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 educators 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. Additionally, when students are engaged during the entire class period, they have less opportunity to cause disruptions. The teacher's demeanor, lesson plan quality, and method of delivery all play into an effective day in class.

Steps for Planning Instruction

Before beginning to plan instruction, the teacher should review the state and national standards, as well as texts and supplemental materials, to determine what concepts he must cover over the course of the school year. He should include any required test-preparation material. Specific steps to cover when planning instruction include:

  1. Creating a personalized lesson plan calendar. This will help a teacher visualize and organize instruction.
  2. Creating detailed unit lesson plans, which should include objectives, activities, time estimates, and required materials
  3. Planning for students who might be absent during a given lesson
  4. Creating assessments, including classwork, homework, and tests 
  5. Reviewing how the lesson or unit fits into the overall instructional plan for the school year
  6. Writing a daily lesson outline and agenda. The details included will differ depending on how detailed the teacher wishes to be. At a minimum, the teacher should have an agenda prepared for herself and her students so that she appears organized and maintains students' interest. It is very easy to lose student attention if the teacher has to search for a page she wants students to read or has to fumble through a stack of papers.
  7. Creating and/or gathering required items ahead of time. This can include making handouts, overheads, lecture notes, or manipulatives (learning objects, such as pennies for counting). If the teacher plans to start each day with a warmup, then he should have this created and ready to go. If the lesson requires a movie or item from the media center, the teacher should check out or order the item well ahead of time.

Plan 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 illnesses and emergencies. It's important to create plans that will help 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, teachers can use this time for extra instruction or fun learning activities, such as playing parts of speech bingo, reviewing upcoming calendar events, or discussing current events.

Emergency lesson plans are a necessity for all teachers. If the teacher cannot make it to school because he is ill or has to deal with a last-minute emergency or family illness, a detailed lesson plan can help the substitute continue with the planned lessons and have a smooth day with students. Such lessons, combined with a substitute folder, are important to help the classroom function smoothly in the teacher's absence.