Lesson Planning Research Paper Starter

Lesson Planning

(Research Starters)

This article presents an overview of lesson planning, an organizational tool that provides a strong foundation for novice teachers and an outline for structuring classroom activities for seasoned teachers. Basically, there are five major parts to any lesson: goals or rationale generally connected to state or national standards in the content area of study; statement of central content that will be addressed; list of materials to be used; the sequence of procedures; and the formative and summative assessments. Resources for teachers in lesson planning are also discussed.

Keywords Advanced organizers; Assessment; Instructional activities; Lesson plan; Motivation; Objectives; Unit planning


Lesson planning is the teacher's instructional roadmap, a choreographing of a productive instructional plan that could encompass a day, a week, a month, a semester, or yearlong. Through lesson planning, teachers decide what content or skills need to be taught, how they are taught, and how they are assessed. Planning serves as an organizational tool that may provide a strong foundation for new teachers. For seasoned teachers, planning acts as an outline for structuring classroom activities.

Long-range planning, intermediate planning and short-range planning are incorporated into a school year. Long-range planning encompasses the yearlong or semester-long plans, which are generally made up of multiple unit plans. All plans should be up-to-date in content and reflect research-based strategies. As with any lesson plan, long-term plans should reflect what a teacher knows about his or her students and should be free from bias.

Intermediate plans or unit plans cover a larger topic and outline a series of individual lessons that are carried out in relation to that topic. Unit plans are more detailed and can be made up of many lessons. There are many types of unit plans that are used in today's classroom, including resource units, those plans that are packaged units prepared by the state education department, special interest groups, government agencies, or book publishers. Teaching units are those units that are prepared for a specific student body. Teachers are flexible in developing and modifying teaching units, and allow for "teachable moments," those spontaneous teaching moments when a classroom event happens and immediate follow-up and discussion is necessary. Subject matter units are linear in nature, as students must master one piece of the content before moving on to the next. Experience units include the evolution of one lesson to the next, as teachers decide the next lesson based on the experience of what happens in a lesson in progress. Integrated units are often used in elementary schools and combine study across the curriculum.

Short-range lesson plans are those plans that are prepared for one or more class periods and focus on specific content or skills. Lessons can be planned using curriculum guides, or frameworks, that prescribe to teachers what the state or school district wants students to know at different times in their educational lives. Resource units can be helpful in developing lesson plans; textbooks and non-print material also are useful sources in planning lessons. Many teachers work in teams to develop plans, sharing objectives, materials and instructional ideas.

There are many benefits to lesson planning. Planning provides a sequence to the classroom activities and directs classroom experiences in a positive way. Pupils are motivated by proper planning, and they learn best from planning practices that include the formulation of clear plans and examples that move from the simple to the complex. Thorough lesson plans include provisions for individual student differences.

Historically, an earliest form of lesson planning was evident in the 1820's as monitors served as instructors in small classrooms across the United States. Teachers taught their lesson plans to bright students who then taught these lessons to their peers. The lessons were structured and included rote memory of reading, writing and arithmetic. Lesson planning further evolved when the monitorial system shifted to a recitation model in the latter part of the 19th century. To enhance the recitation model, teachers focused on their lesson planning and organization of the classroom. Teachers focused on personal contact between the teacher and the student, with a greater emphasis on teacher training. The lesson plan became structured, becoming one of the most important activities in teacher practice (Linne, 2001).

At the beginning of the 20th century, lesson planning further evolved to include the study of literature, mathematics, biology, and psychology. Lesson planning took on a more prominent role in directing teacher practice, as mass education developed during the industrial revolution. Most recently, there have been societal factors that have influenced lesson planning in American classrooms. International and national events have brought curriculum changes involving lesson planning. With the Soviet launching of Sputnik, the first satellite into space, in 1957, curricula changed as government officials noted that American students were lagging behind others in science and mathematics. As a result, science instruction shifted from mere rote memory of facts to a problem-solving model. Rapid growth in the teaching of technology has also affected lesson planning.

Political and economic changes in social science also impacted lesson planning, as teachers rushed to include knowledge about the changing venues in Eastern Europe, Asia, and Africa. Scores on standardized tests began to decline as students grasped for new knowledge. As a result, teacher education standardized proficiency tests appeared in states across America. Teachers also began focusing on individual learners and their instructional needs in daily lesson planning to accommodate the No Child Left Behind Act (2001). In the late 1990's, Wiggins and McTighe (1998) developed the "Backwards Design" model. Backwards Design is a standards-based format for developing lesson plans and units that are driven by outcomes rather than activities.

Lesson plans can be influenced by many elements. Different teachers may focus on select elements that they deem important in planning lessons for their students. For instance, elementary school teachers may focus on the context of teaching, choosing activities that will interest and involve their students. Secondary education teachers may focus on content, presenting knowledge in interesting ways. Special education teachers may focus on their students' individual goals written in an Individual Educational Plan (IEP). Plans can also be affected by a teacher's educational beliefs or philosophy or the classroom's diversity (Cooper, 2006).

There are basically two typical models of planning. In one model, a teacher decides what knowledge is important to teach, based on standards; selects the activities or strategies by which students will learn; and designs the assessments that will determine if students are learning. In the second model, a teacher decides what knowledge is important to teach, based on standards; designs the assessments; and selects the strategies.

Lesson planning can include any one of three common teaching approaches: direct instruction, informal presentation (often called mini-lessons), and structured discovery (Price & Nelson, 1999). These approaches are guides that teach students in specific ways in order to attain the specific learning objectives developed for the lesson. Teachers select among these approaches, based on their objectives, choosing the model that they determine is the best way to present material to students.

Duplass (2006) suggests that lessons can be planned effectively by asking certain questions that will aid teachers in developing challenging lessons:

  • What goals and standards are important?
  • What background knowledge do students have?
  • How long will it take to teach the lesson and what materials are needed?
  • What big ideas are important?
  • What processes will enhance learning of basic skills of the lesson?
  • How is the lesson relevant to students' lives?
  • What tasks will the students complete?
  • How will the lesson be differentiated to meet the needs of all the students?
  • How will the students change in their thinking because of this lesson plan? (Duplass, 2006).
  • Lesson planning continues even after the lesson is completed. Teachers reflect upon their lesson and what worked best. Duplass (2006) states that the next time most lessons are taught, 20% of the lesson will have been redeveloped based on changes from reflection. Student achievement and enthusiasm...

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