Ann Loseva

How important is lesson planning? – Ann Loseva

The Real Work Of A Lesson Plan

— Ann Loseva

Let’s agree on being sensible teachers entering classrooms with a notebook or a sheet of paper with some appropriate notes scribbled on them. The question is not to plan or not to plan. That’s out of the question. The questions that I would pose are how detailed should these notes be? What part do they play in the lesson? Should every step of the plan be followed? Should you allow yourself to be guided by the plan or should you allow your lesson to flow according to the plan? That is, should you allow yourself some room for improvisation? I do.

Still, what I know about lesson planning comes from the methodology classes that we had at teacher training university where I studied. Let’s face it – the knowledge is rather basic. We were given the big picture of what a well-structured lesson should look like. Hence, I publicly admit that I have never written a lesson plan in such a detailed way as to note timing of every section, let alone write up my exact words for introducing these sections. Frankly speaking, I’m rather scared of going on a CELTA course for this very reason.  Dissecting a lesson will not appeal to me and I might as well fail, and of course failure is something a teacher fears so much. I have a feeling that this skill of writing in-depth lesson plans could be very helpful, so, to my regret, I’m held back from further development due to my unwillingness to welcome change.

Having worked in the profession for almost eight years, I have shaped an image of what a perfectly suited lesson plan is for me. This perfectly suited lesson plan reminds me of a to-do list. There are points mentioning activities I plan to do, along with explanations of how to conduct this or that activity, as well as NB(nota bene) points I want to remind myself not to forget or want to remind students to pay attention to — and that’s it. The one core principle that is an absolute must for me to stick to is meaningful connections. Logic, consistency and clear-cut structure are crucial. In an ideal lesson plan, tasks are interrelated and help meet lesson objectives. It’s also important that a lesson aims at practising several skills rather than just one, thus providing multifaceted language experience and loading. Yet the lesson itself could be a flow of activities, pre-planned or spontaneously arising in my mind. In the class itself, students’ reactions play a great role as well.  A teacher needs to be sensitive to this emotional aspect of a class and easily adjust.

Maybe it’s not planning that I would speak of as being important, but rather an ability to structure a lesson in such a way that at the end of it, students have a clear and complete idea of what the lesson has just been about.  Additionally, students should be able to see how the teacher has managed to interweave this particular lesson into the pattern of lessons that make up a course.

A lesson plan can be long or short, detailed or sketchy, but it should do its work.    ~ Ann Loseva

 

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Published by

Anna Loseva

Anna Loseva is a Russian teacher of English in a university in Tokyo. She curates the iTDi Blog, writes (mostly about teaching and learning) on her own blog at http://annloseva.wordpress.com, and co-runs Reflective Practice Group in Tokyo. Other than that, Anna spends time reading, travelling, doing yoga, and learning more about sketchbook art. Anna is passionate about teacher AND student self-development and she strongly believes that fruitful education process is driven by the mix of positive thinking, inner as well as outer motivation and avid curiosity.

53 thoughts on “How important is lesson planning? – Ann Loseva”

  1. Hi Anna!

    I agree with you that the essence of a lesson plan is not the plan itself, but rather the thinking that takes place to make it, the ability of structuring a lesson and knowing where you plan to go and how you plan to get there.

    I think it’s also good to keep in mind that it’s important to keep your “plan” open and flexible to unexpected teaching opportunities in class. Just as it is important to be able to do a lesson plan, it’s important to be able to drop it if it doesn’t work or if something more interesting comes up in class.

    Great post!
    Hugs,

    Ceci

    1. Hi Ceci!

      I echo every word of yours. Flexibility is such an important quality for a teacher. I think that once a teacher feels at ease at a lesson, it is bound to come round!

      Thanks!=)
      Hugs,
      Ann

      1. Hi Anna,
        I agree with this comment as wll.. you know, there are times when a teacher would spend hours timing each section of the class time very intricately, but is compelled to diverge from that when starts teaching!
        It could be because of a new idea or a method that would best suit the learning situation, or simply you discover that some students struggle with a point or woulld ask for an alternative methodology.. so yes, flexibility is a key! and a must!
        So yes for logical connections between methodology points and no for long, unrealistically-timed lesson plans.. I think this achievable through enough experience in the field..

        Mahmood

        1. Hello Mahmood,

          you’re right, experience play such a great role in this!
          Thank you for visiting the blog and leaving your comment. I can say that it’s truly wonderful to see that your views (my views) are being shared by other teachers, too!

