14. Lesson Planning

‘If you plan for a year, plant a seed. If for ten years, plant a tree. If for a hundred years, teach the people. When you sow a seed once, you will reap a single harvest. When you teach the people, you will reap a hundred harvests.’ Kuan Chung


1) How do you plan the lessons you teach now?

2) Critical thinking: What works well about your lesson planning?

3) Critical thinking: What could be better about your lesson planning?

Mr Rakoto turned up to class a little late after enjoying his lunch break. He wasn’t sure which class he was teaching next but that didn’t worry him. After letting the class in he asked one of the students what they did in his previous lesson. He thought a bit and after a couple of minutes he decided to dictate some notes about the topic. They rambled a bit and were longer than was necessary, but he had a whole hour to fill. After the dictation, the lesson finished.

Ms Clare arrived slightly early and wrote up starter questions to get the class thinking while they came in. The class discussed the questions and Ms Clare wrote down the key points of what they said. She asked them to copy this down, and then used her concise notes to teach them what they needed to know. Then she gave them seven questions about the topic, five recall or understanding questions and two that required them to think more deeply. Just before the end of the lesson the class discussed the answers to the questions.


1) Which of the above lessons is better? Why?

2) Which one is better planned? Why?

Good planning means you will have successful lessons where students learn well. Poor planning means time is wasted in your class, lessons are unclear, and students learn little.

There are three types of planning:

  • Long term planning where the outline of a course is planned.
  • Medium term planning where a topic or period of time is planned.
  • Short term planning where what happens in individual lessons is planned.

Long-term planning

Long-term planning is where you plan when you will teach each part of an entire course.

The long-term plan for one of my science courses was:

Making a long-term plan

To make a long-term plan, work out how much time you have to teach a course. Then take all the topics in the course and fit them into the time you have to teach. Leave a few weeks spare at the end for revision or unexpected school closures.

If you are teaching a course that is new to you, use the timeline a colleague made for you, or use the main topic headings to split up the course. If you have a textbook you can use the headings in the textbook contents page to help you split up the course.

Be flexible. That means some topics might take a little more time than you planned, others will take less. However, you should be careful to avoid getting a long way behind your schedule, or you may not finish the course. It is your duty to your students to finish the course if possible.

You should keep an eye on your long-term plan as you go, to ensure you don’t get behind. If you have time to make the course assessments before you teach the course, it will help you think about what you want the students to learn.

Medium-term planning

A medium-term plan is where you plan a few weeks, or a whole topic of teaching.

In a medium-term plan, you plan each lesson very briefly. I suggest you choose a lesson title and write down a few ideas of what you might do in each lesson.

For example, a medium-term plan for this course might look like:

 Lesson titleIdeas for activities
1Intro, what does good teaching look like and how people learn.Lots of discussion to get students thinking.
2What can schools teach? How do people learn? Active learning in the classroom.Looking at school mission statements Thumbs. Electric circuit model.
3Bloom’s Taxonomy and Language in learning.Introduce Bloom’s taxonomy then do card sort. Homework – bloom’s taxonomy activities in the classroom. Discuss student’s language issues.
4Learning DifficultiesFollow textbook
5AssessmentFollow textbook

Planning individual lessons

Planning an individual lesson or a series of lessons on a topic will make your teaching much more successful. When you first start planning it may take a long time as you think in depth about lots of aspects of your lessons you may not have considered before. However, as you become more practised the planning will become much quicker.


Below, you will find a template you could use to plan one lesson. Think about each section:

a) What is it for?

b) Why is it important?

A discussion of each section in the planning document follows. I’ll give examples from a lesson you could teach about nutrition.

Lesson title: A title that sums up the lesson, e.g. ‘Nutrition’.

Differentiated learning outcomes: What are the important things students should learn in the lesson? You should use these outcomes to check understanding at the end of any lesson.

Bad learning outcomes: Teach about nutrition.

Good learning outcomes:

All students: Which foods provide protein, carbohydrates, fats, minerals and vitamins?

Most students: What are protein, carbohydrates, fats, minerals and vitamins and why they are important?

What a healthy diet looks like.

Most able students: How students could change their diet to make it healthier.

The bad learning outcomes are unclear as to what exactly will be taught. The good learning outcomes are differentiated and make it very clear what students should be able to do after your lesson. Once you have written clear learning outcomes planning the lesson is easy.

What a student needs to know for this lesson: What knowledge or skills must a student bring to class if they are to succeed in the lesson? You will often have to remind them of this before starting the main lesson.

For our nutrition lesson, I would write: ‘Knows a variety of different foods’.

You could review the knowledge by asking students for every type of food they can think of.

