Planning Classroom Instruction

Teacher preparing her lesson plan.

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Good planning is the first step to an effective classroom, and one of the six main teacher tasks that excellent teachers must master. A well-planned class reduces stress on the teacher and helps minimize disruptions. When teachers know what they need to accomplish and how they are going to do it, they have a better opportunity to achieve success with the added benefit of less stress. Further, when students are engaged during the entire class period, they have less opportunity to cause disruptions. Obviously, the demeanor of the teacher, the quality of the lesson, and the method of delivery all play into an effective day in class. With that said, it all starts with a good plan.

Steps for Planning Instruction

  1. Look over the state and national standards and your texts and supplemental materials to determine what concepts you must cover in the year. Make sure to include any required test preparation material. Use this to create a plan of study for your course.
  2. Create a personalized lesson plan calendar. This will help you visualize and organize your instruction.
  3. Plan your units using your overall plan of study and your calendar.
  4. Create detailed unit lesson plans. These should include the following items to be effective:
    • Objectives
    • Activities
    • Time estimates
    • Required materials
    • Alternatives—Make sure to plan for those students who might be absent during your activities.
    • Assessment—This includes classwork, homework, and tests 
  5. Transfer your broad unit plan to a planning book to keep yourself organized. This will help with implementation and focus. This is where all the unit plans come together to give you a broader picture of the year.
  6. Write a daily lesson outline and agenda. The details included will differ depending how detailed you wish to be. Some teachers create a simple outline with times attached to help keep them on track while others include detailed notes and written information. At a bare minimum, you should have an agenda prepared for yourself and your students so that you appear organized and you make smooth transitions. It is very easy to lose student attention as you search for the page that you want them to read or fumble through a stack of papers.
  7. Create and/or gather any required items. Make handouts, overheads, lectures notes, manipulatives, etc. If you are going to start each day with a warm-up, then have this created and ready to go. If your lesson requires a movie or item from the media center, make sure that you put in your request early so that you are not disappointed on the day of your lesson.

Planning for the Unexpected

As most teachers realize, interruptions and unexpected events often occur in class. This might range from pulled fire alarms and unexpected assemblies to your own illnesses and emergencies. Therefore, you should create plans that will help you deal with these unexpected events.

  • Create mini-lessons to help fill up any time that might be left at the end of a class period. Even the best teachers are sometimes left with extra time. Instead of just letting students talk, use this time for extra instruction or possibly educational fun. Further, if an unexpected assembly is called leaving you with just 15 minutes of instruction, these lessons can be a godsend.
  • Emergency lesson plans are a necessity for all teachers. If you cannot make it to school at the last minute or have to leave to deal with a personal emergency, you need to leave lesson plans to help your substitute. This combined with your substitute folder is important to help your classroom continue to function without you.