Category Archives: Lesson Planning

Help! I can’t keep up with lesson plans!

lesson plan book

I’m guessing that somewhere in the first month of school, there will be a lesson plan crisis. Maybe you have been trying to write college style lesson plans.  There is absolutely no time for those those long, long, lesson plans you wrote in college. The purpose of those was to get you into the habit of thinking a lesson through.  If you have already planned at least one unit by now, you can quickly get on the wagon to preparing a lesson plan.  If you teach in the primary grades, it is somewhat easier because you are not studying difficult material.  You already know how to multiply and divide, you have no trouble understanding parts of speech, or you can easily discuss the three phases of matter.  In cases where the material is fairly easy, you can cut right to the chase and work on lesson design for maximum learning.

If, however, you are teaching upper elementary or high school and you must help students learn about photosynthesis, you will need more time.  Not that you weren’t fully prepared in college to teach those upper grade levels!  But as a veteran teacher, I study my biology notes every year and even do some further research online to stay on top of the material. You absolutely have to be prepared, or the older students will see your uncertainty with the material.  You don’t even want to go there.  BE PREPARED!

Each lesson should contain the following elements:

1.  A definite beginning with a “hook”

2.  The subject matter which can be presented in a variety of ways

3.  A closure

4.  A formal or informal assessment

Now, you’re probably thinking…do I have to write all that in my plan book?  No, but you need to have written notes in front of you.  Do not rely on your memory in the early days of teaching.  Do not rely on your memory in your later days of teaching.  My memory fails me. The bell rings and the students leave without their homework, or the handout, or I forgot to tell the class about the quiz tomorrow, etc.

I have seen many good student teachers start out with a good lesson that crumbles at the end of the class period because there is no closure.  Administrators/evaluators will look for several important things in your lesson:  a good introduction, good engagement on the part of the students, and a good summation of the day’s events.  Organize your time. Don’t enter the classroom without a clue as to how your going to start and what you need to do. In your early days of teaching you are setting a tone in the classroom.  Set the tone that you have a plan, something will be accomplished, and there will be an end result. Students find security in the fact that the teacher is in charge and knows what he/she is doing. Show students that your classroom is a safe learning environment where the teacher is confident and in control of the day’s events.

For each lesson–and I know this will overwhelm you at first–but you will begin to roll with it–jot down your

A.  Materials

B.  Procedure

C.  Assessment

Your objectives/targets should already have been in your unit plan that was previously written out.

Here is a sample lesson plan that I created for a high school biology class.  I turned this in to an administrator who was evaluating me.  Your can be hand written.

Determined Teacher Sample Lesson Plan

How do I start planning my units?

unit planning

So you have your textbooks sitting in front of you.  You may or may not have a curriculum guide.  Maybe you’re in a large district where all the lessons are prepared by a team and all you have to do is execute them!  Great!  But it’s not always going to be like this.  And even if you are on a team, you are going to be asked for input on how to tweak existing units.

Here is the form I use for planning high school biology units:

Free Downloadable:  Determined Teacher Unit Plan Form

If you are in a district where you will make the decisions about the units you teach, here are some steps to get you started.

  1. Assemble all necessary materials which will include the following: textbook, workbooks, curriculum/pacing guides, activities that go with the unit (lab activities in the case of a science unit), the school calendar, and a free blank monthly calendar available on the internet.
  2. Plan how many days you wish your unit to last.  It might be a good idea for you to project, with a syllabus in hand (if you have one), how long each of your units need to be in order to get them all covered during the school year.
  3. Designate a start and finish date.
  4. Jot down the main topics/text pages that must be covered in the unit.
  5. Planning backwards from your end date (assuming this is the test date), fill in the handy unit planning sheet I have linked above.  Be sure to allow time for any reviews, quizzes, activities, video clips, literacy activities, and homework assignments that you may want to go over/collect.
  6. Check your school calendar to see whether or not any of the following events might impact your unit:  emergency drills, school institute days, holidays, standardized testing dates, school assemblies, early dismissals/late starts, school pictures, vision/hearing screenings, etc.   Allow for these interruptions.
  7. Some professionals suggest that you write your test first, and if you teach at a grade level that distributes study guides, make that along with writing  your test.  If you do not plan to write the test first, at least make note of the topics covered on the test.  It is very frustrating to administer a test and then realize you omitted several important questions.