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How to Write a Lesson Plan as a Student Teacher

Drexel University School of Education

What is a Lesson Plan? 

An effective lesson plan demonstrates how a teacher creates objectives for his or her students and measures how those objectives are mastered. Creating a lesson plan begins with aligning state standards to your curriculum and then narrowing the focus to determine which objectives you want your students to meet within a specific unit of study.

Strong lesson plans are the foundation of an efficient classroom environment for both the teacher and the students. Lesson plans contain several components that can fit into one of three categories: What am I teaching? How am I going to teach it? How will I assess what the students have learned?

Why is Lesson Planning Important?

Lesson planning is very important. A well-designed lesson plan helps everyone understand the goals of a particular lesson. Lesson plans allow teachers to take the curriculum and turn it into engaging and meaningful activities for students. It also outlines the materials needed and what special considerations need to be taken into consideration such as the individual learning requirements of the students.

What are the Benefits of Lesson Planning?

There are many benefits to lesson planning and many schools require teachers to create and submit lesson plans for their classes.

  1. Stay Organized: Lesson planning allows teachers to keep their classes organized and on track with their teaching goals and objectives.
  2. Evaluate Performance: Lesson plans help teachers assess how students grasped concepts and learned the curriculum. Teachers can make adjustments or change activities based on how students responded and how they performed on assessments.
  3. Helpful for Substitute Teachers: Well-organized lesson plans can help students stay on track even when the teacher is absent. Substitute teachers can follow the instructions of the lesson plan and carry out the activities in the event the full-time teacher is out of the classroom.
  4. Helps Teachers be More Effective: Lesson plans allow teachers to integrate new ideas, technology, and resources into their classes with ease. Teachers can update their learning activities or swap out old texts with new videos to help students grasp the lesson.

What are Key Components of a Lesson Plan

All lesson plans share several basic tenets that apply universally, regardless of grade-level or content area. Every lesson should contain a clear beginning, middle, and end.

  • At the beginning, the goals and standards are introduced.
  • In the middle, the students use modeling, guided practice, and active engagement strategies to meet the objective.
  • At the end of the lesson, the students’ mastery of the objective is assessed.

A basic format for a student teacher lesson plan structure includes:

  • The title of the unit and the content area and grade-level for whom the lesson is written
  • State Standards and Common Core Standards addressed in the lesson
  • An overview of how the individual lesson falls under the umbrella of the essential questions in the unit
  • Teacher-specific objectives that narrow the focus of the standards specific to your content area and curriculum
  • Materials and resources used in the lesson, including any integrated technology
  • Vocabulary words specific to the lesson and learning objective
  • Formative assessments used to track students’ progress towards meeting the objective

While this format serves as a lesson planning guideline for student teachers, it is important to recognize that a lesson plan for an elementary school Math class looks much different from a lesson plan for a high school English Language Arts class.

Lesson plans should be customized depending on grade level, whether students are at an advanced or remedial level, or any other factors that can help impact students’ abilities to better retain subject matter.

How to Write a Lesson Plan

Most lesson plans follow a universal structure for teachers to implement essential learning across curriculum and grade-levels:

  • Set goals
  • Create an overview
  • Manage timelines
  • Know your students
  • Execution
  • Assess student progress

Set Goals

Teachers must first determine which state standards will be addressed within a specific unit. By using state and Common Core standards, teachers can then create objectives for each individual lesson based on their unique curriculum and knowledge of their students’ capabilities. Objectives should use action verbs appropriate for the students’ cognitive levels.

For example:

  • Common Core Standard (9th Grade English Language Arts): Analyze how words and phrases shape meaning and tone in texts
  • Teacher’s Objective: The learner will analyze how the author’s use of bias shapes tone in a nonfiction essay

Create an Overview

Having an overarching idea of what you want to teach in a unit plan allows teachers to determine what essential questions will be addressed, which resources will be used throughout the unit, and which vocabulary words or skills need to be front-loaded prior to beginning individual lesson plans within the unit.

