Think of a time when you enter a classroom without any plans. How do you feel? How would you feel if you need to run to make photocopies in the middle of the class? Here are 6 reasons why it is important for teachers to have a lesson plan.
1. Ensure alignment across grades
Lesson planning should be done across grades to avoid omissions and unnecessary repetition. If student have not been taught addition and subtraction from 20 to 100 in Grade 1, they are not ready for addition and subtraction in the hundreds in Grade 2. If students have been taught multiplication for 6,7,8 and 9 in Grade 3, teachers should not be repeating the same multiplication tables in Grade 4. There is a difference between revision after the summer break and spending weeks on the topic as though the students have not done this before. Yet quite often, we see either omissions or overlaps across grades.
The end of the semester is the best time to have grades meeting, to discuss what has been accomplished and what needs to be worked on. If students are struggling this year, the teacher needs to inform the teacher teaching the next grade of the gap, discuss strategies for filling the gaps and ways to avoid them in the future.
2. Avoid teaching from cover to cover
While this might work for some cases, I find that textbooks in the U.S. usually include a lot more materials than is required. While it provides teachers with options, it can be confusing for some teachers when they need to decide on what to teach. Teachers teaching from textbook cover to cover sometimes find that they are not able to accomplish their goals, and need to rush through the last few topics.
A lesson plan is important as it gives a sense of direction in relation to standards. Teachers know what is important and what is secondary. It is more important for the students to learn deeply with understanding, than to skim through many topics superficially.
3. How to teach
While being clear about what topics to teach is important, knowing how to teach them is the key to success in the classroom. The same topic can be (and should be) taught differently, depending on the students’ skills, temperament and attitude. These considerations should influence a teacher’s planning of the tasks to be presented, resources needed and pacing of the lessons. With the students in mind, the teacher should ask questions like “Should we spend more time on concrete manipulatives?”, “Use more worksheets for practice?” Or even “would printing worksheets in color versus black and white make a difference?”
4. A good lesson plan makes a confident teacher
Many teachers teach the way they were taught as students. However, that might not be the best way. We need to constantly update ourselves with best practices that work, and how to teach more effectively. For example, a teacher who has only learned “how to” and not “why” when growing up will need to evaluate their own gap in knowledge when drawing out the lesson plans for the semester. This gives the teacher confidence when delivering the lesson in the classroom. A confident teacher inspires respect from students, which in turn reduces discipline problems.
5. Lesson planning now saves time in future
Lesson plans serve as a useful basis for future planning. They can be used again, in part or in whole, for future classes. Lesson planning for subsequent years can be drawn from and modified from current planning. The extra effort put in by first year teachers to plan and organize the entire year’s lesson plans and resources will go a long way for subsequent years teaching the same level.
6. Handing over and professional performance
A clear lesson plan can be used by substitute teachers, ensuring that time is used productively, when the main teacher is not around. It can also serve as a central document for handing over to new teachers who are teaching the level for the first time. In addition, lesson plans, along with other materials, can also be used to support annual performance evaluation. Teachers applying for new job can also submit samples of their lesson plans to show their content understanding and organizational skills.
There are many important benefits of having a clear and organized set of lesson plans. Good planning allows for more effective teaching and learning. However, many things can happen in class, and it is important for teachers to adapt their plans to respond to the students’ needs. As Jim Scrivener says, “Prepare thoroughly. But, in class, teach the learners, not the plan.”