Creating a Great Lesson to Maximize Student Learning

great lesson
Hero Images/Getty Images

The best teachers can captivate their students’ attention day in and day out. Their students not only enjoy being in their class, but they look forward to the next day’s lesson because they want to see what is going to happen. Creating a great lesson together takes a lot of creativity, time, and effort. It is something that is well thought out with lots of planning. Though each lesson is unique, they all have similar components that make them exceptional.

Every teacher has the ability to create engaging lessons that will mesmerize their students and keep them wanting to come back for more. A great lesson engages every student, ensures that every student is meeting the learning objectives, and motivates even the most reluctant learner.

A great lesson……………...is well planned. Planning starts with a simple idea and then slowly evolves into a tremendous lesson that will resonate with every student. A terrific plan ensures that all materials are ready to go before the lesson begins, is anticipatory of potential issues or problems, and takes advantage of opportunities to extend the lesson beyond its core concepts. Planning a great lesson takes time and effort. Careful planning gives each lesson a better chance to be a hit, to captivate each student, and to provide your students with meaningful learning opportunities.

A great lesson………………grabs students’ attention.

The first few minutes of a lesson may be the most critical. Students will quickly decide whether or not they should devote their full attention to what is being taught. Every lesson should have a “hook” or “attention grabber” built into the first five minutes of the lesson. Attention grabbers come in many forms including demonstrations, skits, videos, jokes, songs, etc.

Be willing to embarrass yourself a little bit if it will motivate your students to learn. Ultimately, you want to create an entire lesson that is memorable, but failing to grab their attention early on will likely keep that from happening.

A great lesson………………maintains students’ attention. Lessons should be outrageous and unpredictable throughout captivating each student’s attention. They should be fast-paced, loaded with quality content, and engaging. Time in class should fly by so quickly that you hear students grumbling when the class period is over each day. You should never see students drifting off to sleep, engaged in conversation about other topics, or expressing general disinterest in a lesson. As the teacher, your approach to every lesson must be passionate and enthusiastic. You must be willing to be a salesman, comedian, content expert, and magician all rolled into one.

A great lesson………………builds on previously learned concepts. There is a flow from one standard to the next. The teacher ties previously learned concepts into each lesson. This shows the students that various concepts are meaningful and connected. It is a natural progression of old into new. Each lesson increases in rigor and difficulty without losing students along the way.

Each new lesson should be focused on extending learning from the previous day. By the end of the year, students should be able to make connections quickly as to how your first lesson ties into your last lesson.

A great lesson ……………..is content driven. It has to have a connected purpose, meaning that all aspects of the lesson are built around critical concepts that students at a particular age should be learning. Content is typically driven by standards such as the Common Core State Standards that serve as a guide for what students are supposed to learn in each grade. A lesson that does not have relevant, meaningful content at its core is senseless and a waste of time. Effective teachers are able to build upon the content from lesson to lesson continuously throughout the year. They take a simple concept early on continuing to build upon it until it becomes something complex yet understood by their students because of the process.

A great lesson………………establishes real life connections. Everyone loves a good story. The best teachers are those who can incorporate vivid stories that tie in key concepts within the lesson helping students to make connections to real life. New concepts are typically abstract to students of any age. They rarely see how it is applicable to real life. A great story can make these real life connections and often helps students remember concepts because they remember the story. Some subjects are easier to make these connections than others, but a creative teacher can find an interesting back story to share on just about any concept.

A great lesson………………provides students with active learning opportunities. A majority of students are kinesthetic learners. They simply learn best when they are actively engaged in hands-on learning activities. Active learning is fun. Students not only have fun through hands-on learning, they often retain more information from this process. Students do not have to be active throughout an entire lesson, but having active components mixed in sporadically at appropriate times throughout the lesson will keep them interested and engaged.

A great lesson………………builds critical thinking skills. Students must develop problem solving and critical thinking skills at an early age. If these skills are not developed early on, they will be almost impossible to acquire later on. Older students who have not been taught this skill may become discouraged and frustrated. Students must be taught to extend their answers beyond the ability to provide the correct answer alone. They also should develop the ability to explain how they arrived at that answer. Each lesson should have at least one critical thinking activity built into it forcing students to go beyond the typically straightforward answer.

A great lesson………………is talked about and remembered. It takes time, but the best teachers build a legacy. Students coming up look forward to being in their class. They hear all the crazy stories and cannot wait to experience it themselves.

The hard part for the teacher is living up to those expectations. You have to bring your “A” game every single day, and this can become a challenge. Creating enough great lessons for each day is exhausting. It is not impossible; it just takes a lot of extra effort. Ultimately it is worth it when your students consistently perform well and even more importantly express how much they learned by being in your class.

A great lesson………………is continuously tweaked. It is always evolving. Good teachers are never satisfied. They understand that everything can be improved. They approach each lesson as an experiment, soliciting feedback from their students both directly and indirectly. They look at nonverbal cues such as body language. They look at overall engagement and participation. They look at diagnostic feedback to determine if students are retaining the concepts introduced in the lesson. Teachers use this feedback as a guide to what aspects should be tweaked and each year they make adjustments and then conduct the experiment again.