Writing a Lesson Plan: Guided Practice

Teacher helping one of four pupils (8-11) sitting at desk and reading
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There are 8 steps to follow when writing an effective lesson plan for elementary students. The first three areas to plan are:

  1. Objectives: Set goals for skills and knowledge that students should have at the end of the lesson.
  2. Anticipatory set: Construct a hook where you access prior knowledge and get students thinking about a topic before instruction.
  3. Direct instruction: Determine how you will deliver information to your students. This includes activities that they will complete, examples you will give, and materials needed.

Guided practice is the fourth section of an effective 8-step lesson plan.

What Guided Practice

In this section, students show what they know and demonstrate the skills and concepts they are learning with teacher support. Guided practice is defined as scaffolded independent practice that occurs before minimally-assisted independent practice. During guided practice, the teacher empowers students to practice skills on their own for the first time, giving concrete, actionable feedback to everyone and additional focused attention to specific learners that need it.

Guided practice often entails an assignment or activity to be completed in class while the teacher assesses progress. Handouts, illustrations or drawing projects, experiments, and writing assignments all lend themselves well to guided practice. The purpose of whatever you assign is for students to perform a task to demonstrate that they are beginning to grasp a concept—it is not a final assessment of whether learning goals are achieved (that follows step six, independent practice).

This type of work is often independent but can also be cooperative as long as you ensure that all students are mastering concepts individually. Do you need to follow up with the whole class about a particular concept? Conference one-on-one with a few students that are struggling? Move forward as planned? Ask yourself these questions and use guided practice as an opportunity to check in with students and inform future teaching.

Guided Practice Activities

Teachers can implement guided practice in a variety of ways, shaking up participation structures and activities to keep students engaged. Try some of the following guided practice activities during your next lesson.

  • Diagramming. Student pairs work together on a diagram that illustrates and explains how paper is manufactured. The teacher shows an example of a diagram before they start and provides key terms and steps to include.
  • Completing graphic organizers. Students fill out KWL charts or other graphic organizers about the topic of an informational book. The class works together on the first few points and then students think of some on their own
  • Experimenting. Students construct tinfoil boats and test whether they float when items are placed in them. Before this, the teacher models what to consider when building the boat and talks with the class about what types of items they think will float.
  • Analyzing. The class learns the key features of a strong essay. Students then work in small groups to edit real essays using a checklist designed by the teacher and later write their own essays independently. Have students edit with a single color to see how they each contributed to the activity.

Common Questions About Guided Practice

Does homework count as guided practice? Mistaking independent practice for guided practice is easy for new teachers to do. Remember that guided practice is intended to be done with teachers available to help so sending work home doesn't cut it.

What is the difference between guided and independent practice? Although both are valuable and necessary teaching tools, they are distinctly different and serve separate purposes. Guided practice allows students to continue their learning and get helpful feedback as they go while independent practice requires them to demonstrate proficiency.

How should I introduce what students will be doing? Modeling an activity before students start practicing mitigates confusion and maximizes the effectiveness of guided practice. Demonstrate for the whole class all or part of what they will be working on and be sure to answer any questions before they try for themselves.

How can I make sure that all students understand what they are practicing? Come up with a system of touching base with every student even when you can't speak directly with each of them. Guided practice questions that they answer and hand in can be a great way to address problems but any type of ongoing formative assessment to take a quick and informal pulse of the class can be helpful.

Edited by Stacy Jagodowski