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Lesson Planning Guide


K – 12 teachers employ lesson planning to prepare professionally for teaching their students. This guide provides an overview of lesson plan formats. Teachers these days have less flexibility about what to teach as content standards drive curriculum, but there is considerable choice in how to teach. Matching lesson plan formats to the content (what skills/knowledge are being taught and context (who is being taught, when/where they are being taught, why they need to be taught, etc.) is an important component of good teaching.

This guide does not assume a “correct” lesson plan style. While this guide favors the construc- tivist/inquiry teaching and learning, it is nevertheless recognized that there are times when other approaches may be more appropriate given the needs and goals of the situation. There are numerous formats including Learning Cycle, Madeline Hunter, Problem Solving, Direct Instruction, Discovery, some that are content specific and others.

While a professionally prepared lesson plan is always preferred, the fact remains that “winging it” does occur sometimes, hopefully infrequently.

  • General Components for All Lesson Plans

    Below is listed the general framework of just about any well-planned lesson plan:

    • Lesson Title
    • Content/Teacher Standards
    • Lesson Objectives
    • Anticipatory Set
    • Instructional Procedures
    • Closure
    • Assessment
    • Materials
    • Citation of Resources

    Where most lesson planning formats differ is in the instructional procedures.

  • Constructivist/Inquiry Oriented Lesson Plans

    Rather than assuming students need some sort of teaching in order to move toward practice and mastery, lesson plans of this type assume that well-crafted lessons engage student interest and activate prior knowledge right away, allowing for immediate exploration. Outlined below is one type of constructivist lesson plan format. This particular format is called the LEARNING CYCLE LESSON PLAN.

    • The Big Understanding or Rationale Statement is the overall goal of the lesson.
    • The Colorado Model Content Standards/Model Teacher Standards are the curricular goals set forth by the Colorado Department of Education for children in the State of Colorado and represent the “umbrella” for what will be taught to the learners. The standards can be accessed at the Colorado Department of Education website.
    • A list of all materials to be used in lesson including but not limited to visual aides, manipulatives, technology, etc.
    • The Resources are represented by a bibliographic citation for each resource used to create lesson plan.
    • The Lesson Objective(s) specify in a measureable manner the objective that will accomplish the named content standard. These objectives must be aligned with the Standards. The Objectives tell how or what students will do to meet the stated objective(s).
    • The Learning Process tells the activities to be done that accomplish specified learning objectives. In other words, the Learning Process is what the student will do based upon what the teacher does.

    The LEARNING CYCLE LESSON PLAN is a teaching strategy and way of writing lesson plans that includes three stages:

    • The Engagement Stage involves the teacher asking herself: “How will I get my students interested and involved in this project, topic, or theme?” “What will I need to do and what will my students need to do?”

    Getting students involved or “engaged” in their own learning is critical for motivating self-directed learning. Discovering a “magic” theme or topic that will instantly interest and motivate all students in the classroom is not possible; therefore, the greatest challenge teachers face during the “engagement stage” is to get students seriously interested in and curious about some aspect of the task. An example of “engaging” students might be to give them choices in what they study and how they study it—this can help encourage a sense of ownership and motivate learning. Finally, pre-assessment should occur before or during this stage of the Learning Cycle. Assessment is discussed late in this guide.

    • The Investigation Stage involves the teacher in asking himself: “What activities will my students ‘do’ to help them answer their own questions and become effective problem solvers?” “Do I really know enough o\about this subject to help my students learn, or do I need to bump-up my own knowledge before teaching?” “Do I have enough materials relevant to the topic and appropriate for all my students?”

    What will students collect, manipulate, read, observe, or construct; who could they interview, exchange e-mail with, write to or listen about in order to gather the information they need to answer their questions? Finally, formative assessment occurs here. Why would the teacher want to monitor children’s progress as they are learning?

    • The Explain and Clarify Stage involves the teaching asking herself: “What kinds of projects, products, or presentation can students complete in order to ‘mentally process’ all of the information they have learned as a result of their investigations’?

    Ideally, students will do this by teaching other children or adults what they have learned and not simply “share” what was learned. The goal during the Explain and Clarify Stage of the learning cycle is to get students actively involved in explaining and performing the skills and opportunities to clarify their understandings and elaborate upon what was learned. They may also discover things they still need to learn. Teachers should observe, guide, and assess both the processes by which the students learn and the products students create, such as writing a newspaper report or constructing a timeline. Finally, summative evaluation occurs during this final stage of the learning cycle. Why would a teacher want to assess students’ learning at the end of a lesson or unit of instruction?

    Teachers who are adept at using the Learning Cycle do not always follow the three stages in a “lock step” fashion. Rather, they allow themselves and their students flexibility of “bouncing back and forth” among the here stages to increase motivation and learning. In addition to the three stages of the Learning cycle, one would need to include the material listed above this explanation of the Learning Cycle.

    Additional items to bee included in a well-prepared lesson plan using any format including the Learning Cycle should include the following:

    • Adaptive activities other than those named in the learning process to accommodate learners with special needs, including, but not limited to vision impairment, learning disabled, physically impaired, deaf and hard of hearing as well as those who are developmentally delayed.
    • Extension activities are additional activities designed to extend the learning process for learners requiring additional challenge (think gifted and talented) or simply to broaden the experience for all learners.
    • Assessment of student learning is discussed at length in another section of the Guide. The purpose of pre-assessment, formative and post-assessment or summative assessment is to measure/determine the students’ level of competence before, during and after implementing instruction. Student performance on the pre-assessment may compel changes to the planned unit and lesson plans. Formative assessment conducted during the learning process to judge learners’ progress in attaining competence consistent with the standards and aligned with the lesson objectives. The post or summative assessment is measurement conducted at the conclusion of the lesson to assess the level of student competence regarding the standards for the lesson and the aligned lesson objectives.
    • Lesson Closure is the conclusion of the lesson that ties all the component parts of the lesson together and likely sets the stage for subsequent learning experiences.

    Attached to this Guide is an example of an appropriate lesson plan format showing all of the component parts.

  • Here are some appropriate Internet references for Lesson Planning:
  • Example Learning Cycle Lesson Plan Format

    Lesson Title

    Name: _________________________ Date: _______________

    Grade Level: __________Subject: ________________________

    BIG Understanding: Answers the question—why are you teaching this lesson?

    Materials Needed:

    Resources used:

    Colorado Model Content Standards:

    Lesson Objectives:

    Engagement/Conduct pre-assessment as needed

    Investigation/Formative assessment as needed to ensure that students are not just “practicing perfectly” but also to teach skills and content in a context that is authentic and meaningful for students.

    Explain and Clarify/Post/Summative Assessment to see if lesson objectives were achieved - this is a time for students to express what they have learned, and learn still more in the process.

    Adaptations & Expansions for unique student needs.

    Lesson Closure: How will you bring it all together for students?

    Teacher Notes: How and to what extent did this lesson move my students toward meeting the content standards? How should I keep track of what students learned during this lesson? Where do I go from here?