          Best,
          Ann

  2. Hi Anna

    Love your post!
    You have made me found a new perspective in planning a lesson! So lucky to have you as one of my PLN.
    Big Hug

    Icha

  3. Hello Anna!

    Thank you for your post, concise and to the point!

    As a CELTA graduate, I must assure you that the lesson planning though toilsome at times isn’t a really big problem. In fact, what it teaches you is the better timing skills, and this is valuable. I should admit that throughout the course it was timing not the lesson planning that was my biggest challenge. And actually this was the reason why I got grade B not A.
    However, you shouldn’t postpone taking CELTA on the ground of your fear of detailed planning. CELTA is a really good course that will help you to shape and summarise your rich teaching experience. Moreover, let me reveal a secret to you: all CELTA graduates and even CELTA trainers drop these tiresome lesson planning and do something like you have just described. So go ahead and take CELTA. It’s great fun and good help! I’m sure you’ll enjoy it! 🙂

    Good luck!

    1. Hi Sasha!

      You know, I can always think of as many obstacles preventing me from getting on a CELTA course as I can, and I will, until I feel YES, now’s the time!) Somewhere very deep I’m sure I will manage lesson planning with little effort, having had some experience, knowing the basics..The ultimate reason for finding minor hurdles is the fact..that I probably don’t like formal learning that much any more..I know, I know, CELTA will be different, but I need the time and right amount of motivation.
      I will go ahead and get it. One day=)

      Many thanks for reading and commenting!!
      Hope to see you some time in June, right?)

      Ann

  4. Hi Anna,

    Well put. You clearly like thinking on your feet in class, and I would think that is essential for teaching physicists, who have to live in a world of imagination. I observe inflexible teachers sticking to their plans all too often. They remind me of an orchestral conductor who must continue until the end of the piece despite the fact that the musicians got lost and stopped playing near the beginning. Continue your spontaneity and improvisation and everyone will get to the end.

    Cheers,

    Gareth

    1. Hi Gareth,

      You’re right, would-be physicists are big thinkers and also very smart and inquisitive, it’s amazing to learn together with them and from them. It’s crucial to be open-minded in all senses in our class, and I”m teaching them this flexibility and openness along with the language.
      Thank you for this wonderful comment! =)

      Best,
      Ann

  5. Spaceba, I agree that the ability to balance all elements of learning,especially the connections are key. Beginning teachers perhaps need more structure and guidance, while master teachers continue to seek creative strategies and have a deep knowledge of what has already worked. Less road map, more driving!

    1. You’re so right,Kelly! Novice teachers,just like those more experienced but in a bit more intense way, have to feel confident in a class. Structure, in the meantime, is key for all!!
      Love the Russian bit) Pojaluista!)

      Cheers,
      Ann

  6. Totally agree! This kind of rather anal rettentive obsession with timing and OFSTED enforced bureacratic detail is what has smothered creative teaching in the last decade or so. There’s an art to teaching but you won’t find it in a 4 page lesson plan.

    1. Hi Joe,

      thanks for the link – and again I see that so many teachers around feel the same way, more or less..There should be some teachers though, I”m sure, who believe in the necessity of very detailed lesson planning – and I would love to read their comments and viewpoints.

  7. “at the end of it, students have a clear and complete idea of what the lesson has just been about”
    Hear Hear!
    As a counselor I’ve seen lessons full of “special effects” but at the end the students didn’t really know what it was about!
    GREAT!
    Naomi

  8. Definitely agree.
    lesson plan should be flexible.
    As we will use it to teach several classes which consist of various types of students.
    The point is our students understand the materials.

    1. It’s interesting that I never use the same lesson plans. From year to year I vary activities and resources I use, staying of course within the framework of the syllabus I have to stick to (topics, grammar we need to cover). Very often I find it that activities which work well with some groups of students will just be lost upon others! So indeed, flexibility is key!

  9. Hi Anna,

    The topic is really interesting. When I started teaching I was trained to make very detailed plans of my lessons and timing is just a small part of it. My usual plan consisted of the name of teh activiity, the interaction pattern, procedure, ads and timing finally. It took 2-3 pages and I followed every step. I think it helps any young teacher to feel confident in the lessons. No doubt. Later our plans become less detailed and we can skip timing column. I usually plan and save the info on the computer))) When I take another group I find the plan I need and just correct it and sometimes I feel shocked because I will never perform the same lesson again. I can see how my teaching has impoved! so I find writing plans really worth making!

