I see you teacher friend, you’ve got all of these great ideas for your lesson, but for some reason when it comes down to it, what you are trying to accomplish gets lost in the translation from your brain to your students. It’s time to take your creative ideas and cohesively piece them together to create a lesson that engages your students and leaves them anxiously awaiting the next one.
#1 Identify the main goal
What is it that you want students to know by the end of your lesson? Identify it and write it down. The writing it down part is key. So whether you are a post-it note girl like me, or a techy teacher who keeps a running Google Doc, just write it down. This will give a concrete view of what your end goal is for you lesson and should be the starting point from which the rest of your lesson flows. They always say “start with the end in mind”, and they aren’t wrong. The facts are there. Plan your lesson with the end in mind and it will be successful every time!
#2 What’s your hook?
When I first started teaching, I was naïve and thought that my students were going to love learning about Mitosis just as much as I loved teaching it. But, we all know that that is far from the truth. The fact of the matter is that your students (at least most of them) are not innately interested in the topic you are teaching, so you have to give them a reason to be interested. This is called the hook or the “engage” part of the lesson. I know what you’re thinking “blah blah blah” heard this before and it’s nothing new. You’re right it’s not. But in my experience the engage is the part that most teachers neglect to include in their lessons. Maybe it’s because they don’t have the time or maybe they just don’t see the need, however, make no mistake that by hooking your students at the beginning of the lesson, you are creating an atmosphere in which they are now invested in the learning process.
#3 Let them explore
You read that right. Before even diving into the meat of your lesson, such as your notes or lecture, find a way for students to explore the concept. My favorite way to do this is to create inquiry based activities in which students collaborate with their peers. For example, when teaching Mitosis, I start with an inquiry based card sort. I partner students up and simply ask them to put the cards in order. Again, this is before we’ve talked about it as a class. This gives me an opportunity to walk around the room and listen to their conversations and logic as they make decisions on how to order the cards. Do they get it right? Most of the time no, but that is not the point! The goal of the explore is to provide students with an opportunity to examine the topic before we talk about it as a class.
#4 Time to Explain
After the engage and explore, plan how you will explain the concept to your students. This does not have to be a traditional lecture, but rather I encourage you to branch out and try something different. One way I do this is by creating skeleton notes for my students to complete during our class discussion. This keeps our note-taking to less than 15-20 minutes at a time. In addition to traditional notes, make time for students to show you what they are learning through formative assessments. These could include a simple card sort, Quizlet, Kahoot, whiteboard question and answer, really the possibilities are endless. During this section of your lesson, the focus should be on the students understanding the concept, so be sure to provide as many opportunities as possible for addressing misconceptions and lack of understanding.
#5 What do they know?
Finally, you’ve taught the concept, formatively assessed student knowledge and your ready to see if they’ve mastered the concept. Plan a way to elaborate and evaluate at the same time. This could mean having students create a product over the concept they’ve learned or maybe have them right a test over the material. Be creative and don’t think that you have to give them a traditional test to assess their knowledge. For instance, at the end of my mitosis unit, my students create models of each phase, take picture of each model, and create a presentation with their picture and descriptions of each phase. This not only shows me that they understand the concept of Mitosis, but it also allows them to take ownership of their learning process. Whatever you decide on, be sure it focuses back on your target goal that you identified at the beginning. If you do, you can be sure that by the end of your lesson, your students will not only understand the topic, but have a continued interest and investment in your course.
To help you out with your lesson planning journey, I have created a digital workbook just for teachers like you! It’s absolutely free and comes with ideas, tips, and strategies to help you transform the way you lesson plan. Grab my quick start guide here!