You could also consider how this lesson fits into the whole topic you are teaching.

Equipment needed: Do you need to bring any special books or materials to the lessons?

Learning Difficulties: How will you support students with learning difficulties? You might write: ‘Talk to Theo about going for a walk when he gets restless’, or ‘Photocopy a copy of my notes for Roxanna’.

Words: What words will be new for students in the lesson? Make sure you introduce each new word, get the whole class to say the word and perhaps write it in their vocabulary book. Remember it is hard to learn the meaning of a word you can’t say. Language teachers often give a word list for students to learn after every lesson.

For the nutrition lesson, words would be: ‘protein, carbohydrate, fat, mineral, vitamin, diet’.

Behaviour focus: Is there a behaviour you want to teach students? It might be asking students to listen to each other’s answers. Or it might be improving group work.

Lesson Plan: Here you write down what is going to happen in the lesson.

Whenever planning a lesson, remember to ask yourself what are the students going to do? Think about how you will get students actively involved in the lesson.

An example lesson plan could be:

Starter (5min): Ask students to ‘think of as many foods as possible’. Write foods on board (use left half of board as foods will stay on board for whole lesson).

Main 1 (15 min): Explain learning intentions. Active note taking: Explain what protein, carbohydrates, minerals and vitamins are and why they are important. Ensure students can say the words. Use notes in course teacher’s notebook. Ask students what the key points were and write them on the board for weaker students to copy.

Main 2 (10 min): Learn through discovery: For each food that the teacher knows about, ask students whether they think protein/carbohydrates/minerals/vitamins are in it. The whole class votes thumbs up/thumbs down. Initially they will get lots wrong but by the end of it they will be able to guess better (e.g. all meat contains protein).

Main 3 (5 min): Write notes on board of knowledge students learnt in previous activity. Students copy. E.g. all meats contain protein. All vegetables contain vitamins and minerals. Rice and grains contain carbohydrate.

Main 4 (10 min): Explain a healthy diet contains protein, carbohydrates, minerals and vitamins. Think Pair Square Share: What would a healthy meal look like?

Emphasize that Rice alone is a terrible diet. Rice and beans are better. If a family cannot afford a good diet, try to include a teaspoonful of uncooked, dried, ground Moringa leaves in your daily diet. Moringa is an incredible food packed with vitamins and minerals. For those who are richer, more variety is better than less variety, lots of different colours of food on your plate are ideal. Rich Malagasy should aim for 50% fruit and vegetables, 25% protein (beans/nuts/meat), and 25% carbohydrates (rice/potatoes). Avoid sugary foods as they cause tooth decay and diabetes.

Ender (10 min): Think Pair Square Share: Discuss what your diet is like and how you should improve it.

Homework: Here you write homework given out or due. For the nutrition lesson: tell as many people as you can about how to eat more healthily.

Assessment: What will you do to know the students’ have achieved (or not) the learning outcomes? In the nutrition lesson, the ender activity will help you assess the students.

Review of the lesson: After the lesson, you can fill this box out. What worked well? What could you do better next time? This section will help you improve as a teacher. Remember to include positive things too. For example, you might write:

1) Activity, Main 2 and Main 3 were excellent. 2) Students enjoyed the lesson 3) There was not enough time to do the ender properly.

5 Minute lesson plan

An alternative lesson plan template which is popular with many teachers is the ‘5 minute lesson plan’ which you can read more about at https://www.teachertoolkit.co.uk/5minplan/

The lesson plan includes some of the following parts:

The Big Picture is about how the lesson fits into the series of lessons in your subject.

Engagement is what you do to capture student interest at the start of the lesson, for example using Think Pair Square Share to discuss a question or showing them some interesting images about the topic.

Stickability is what you will do to help students remember the topic, for example using some questions after the lesson to help them remember the topic or including a memorable demonstration.

Differentiation: How will you provide a lesson that works for the weaker students and the stronger students and those with learning difficulties?

Learning episodes: A learning episode is a section of your lesson. If lessons are two hours long you may have more than four learning episodes.

Other lesson planning thoughts

  • Students learn in a variety of different ways. The best teachers will have varied lessons containing a variety of activities.
  • Split a lesson up into a start, middle and end:
    • At the start, you engage the students in today’s lesson and remind them of any knowledge they need.
    • The middle is the longest bit, where students work towards achieving the learning outcomes.
    • At the end of a lesson include a formative assessment activity where you review the lesson and find out what students learnt.


Plan lessons using ideas from this chapter and one of the templates for the next few weeks. This will take time to start with. Once you are successfully planning lessons, think about how you can speed up your planning.