Some Ideas about Teaching



Planning Lessons

At the risk of seeming totally arrogant, please may I copy into this thread a post I did in a previous thread on lesson planning? I hope it may be useful.

Please find by clicking
here the lesson plan, and also the lesson observation form, which we use at Greenfield (the school where I am Deputy Head).

WARNING: please note that these templates are now many years out of date.  I have left them available because they illustrate the issues, but your school should have better, more appropriate templates by now.

They are used by all departments and every teacher. This was not enforced by SMT, but I put them out, assured people that they contained everything they needed to think about, and the staff feeling was: 'well, if this does it, why re-invent the wheel?' You have to remember that, three years ago, we were a School Facing Challenging Circumstances and we were all being observed left, right and centre on a regular basis! Perhaps they need updating (???) but we still use them at Greenfield and they might be at least a starting point for you.

I do not think for a moment that teachers use them to write up every plan for every lesson. They are, however, required for every lesson during inspections and self-evaluations.

At Greenfield, we have a self-evaluation study every term (2 conducted by SMT, one an intra-dept self-evaluation which must be written up and delivered to SMT) of which lesson observations are a standard part. In addition, every dept is required to arrange a regular self-monitoring round of observations (most do mutual-observation on a rota basis), so lessons are being observed frequently. If you get a staff to the point where they don't blink when someone bowls into the classroom and watches their lesson, you get many fewer 'disaster lessons' when Ofsted come. Most lessons in Greenfield are now 'open door' and even unexpected visitors are welcome.

Lesson Plan sheet is particularly useful as an aide-memoire. Staff, faced with frequent observation, always used to complain that it was so easy to forget vital elements. Now, even if they don't actually write it on the sheet, they can flick their eyes over the form and 'go through the process'.

Resources is completed last, but is at the top so you can set out your stall. It is everything that you will need for the lesson.
Teaching Objectives are your specific lesson aims - these then translate directly across into Learning Objectives - which are the specific things that the pupils will take from the lesson: to a degree the criteria by which you prove that they have appropriated what you aimed to teach them.
Don't forget, esp. for an observed lesson, to specifically address a literacy objective - and flag it up.

All that is needed for the Planned content/lesson outline is a series of (I advise) 6-10 heads which will remind you of the different elements of your lesson. The first one will ALWAYS be 'Introduce learning outcomes', and the last one will ALWAYS be 'Rehearse learning (plenary)'. I always advise inexperienced teachers, when they have written it, to go down their list and add 'What the pupils will be doing' to each element. Often, a teacher will devise an REALLY interesting lesson, but when they go down their list in this way, they come up with 'listening... listening... listening...' and there's no wonder the pupils get restless. If necessary, move around the elements so that they introduce variety from the pupils' point of view ('listening... writing... talking to a partner... acting... discussing...'). When you have done this, use the boxes at the right to check that you have got all the required elements (visual, auditory and kinaesthetic learning experiences for pupils with different learning styles, and a nod at the Literacy and Numeracy strategies) - not necessary to get every one in every lesson, but, if you are being observed, for goodness sake make sure you do. The 'Timings' section down the left are a rough guide only (it is ESSENTIAL to preserve flexibility to be able to reinforce elements which pupils did not catch-on to, or to take avenues which open up) but they will stop an inexperienced teacher doing that old chestnut of taking too long over the initial stages of a lesson and then screwing up the end.

The presence of a differentiation box made the staff realise that they just didn't do this enough, or have sufficient ideas about HOW to do it. However, the requirement to list all the SN pupils and their difficulties at least made them look at the SN register, and it made the observers realise that they had thought about meeting the pupils' individual needs.

Assessment is perhaps not big enough. There are huge issues here, but the method and criteria for assessment should inform the lesson objectives, and, again, it made staff view the lesson as a pedagogy, not a time-filler. And it assured the observer that the lesson had been planned as such.

The two-sided
Lesson Observation form which follows is directly related to the lesson plan, so there can be a dialogue between lesson planning and lesson evaluation. It also is a useful aide-memoire to the kind of lesson observers want to see.
The first side is what the observer fills in during the lesson. There is no need here for judgements. They just tick the elements they have observed, and jot down the relevant factual evidence/ examples/ good practice they observed. This is vital, because it forms the evidence base for the second side, on which the observer writes his judgements. We make it a rule that this is done later - when the lesson is finished, the observer should just give a generally congratulatory statement, and arrange a time for a more formal feedback. He then writes up the judgement page, and goes through it with the observed member of staff, citing the evidence-base to illuminate questions and statements.
The advantage of this system for the observed member of staff is that s/he know exactly what is being looked at, and we are finding more and more that observer and observed agree about the lesson. This is the beginning of improved teaching.

Just one more thing, the rota system of mutual observation means that it's NOT always inexperienced staff who are being observed and judged by experienced staff. A mutual observation rota is a steep learning curve for EVERYONE.

Posted on: Nov 26 2003, 11:13 PM




Are Written Lesson Plans Essential?

At Greenfield we insist on full written lesson plans for observed lessons only.

