Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail…
Lesson planning is an essential facet of modern-day teaching especially given the increased emphasis on ‘learning outcomes’, adhering to the prescribed curriculum and monitoring criteria such as school league tables. To those not in the profession, entering a classroom of more than thirty pupils is a daunting prospect, let alone having to deliver a structured period of learning that engages the whole class. To have any hope of creating an inspiring atmosphere that will capture the imagination of young learners, it is vital that teachers plan their lessons in advance and develop the requisite communication skills to present knowledge and information in a way that will motivate pupils who are notoriously prone to distraction.
Contemporary thinking has shifted the emphasis in the classroom from the teacher to the pupils in an attempt to create sessions that are inclusive, interactive and interesting. The days of an all-powerful teacher standing before an almost-silent group dictating a tsunami of information has been rightly confined to history as a more enlightened approach to successful education has evolved over the past thirty years or so. Recognising the differing personalities in a classroom from the outset will help a teacher gauge the appropriate style and tempo of any given lesson and contribute significantly to the effectiveness of the exercise.
A friend of mine with whom I worked extensively in a senior corporate environment, always insisted that 90% of any decisions to be made at a Board Meeting were agreed by the directors in advance. His rationale was that he knew what he wanted to achieve prior to the meeting but he had to be seen to be giving others the opportunity to ‘have their say’ and explore other possibilities purely to preserve company harmony. I reference this anecdote as the same can be said when devising a lesson plan; identifying the outcomes of the session should be the first step to developing a methodology and structure created to achieve these pre-described outcomes.
Of course, articulating these outcomes and devising a plan to deliver them is a vast subject in itself and I recommend interested parties refer to Benjamin Bloom’s theory of taxonomy, which although first published in 1956, still has considerable influence on educational organisations across the world.
Understand Your Pupils
As previously alluded to, understanding the characteristics of any group of pupils is essential and should take account of numerous factors including age profile, existing knowledge and skills, levels of ambition and willingness to interact both with the teacher and each other. A vibrant group of creative-minded art students will be more inclined to respond positively to learning if the classroom environment is relaxed, informal and conversational.
Something of a generalisation I grant you, but the philosophy is similar to Marshall McLuhan’s ‘medium is the message” theory that has underpinned media studies since 1967; in short, if you wish to communicate a story to millennials, don’t publish it in the Daily Telegraph!
Having figured out what you wish to achieve from any given lesson and identifying how best to communicate with your pupils, choosing appropriate materials and equipment is the next step. Thankfully, technology now plays an integral part in the teacher’s armoury as interactive whiteboards, video content and even iPads offer levels of engagement hitherto unavailable to previous generations.
If your classroom is equipped with any of these facilities, then the opportunity to devise effective and enjoyable lessons is greatly enhanced. We live in an increasingly digital age and utilising the power of tech is a sure-fire technique almost guaranteed to invigorate your pupils. Developing a list of other required materials is a skill adopted over time by most teachers and could include relevant textbooks, articles, worksheets, handouts and pens; in fact anything that will help engage with the class as a whole and also help your professional standing as a highly organised and considerate teacher.
Assimilating these three elements into any lesson-planning strategy will contribute to delivering compelling sessions enjoyed by both staff and pupils alike. Encouraging feedback and monitoring responses will also help the strategy evolve and prevent lessons becoming staid or formulaic. As with any presentation, and let’s face it, that is what delivering a lesson is, the golden rule of the 7 P’s remains as true as ever – Proper Planning and Preparation Prevents Painfully Poor Performance.