Manage Timelines

Duration is a key feature of lesson planning. Since no two classrooms are identical in terms of how students learn and retain information, it is crucial for a teacher to get to know their students in order to create appropriate timelines. Formative and summative assessments can be implemented to allow a teacher to determine if a lesson objective needs to be retaught or revisited within a unit.

Know Your Students

The way you structure each lesson relates to how well you know your students and what type of learners they are. Are there students with Individualized Education Plans or 504 Plans who require modifications to the curriculum or extended time? Are there gifted students in the class? Are there students who seem to grasp learning objectives during classroom checks for understanding, but fail their assessments?

Keeping in mind that educators are working with a tech-savvy generation, lesson plans that integrate technology engage students actively. From using Google Earth in a geography lesson to dialing up YouTube videos of clips of Shakespearean performances, technology can be implemented in the classroom in a variety of ways that make learning a more demonstrative and interactive endeavor. This helps give teachers a genuine depiction of their students' capabilities and begin working towards building a proficient classroom.

How to Execute a Well-Developed Lesson Plan

Once your goals are set, it’s time to address how you will teach your students and assess their levels of mastery. Students can be audio learners, visual learners, kinesthetic learners, or a combination of all three. With this in mind, it’s important to differentiate instruction in a lesson through activities that engage learners and pique their interests.

In addition to summative assessments, teachers should implement formative assessments throughout each lesson to determine students’ levels of proficiency towards reaching the objective.

Assess Student Progress

Teachers evaluate the success of their lesson plans through student assessments. Summative and formative evaluations may give the teacher an indication if the activity and materials were effective in helping their students learn. Assessing student progress can help teachers understand if they should keep lesson plan, update, or remove it from the curriculum.

How to Teach a Lesson Plan for Different Grade Levels

The most important aspects for a teacher to consider when initially developing a lesson plan are the content area, the grade-level, and the stage in Bloom’s Taxonomy where the students currently learn. Bloom’s Taxonomy is a set of hierarchical models ranging from basic levels to higher-order thinking.

Since elementary students are not as cognitively developed as high school students, elementary school teachers should create lesson objectives, activities, and assessments that cater to the early stages of learning, such as memorization, understanding, and application. However, middle school and high school teachers can focus on the top-tier of the hierarchy that involve skills such as analyzing, synthesizing, evaluating, and creating within their lesson plans.

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Creating Lesson Plans for Elementary School Students

An aspect of teaching elementary school that differs from teaching middle school or high education is that elementary teachers have to create lesson plans for more than one content area. Elementary education majors may have to teach English, math, and social studies even though their area of specialization may lie within one of the three. This may require multiple learning objectives, activities, and formative assessments.

Lesson plans for elementary school students must also factor in how the teacher plans to transition between subjects and activities.

Creating Lesson Plans for Middle School Students

Students in Grades 6-8 are capable of understanding more context behind the material and will be more willing to voice questions about the material itself (such as place and setting of stories in English or Reading classes) or mention that they don’t understand the process behind solving a math problem.

In addition to the basic, foundational elements of a lesson plan, lesson plans for middle school students should be mindful of the time-management element. It’s important to include extra time to allow students to ask questions.

Additionally, if students are vocal about not grasping material, teachers should include alternate ways of solving a problem or approaching lesson within their plans to accommodate students who are having difficulty.

Creating Lesson Plans for High School Students

Building off the concept that older students will be apt to ask more questions or voice opinions about the material, high school teachers will want to create lesson plans that bake in time to answer student questions, offer a flexible approach to teaching the material, and prepare students for life after high school.

High school students may be placed in an Honors or Advanced Placement track with an eye on attending college. In addition to preparing students for SATs and State Assessment tests, lesson plans for high school students should also focus on expanding critical thinking skills based on the material.

Even if students are not in an advanced placement, secondary education teachers can weave in current events or relevant examples to encourage critical thinking in high school lesson plans. This can help students make connections between material taught in the classroom and how it relates to the world around them.

For more helpful information on student teaching or becoming a teacher, please visit the Drexel University School of Education Resources page. If you have specific questions around student teaching, please also visit our Student Teaching FAQ page or request more information.