When you think of teaching, two activities pop into people’s minds very quickly: Grading papers and writing lesson plans. Lesson plans have evolved tremendously through the years. When writing a lesson plan, there are various components that are required to be included, and as a first-year teacher, writing thorough lesson plans is important.
Big ideas, essential questions, enduring understandings, lesson goals, lesson activities, assessments, modifications/accommodations, and standards are most of the parts you will be required to input into your lesson plans. The essential questions and enduring understandings are important to the lesson plans, as these are the major skills and concepts you want students to walk away from the unit and understand.
One piece of advice is to answer these essential questions yourself before you start teaching and understand what the focus of the lesson is for your students. If you cannot answer these, then ask for help from your colleagues and research yourself. This will be one of the driving forces behind what activities you plan for your lessons.
Make a Checklist
When planning the activities, use it as a checklist. I would bullet point each activity you wish to complete during the lesson. This includes your warm-up and your closing. As a first-year teacher, it is important to include some detail as to what each activity is. Another piece of advice I would share is to jot approximate the times that each activity will take to complete. You do not want to under plan, but you also want to gauge about how long each should take to stay on target each day. In my ninth year of teaching, I still do this most days, and I think it is a best practice most veteran teachers would recommend.
You also want to determine how you will assess each lesson, as well as how your students will assess themselves each lesson. Many of the observation models, such as Danielson and Marzano, contain components that are student-based. The models want to see students taking ownership of their learning and this is a way to hold students accountable.
One example of a way that I assess the understanding of essential questions is by posting them on chart paper for each topic in math as we work through the text. Before we begin the topic, the class has a discussion about the question(s). As we work through the topic and come to understand the answers to these questions, the class answers the questions on the chart paper in a clear, concise way. When the topic is completed and all questions are answered, I laminate the poster and use it as an anchor chart for learning.
Modifications and accommodations are also important pieces to the lesson plan. This will help you to differentiate and individualize your instruction in necessary ways. Data can help to determine modifications and accommodations that may need to be made for individual students or for pulling small groups.
Standards are essential to a lesson, and it is important to make sure you are teaching to the standards. Make sure to have a clear understanding of the standards for your grade level, as well as the grade level below and above. Unpacking the standards is a great way to familiarize oneself with grade-level standards and ways to achieve mastery of them. Standards are another driving force behind your planning.
Lesson plans can be time-consuming, as well as frustrating, to write, but as a first-year teacher, will help you to prepare for each day. It is overwhelming in general during your first few years of teaching, but feeling confident in yourself and your plans, as well as your content knowledge, are imperative to the success of your classroom on a daily basis. Remember this saying: “Vision without action is a daydream, action without vision is a nightmare,” and your lesson plans are your vision each day.