However, you've got to be careful here.
I know that - in a previous thread - other chronologically-challenged teachers and myself have joked about making up our lessons as we walk across the playground to the lesson, and to a degree, this is indeed true.
But I have been teaching History - and, let's face it, more-or-less the same topics in History - for 32 years. When older teachers such as myself joke that they 'make up' a lesson, what we actually mean is that we construct a lesson plan by piecing together past-proven elements and strategies which we remember and have been developing and testing for 30 years. And - if instead of actually teaching the lesson - you asked us instead to write down the plan of the lesson we have 'just' made up, we would be able to write down without thinking a full lesson plan, complete with starters, literacy element, VAK techniques, questions to ask, assessment criteria, SN strategies personalised to individuals within the group etc. etc. ... PLUS almost certainly examples of specific Q&A sequences, written outcomes, pitfalls and barriers to learning from times in the past that we have done the different elements we have selected.

I suppose what I'm trying to say is that the absence of a written plan is not the same as - and does not excuse - the absence of a FULL lesson plan.

The reason I first developed the Greenfield lesson plan template form was that - when they were observed - less experienced teachers were simply forgetting to include essential elements and structures.

And members old enough to remember the Teachers' Book from the old Options in History series will realise that, at one time, I DID have a written lesson plan for EVERY lesson, differentiated for children/classes of different ability.

Are Written Lesson Plans Helpful?
Nowadays, I would tend to see written lesson plans as a hindrance, rather than a help to good teaching, ESPECIALLY for inexperienced teachers. The LAST thing I want to see a young teacher do is plough painfully and inappropriately through a lesson plan which seemed OK at 11pm last night but now, in the cold light of 9Q on a Friday afternoon, FAILS to take advantage of development opportunities, FAILS to 'ride' interruptions, FAILS to adapt to the fact that most of the children 'got lost off' after ten minutes and - usually, as we all know - is trying to fit into an hour's lesson enough material to fill the next three weeks.
(To be honest, I wonder about the wisdom of making teachers - who do not usually work to a written lesson plan - work to a written lesson plan even for observed lessons; unfamiliarity frequently produces DREADFUL lessons, rather then better-than-usual ones.)

A good lesson is a developing dialogue, and not only will a good teacher think up new ideas and elements in response to pupil responses as the lesson progresses, but they should be quite happy for the 'conversation' to end up at an utterly different place to that originally intended. How many of us go into a meaningful conversation knowing where it will end at the end of the discussion?

YET HAVING SAID THIS, that is absolutely no excuse or justification for the teacher who has been too lazy or cock-sure to develop a proper 'lesson' before s/he sets foot in the classroom, and simply rolls up and hopes to 'wing it' from the textbook.

Thus, to the question: 'Should teachers be expected to make full lesson plans with objectives, outcomes, starter,main and plenary plus ECM,ICT,SEN,literacy and numeracy for every lesson they teach', my answer would be:

If you asked me: 'Should every lesson plan be written down on a formal lesson plan template form?', however, I think I would say equally firmly: 'No'.

Planning a Proper Lesson
So we are left with the question: 'How can a teacher produce a full lesson plan without writing it down on a formal lesson plan template form?'
Here, I think the answer for the 'day-to-day' lesson would be a 'Checklist of elements', against which a teacher could jot down (or at least mentally check) their ideas for what the lesson might involve. That way, they will go into the lesson properly prepared, but without the lesson-plan straightjacket which hinders proper flexibility of delivery.

What should be in such a check list?
Well, of course, the reason I developed the Greenfield lesson plan template form was to try to ensure that observed teachers would not forget anything! So, following the template down, I think I would go for a checklist which would ask:
1. What resources will the lesson need and have you assembled them all?
2. Where is the pupils' learning on this after last lesson; does the content and skills of this lesson take them seamlessly to the next step?
3. What therefore are your key teaching objectives for this lesson?
4. Have you translated these key teaching objectives into 'pupil-speak' 'Learning outcomes' which you will write on the board for them at the start of the lesson?
5. Have you formulated a literacy (and, where appropriate, a numeracy and a behaviour) objective?
6. What is your starter going to be?
7. What are the 4/5 'element-activities' of your lesson? How long would you initially intend to allocate to each element-activity? Have you looked at the sequence of element-activities from the pupils' point of view to make sure that they are getting a 'variety-of-fare' as the lesson progresses?
8. Make sure your element-activities include 'Visual-learner' and 'Kinaesthetic-learner' teaching strategies.
9. Who are the SN pupils in your class, and have you fully planned-in differentiation strategies to meet each and all of their special needs?
10. Who are the G&T pupils in your class, and have you fully planned-in differentiation strategies to fully stretch them and move them on - in particular, have you properly thought-out work for them to go on to if they finish?
11. How are you going to assess the pupils' progress as the lesson progresses; particularly, what are you going to do in the plenary?
12. Have you organised a properly-planned homework?

I do not think you have to write down what you are going to do in the lesson, but I would say categorically that if a teacher goes into any lesson without all twelve of these issues not explicitly addressed in his/her plan for that lesson, they are short-changing the children, and are failing to meet their professional obligations.

(I would be interested if any members think I have missed anything of importance out of the list.)


Posted on: Sep 30 2006, 11:35 AM




To cite this page, use:   CLARE, JOHN D. (2003/2006), 'Planning Lessons',  at Greenfield History Site (