Lesson planning for the first time? Don’t get frustrated. The process takes years, but these lesson planning tips will help.
My first (or maybe second) year teaching, I approached a coworker during a break. My class had a paper due soon, and after thinking, “I wonder if my class could use a revamping/revision/extra help day.” I asked my coworker as much.
She laughed. “Yeah, I’m pretty sure they could use it. Don’t you have such a day scheduled in?”
No. No I didn’t. I scheduled activities and editing days, but no reflection day of sorts. I hadn’t thought to schedule one. Like many lesson plans my first years teaching, accommodating needed to be my mantra. Next year would be smoother, next year I would know. As I offer up these tips for lesson planning, know that my tips for lesson planning were hard won.
I’ve found that writing lesson plans is a fluid process. I spent too much time my first years bothered that my plans changed so much. It takes time—but if you’re a new teacher, lesson planning ideas are here.
1. Don’t wing it.
My biggest of all tips for lesson planning? Don’t walk into a classroom with no plan. You need a plan. If you don’t approach the class with a tidy, typed plan, that’s fine. (A typed lesson plan is fine too!) Write out bullet points of the steps for the day.
I’m not suggesting you abandon formal lesson plan creation. Instead, walk to the front of the classroom those first years with a guideline, with a reminder of what to do.
2. Have a back-up and over-plan a bit at first.
My first year, I had a literary terms BINGO ready in case I finished too early. For another class, I read to them from a young adult book every day. I planned on reading five minutes every class period. If I needed ten, so be it. Ready something that will fit at the end of your class, just in case.
Do you pull out your emergency plan too often? Follow these lesson planning tips:
- Reevaluate your lesson plans.
- Find what is going quickly. Ask domain-specific questions. (Could you encourage more discussion?)
- Ask a coach or mentor to provide feedback with lesson planning.
- Record yourself and watch it later. Discover if you are moving at too fast of a pace or if you truly need more information.
Pacing in teaching takes time to develop.
3. Think through possible pitfalls.
This process will be easier after you know your students. Those first weeks, consider what could happen (without driving yourself crazy), and your lesson plans will be better prepared.
For instance, if you are covering a short story, have activities and a plan for it. Keep quick extras on hand as well. Then ask yourself: is anything about this story confusing? is the theme complex? is the vocabulary more difficult than normal? could students switch characters? are the symbols evident, or will they require extra study?
The better you can predict areas of potential struggle, the better your lesson plans will be. After you know your students, you will be able to predict where they will struggle.
4. Schedule in advance, but not too far.
I have a “loose” schedule, one that I know the order of the biggest assignments – papers and novels. This schedule is a simple word document, and I can share it with others if necessary. As I get get more specific, as the dates approach, the schedule gets “tighter.” It’s a long, never completed document. The next year, I copy and page into a new file (the file’s name is the school year) and alter as I go.
One time I decided to bulk lesson plan—to plan detailed lesson plans months in advance. I had to scrap the majority of them. Sure, I could use some of the activities, but I unfortunately wasted time redoing many of them. I was merely guessing because those first years, I didn’t realize where I needed depth and detail. I wasted my time.
Of course, I never teach everything the same way – no class is the same. Restricting a topic to two weeks isn’t fair to classes that need more time. Similarly, it isn’t fair to stretch and bore students when they understand a topic. After a few years, it is helpful to see that most classes need 3 weeks on ___ project, rather than two. When I went on maternity leaves, this document was invaluable.
Like so much those first years of teaching, lesson planning takes practice, experience. It will take errors for you to craft better lesson plans, to have smooth days where you accomplish your objectives. Hopefully these lesson planning tips put you on the right track for lesson planning.
Would you like a free download to get started? These English 9 lesson plans for an entire year will help you gauge the length of time and the topics for a course. Plus, these plans are 100% editable.