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Effective Lesson Planning
Sharon Longert
 

Many teachers use a variety of formats for lesson planning. All serve a particular purpose or are mandated by a school system or supervisor. Effective lesson plans contain some certain elements that are effective in helping students to learn new material. These elements include: a lesson introduction, clarity, checking for understanding and adjustment, coached practice, closure, solitary practice, and review.

Lesson Introduction
An introduction makes students aware of what they are supposed to learn, activates prior knowledge, focuses attention to the main points, and actively involves them from the very beginning.

Clarity
Clear explanation of the concrete examples should be interspersed with questions to check for student understanding. Organization of information helps learners to perceive and process linking ideas. Use advance organizers, outline the content, call attention to main ideas, and summarize sub-sections. Use visual presentations--pictures, diagrams, concept webs, and graphic organizers to enhance clarity.

Check for Understanding and Adjust
Periodically ask specific questions or engage students in a short writing activity to check for understanding. Don’t take for granted that they understand. Engage different students in the questioning to assess as you teach; ask a few students the same question before commenting on the accuracy of the answer; encourage students to ask each other questions. When a large number of students are having difficulty, re-teach using different material; use small group instruction for a few students who need re-teaching.

Coached or Guided Practice
Instruction progresses from modeling and instruction to feedback and coaching so that control of the learning process rests with the student. Students then need to use the new skill or knowledge in closely monitored practice before individual practice is employed. Students need to experience a high success rate and prove increased competence in using a new skill or strategy.

Closure
A lesson summary or closure asks the students to summarize the key ideas and gives the students an idea of future lessons. Some teachers use exit slips that must be left with the teacher at the end of the class period. These ask the student a specific question or ask the student to provide a fact that was learned. This is on way for the teacher to asses learning.

Solitary Practice
Students need to practice a skill on their own and experience success (at least 75-80%). Independent seatwork or homework is effective, but needs to be checked and feedback needs to be provided to the student.

Review
Periodic review helps students consolidate their learning, provides additional reinforcement, and provides another assessment to the teacher.

This sequence of steps is meant as a framework to allow teachers to retain their creative and individual classroom style. “When students try to learn more difficult content before they have mastered the prerequisites and when they are not given sufficient practice to master skills, they become confused, disinterested, and much more likely to exhibit disruptive behavior in the classroom” (Levin & Nolan).

Note: It is important to be aware “that a lesson does not equal a class period. A lesson is defined as the amount of instructional time required for students to achieve a specific learning objective.” (Levin & Nolan) A lesson may extend over a few class periods, or one class period may contain more than one lesson. In the former case, some of these elements may be present in each class period. In the latter case, the learning objective of each lesson is better met if each component is repeated.

Levin, James, Nolan, James F., Principles of Classroom Management:  A Professional Decision Making Model, 5th edition, 2007.

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