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[Curriculum Planning] Common and New Components of Lesson Plans

Wednesday, November 9, 2016 -- Scott Sterling

Every teacher has his or her own unique formula for lesson-planning, and even though many schools and districts have moved to online lesson-planning, lots of teachers like to start with some kind of template on paper. Veteran teachers may have been using the same template for years, while new teachers might be trying out a new one every other month. There’s no right or wrong way to do it, but starting with some kind of framework makes the lesson-planning process much smoother.

So, instead of giving you yet another template that will fulfill all your lesson-planning dreams, I’d like to give you the tools to figure out your own by simply talking about some standard and nonstandard components of lesson plans. Many of these will probably be familiar, but teachers are always coming up with new components that reflect modern teaching and the shifting requirements of administrators.

Standard components

Almost every lesson plan will incorporate these:

  • Objective - What skill, competency, or piece of knowledge do you want students to walk away from the lesson with? This should be written in the language of the standard(s) you’re addressing and use child-friendly terminology so students understand what’s expected of them.
  • Sequence/activities - What’s going to take place during the lesson? And when?
  • Assessment - How will you know if students have accomplished the objective?
  • Resources/materials - What do you need to deliver this lesson?

Also common (although not yet on the “ubiquitous” level) are components that help teachers think about differentiation strategies or accommodations for students with special needs, depending on the populations being served. 

New, cool components

As 21st century skills have been incorporated into state assessments and college and career readiness standards have evolved, many educators have found adding new elements to their lesson-planning tools to be very helpful. Here’re a few to consider:

  • Rationale - How will these skills be used in the worlds of college and careers?
  • Breakdown of assessments - Will your students’ demonstration of learning take the form of a formative or summative assessment? What specific strategy will you employ?
  • Sequence of instruction, broken down - This involves taking the sequence or activities section and breaking it down into the common steps of the gradual release model: focused instruction, guided instruction, collaborative learning, and independent learning.

The section of lesson plans which has perhaps grown the most in importance recently is the component devoted to reflection. Many templates have now graduated beyond a simple question like: “How do you think this lesson went?” Instead, they provide a framework for teachers to dig more deeply into how their results align with 21st century skills by providing space to consider things like:

  • How did the lesson foster collaborative skills? How did students perform in this regard?
  • In what ways did this lesson prove to be rigorous?
  • What evidence is there that students were required to think critically?
  • What evidence is there that students employed problem solving skills?

As standards continue to evolve and our understanding of the learning process continues to improve, lesson-planning tools and frameworks are sure to evolve in tandem. The thing to remember is to not be fearful of evolving your own teaching practices as the demands of the profession change. Embrace new ideas, experiment with new methods, and be open to new resources when it comes to lesson-planning—it will help both you and your students grow!

Ready to incorporate a couple of new strategies into your lesson-planning routine? Check out these five tips to help you save time!