    1. Hello, Oxana,

      thank you for your reply! Isn’t it so interesting that all teachers have their own ways of doing things?) Personally, I never save plans on computer, I can save worksheets, texts, quizzes, but I often find out that I don’t very often get back to these=) See my reply to Grego above!

      I believe in freedom. Choose what’s good for you, what improves your teaching, what works for your students!

      Thank you for sharing your secrets of planning! I so much appreciate this communication that’s going on on this blog!

      Best,
      Ann

  10. Hi Anna,

    While I was studying, I used TES, looking at their Lesson Plans . I got an idea of structure but your point about a ‘to-do’ list is crucial. I couldn’t religiously follow their set-plans but found re-writing someone else’s lesson plan helped me come up with new ideas / a new personalized ‘to-do’ list of my own.

    1. Hi!

      Thanks for the link. It’s an interesting angle to view planning from, working on somebody else’s plan and re-writing it. I’d love to try it, actually.

      Thanks for dropping by!

  11. Lovely post Anna,
    I have always tried to make a short term plan for my lessons, yet it never worked, lack of time, lack of interest, new things on the market or internet, or my passion to create some new material. I must admit I had hardly taught a class without a certain plan in mind, I would have liked to be able to be a little freer, which does not mean I have not been flexible, because I have thrown my plans into the dust bin many times, and we went to walk in the nearby park or went to Starbucks to share some coffee or went to the balcony because the sun was shining and we could not watch it from inside. Now, in this especial moment with the power of sharing and learning from our PLC/N I can only reflect on the class and then see what I will be doing when I see my student again.
    I keep worksheets and quizzes and some lesson plans and exam models, videos, podcasts, but I don’t spend too much time planning my class agenda, my students take me to unexpected learning opportunities.
    I am working on PC-keeping, reflecting upon best ways to save the resources, so can easily find them when I need them. I would like to find my video, let’s say, about Tom Hanks as easily as I can find my blue sweater on the second shelf on my closet!
    Thanks again Anna, my comment is longer than your wonderful reflection! OUCH!
    Debbie

    1. Hi Debbie!

      I am terrible at keeping materials, both paper and online and ideas – I have like a hundred notebooks (lol u know that)) for that purpose, and files, and folders, and various apps, but I just know it’s all a mess)) every class and every student for me almost always means a new approach and a new resource. There’s always something better out there than what i’ve already tried!)

      I hope one day I manage to figure out my one perfect way of storing elt stuff)

      Thanks for reply!
      Cheers

    2. Hi Debbie,

      Plans many times as you say go into the dust bin. I am sure many teachers can say that, I am no exception. Teachers have to be creative and ready to change plans or list in seconds. Thinking back, I believe that I have never fully completed a lesson plan from A to Z as it is boring.

  12. Hi Anna,
    You are right when saying that the important aspect of a plan is not the plan as such but how is it structured to impart knowledge efficiently. Only then i believe learning is made possible for the learner.
    Thanks for the post.
    Bye. Britto.

    1. Hi Britto,

      It’s good to see so many teachers feel the same as I do. It’s great there are teachers who are ready to act along the same lines.

      Thanks for your comment!

  13. Hi Anna
    I tend to be like you although on a couple of occasions I had to do a very detailed lesson plan. At first I thought it was a bore but step-by-step while I was working it out I started to like the entire process. Of course it took me an incredible amount of time, you can’t do this everyday but you seem to start reflecting more in depth on the big issues and how step by step to check understanding (which means to start planning the procedure of the lesson/series of lessons from the final assessment and work backwards – what tasks and activities will lead to the desired understanding or skills). Such elaborate plans are a must with “backward design” thinking and the latter is actually very useful, though it is time-consuming. Having done a couple of elaborate plans and then trialling the lessons I found out that I am not that good at timing. This is so as I rely too much on imporvising. And the importance of efficient timing can be overlooked by the teacher. If too much freedom is allowed for an activity to last, the logical cicle of the lesson might be broken as the lesson might finish half way through the planned work and the insights gained by the students.
    Had I not made an elaborate plan I would have never realised that timing is an issue with me.
    So my advice is do a couple of very elaborate plans with all the whats, hows and whens, trial the lessons and reflect on your weekness/es. Put in writing the skill you should work on the next time and plan the lesson again focusing on that skill particular. If you are still not pleased with your progress, do this several times. Then move on to another skill you think you should work on and focus on that skill in the elaborate plan.

