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Even at the upper levels, good teachers should have a pre-planned set of objectives to be accomplished. They should ask themselves what skills they want students to master, what concepts or content they want students to learn, and then, what are they going to specifically do to ensure that those goals are met. With experience, more veteran teachers probably inherently to some degree do this, but there is something rather powerful about writing some or all of out in a more formal way. It is a process that should make a teacher more reflective about their practices.

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Loosely, lesson planning is the itinerary which a teacher follows in order to teach students what they need to be taught (based upon curriculum and the adherence to what the government says needs to be taught).

Outside of that, as mentioned above, lesson plans provide what is to be taught, materials needed, objectives, assessments, and extensions. Know that there is not really one "right" way to construct a lesson plan. They vary from teacher to teacher, district to district, and class to class (sometimes).

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Many administrators require their teachers to maintain daily lesson plans--in some cases weeks in advance. In lower grades, it is important that the class period is organized effectively so that a teacher doesn't come up short at the end with time to spare. I agree that in upper level classes, lesson plans can be much more informal, especially if student input is expected.

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Lesson planning is a complex mental process.  It basically involves a teacher determining what needs to be taught, and then how it should be taught.  Often new teachers write things out step by step, but more experienced teachers usually only do so if they have something especially complex or new, or if they are writing directions for someone else to follow.

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Lesson planning involves

  • thinking about what you will be teaching,
  • analyzing the best methods you have available to present that information (recognizing that there will be different needs within your class if you hope to honor differing learning styles),
  • determining how to help students make connections between the new material and learning that has already taken place,
  • identifying the most appropriate methods for allowing students to practice using the information or skills so they will become integrated into the students' knowledge base,
  • considering how you will assess the acquisition of knowledge presented in the lesson,
  • planning differentiated activities to meet the needs of students who need additional instruction and practice or the students who are already familiar with this information and need extensions in order to be engaged in actually learning something new
  • gathering materials and resources for use by yourself and the students
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Pohnpei's answer is solid, as usual. I don't use lesson plans (or even follow a strict, rigid syllabus), partly because I teach at the college level and want to allow for as much flexibility as possible.  For instance, if discussion of a particular author or work is very intense on a given day, I would hate to suddenly cut it off  and say, "Okay, everyone stop talking; we have to get on with the lesson plan or syllabus." I'm curious to know how people who do follow strict lesson plans deal with situations such as this.

 

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To state the obvious, it is planning your lesson so that you don't just walk into class without a clear idea of what you are going to do.  It is absolutely necessary so that you can have a plan for what you are going to teach and how you are going to do it.  This allows you to think about what is important and why it is important.  It also gets you to think about techniques for teaching.  Essentially, it makes you think about what you are doing so that you aren't just going in and doing whatever comes to mind on the spur of the moment.

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