better than average behaviour in these lessons as a nice added bonus.

Ask a colleague for a lesson

I wish I had done this more when I started teaching. I suppose I didn’t want to be perceived as lazy, or as someone trying to take advantage of a colleague. But so long as you don’t do this too often, there’s nothing wrong with asking a more experienced teacher to share a lesson with you. Whenever I’ve been asked, I was flattered to think they would want to use a lesson I’d planned.

Make the lesson your own though. Understand the material you’re going to teach. Know what is on each slide without having to read off of it. Nothing made my students switch off more than watching me try to figure out the lesson as I went along.

Dust off an old lesson

If you’re already a year or two into your teaching career, there’s a good chance that you will have previously taught a lesson to this year group about this time last year.

I usually find that the lessons I taught the year before aren’t up to the standard I’d expect of myself now. A great measure of your progress is to look back and laugh at lessons you taught a year or two ago! But there will be a skeleton you can develop with a little time and effort.

And the good news is that a lesson planned today is a lesson you can use again in the future.

Download a lesson

The internet is great for getting topic ideas or for finding different approaches to teaching, but the quality of resources you’ll find varies greatly. Any lessons you find online need to be viewed through a critical eye (just because it’s online, doesn’t mean it’s good). And as with a lesson you might get from a colleague, or one you planned last year, I would never use it without reviewing and adapting it first.

Many sites like TES or Teachit charge for some of their resources. Buying a set of lessons, or even a whole scheme of work, can save you a lot of time, but there’s a value judgement you’ll need to make about the time you save versus the amount you’ll pay. I’ve only opened my wallet for resources a couple of times over the years, but I have colleagues who do so regularly and swear by it.

Plan a lesson from scratch

While starting from a blank page will require the greatest investment of your time, it can also be the most rewarding – especially when it goes down well. Plus there’s always the additional feeling of pride you get from creating something out of nothing.

I have found that I teach these lessons the best. Maybe it’s because they come from the heart. Or perhaps I’ve invested time in their creation and so I really sell it to the students. Since I know the topic and tasks inside out it gives my teaching added gravitas.

And if the lesson turn out to be good and you’re proud of it, why not share it with your colleagues? If you’re lucky, they’ll share theirs with you too.

That’s it; the six routes I take to a planned lesson. Feel free to let me know in the comments which of these routes you use the most, or of any other routes I’ve neglected to mention. I’d love to hear from you.

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