    Now that I am saying all this, I feel obliged I should try to do it mysell, too. 🙂

    1. Thank you, Kremena, this is amazing. Your ideas are just so in line with what I’m currently facing myself, and struggling with. I’m definitely picking up your suggestion to write an elaborate plan, follow it, and reflect (even if I’m pretty aware of my weaknesses I think, timing being only one very recognizable of them!). I’m actually inspired! Thanks a lot. Just a couple of days ago I was checking the recording of the iTDi MOOC session on preflection lesson prep by Matthew Noble, and these ideas of backward planning/design, and more thorough+conscious lesson planning are actual as never before for me right now!

      I would like to have a partner on working out elaborate plans though.=)

  14. This is so true. Lesson planning is something that we all frustrate at, at some time. I toally agree with you Ann as my expierence as a teacher is the same. We always feel the class and we make ajustments as necessary.

  15. Great post, Anna. Well, when I first started teaching, I used to write everything in details, including what I was going to say to my students while delivering the lesson. However, now I don’t do that anymore. I do what you do, just write bullets of my lesson, just to remind me about the structure of the lesson.

    1. Grace, at the beginning I also wrote my lines. Now as I’m thinking more about it, one of the reasons why I stopped doing that was that I teach students who speak the same language as I do – so with elementary learners I allow myself to give instructional English a break. Well, my worry now is that probably I should try have my lines ready again?))

      Anyway, I’m not putting what I wrote back then to question. I still do the same way, but I’m very willing to try some new planning style.

      Thank you so much for your comment. I keep being amazed at how important these new comments from the MOOC participants are for me now.

  16. I, too, see a lesson plan as a “to-do” list. When I go into class, I have things in my mind that I know I want to cover and a general idea of how I’m going to cover them, but I’m always prepared to shift gears based on how the students respond.

    1. I love your expression “shift gears”)) Indeed, being sensitive and responsive to students’ reactions is a big deal for a good lesson, maybe..

      Thank you for your comment, Rosanne!

  17. If you enter the class without lesson planning ypur students will guess that you are not ready for the lesson

  18. Dear Ann,

    Thank you for your superb article.

    This post perfectly defines the true essence of lesson planning and reveals that how human factor should be considered in preparing a lesson plan. I totally agree with this idea because students are human beings with all their ups and downs. Sometimes you have to not take the path you have already planned and should make and take one in the spur of the moment and it does not mean that you are disorganized or are wandering away, because your ultimate destination is known to you.

    Thank you again.

    All the best,
    Omid

    1. This is such a wonderful comment to read, thank you very much, Omid!
      “…it does not mean that you are disorganized or are wandering away, because your ultimate destination is known to you.” – these words are worth being written out and pinned to the wall in front of my desk. They could bring me confidence in so many ways, also other than preparing my lessons.

      Thank you a lot again!

  19. Hi Anna

    Lesson planning is an important task which a teacher has to do daily. It needs into account many things- objectives, needs of learners, timing etc. But its also true that this kind of planning sometimes never work and a teacher has to plan something at the spot. So, spontaneity is the key. And i do agree with you that a teacher does not to write so much detailed lesson plan but this thing comes with experience.

    1. Yes, Amandeep, so much in this profession comes down to having experience, doesn’t it?..
      And spontaneity – just this morning I had this situation when I came to class with a nice plan/ idea what to do with my students, and then the circumstances forced me to play it free and from the moment. Challenging, but nonetheless exciting, and I hope a useful lesson for the students anyway =)

      Thank you for your kind comment!

  20. I love the honest way you wrote this post; I also have to admit I’m scared of taking courses like CELTA because of the same reason, but I’m open to change, yet little by little. And again I’m totally agreed about the connections; we can’t have activities which are not, in one way or another, linked together; that would be like building a house and each part is disconnected from the other, so in the end, there’s no house.
    Tremendous ideas you have just shared! Having the ability to interrelate all lessons, get students attention, get them to learn, be open to improvise once in a while and finally get the course aims; they’re just significant to me. Thank you for this post.

    1. Hello Judith,

      It’s interesting that a couple of years after writing this post I’m still not ready to convince myself do a CELTA, or rather find convincing reasons for that. I’ve changed some of my views since then but not this))

      Thank you, it’s still thrilling to me to think that my thoughts could strike a cord with some other teachers.

  21. Hello Anna, I really enjoyed what you wrote. I couldn’t agree with you more.
    When I started teaching I would write step to step of the lesson, because I was afraid of things getting out of my control. However, with years of experience, now I take notes just of what I can’t forget. Flexibility is very important to the success of the classroom.

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