But, what exactly do the best lesson plans look like? What do they feel like to the students and to us? More concisely, what characteristics must a lesson plan contain in order to reach maximum effectiveness?
The following ingredients are essential to delivering effective lessons. You can even use this as a checklist when you plan your days. This basic formula makes sense whether you are teaching kindergarten, middle school, or even junior college.
State the Lesson Objective - Make sure that you know exactly why you are teaching this lesson. Does it correspond to a state or district academic standard? What do you need the students to know after the lesson is completed? After you're perfectly clear on the goal of the lesson, explain it in "kid-friendly" terms so that the kids will know where they're headed as well.
Teach and Model Behavior Expectations - Set out on a successful path by explaining and modeling how the students should behave as they participate in the lesson. For example, if the kids are using materials for the lesson, show the kids how to use them properly and tell them the consequences for misuse of the materials. Don't forget to follow through!
Use Active Student Engagement Strategies - Don't let the students sit there bored while you "do" your lesson. As I recently heard at a conference, the person who does the work, does the learning. Get your students engaged with hands-on activities that enhance your lesson's objective. Use whiteboards, small group discussion, or call randomly on students by pulling cards or sticks. Keep the students on their toes with their minds moving and you'll be many steps closer to meeting and exceeding your lesson's goal.
Scan Peripheral Students and Move Around the Room - While the students apply their new skills, don't just sit back and take it easy. Now's the time to scan the room, move around, and make sure everyone's doing what their supposed to be doing. You'll may be able to limit your special attention to "those" kids who always need to be reminded to stay on task. You know who I'm talking about! Answer questions, give gentle reminders, and make sure the lesson's going how you envisioned it would.
Give Specific Compliments for Positive Behavior - Be obvious and specific in your compliments when you see a student following directions or going the extra mile. Make sure the other students understand why you are pleased and they will increase their efforts to meet your expectations.
Question Students to Develop Critical Thinking Skills - Ask Why, How, If, and What Else questions to strengthen student comprehension of the issues or skills at hand. Use Bloom's Taxonomy as a basis for your questioning and watch your students meet the objectives you set out at the beginning of the lesson.
Use the preceding points as a checklist to make sure you are planning your lessons in the most effective way possible. After the lesson, take a few minutes to consider what worked and what didn't. This type of reflection is invaluable in helping you develop as an educator. So many teachers forget to do this. But, if you make it a habit as much as possible, you'll avoid making the same mistakes next time and you'll know what you can do better in the future!
This information is based on the work of several experienced teachers who know what it takes to help students learn to their fullest potentials. Special thanks to Mary Ann Harper for allowing me to adapt this piece and offer it to my audience here at About.