Lesson planning

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02 November 2016
Teacher in corridor
All teachers need to plan what they will teach and how they will teach it, but spending excessive amounts of time on long, detailed plans does not necessarily lead to better learning and teaching.

There is no prescribed format or length for lesson planning. All that is specified in the Ofsted framework is that 'teachers plan effectively, using clear objectives that children understand'.

Your plans are for you and other professionals working with you. But occcasionally, others will need to see your planning. When Ofsted inspectors arrive, they will look for clear objectives that show your intentions for what children will learn and how these objectives will be achieved. Inspectors will not expect to find a particular model or format for planning, they will be much more interested in the impact of planning on your teaching and the children's learning.

Your time should be used for aspects of planning that are going to be useful for their own purposes, and which have a direct impact upon the quality of learning and teaching. Don't spend time producing documents that don't meet these purposes. Also don't feel you have to start with a blank sheet when planning for the week ahead. Good quality plans are already available. Utilise plans written by colleagues and other plans on the internet.

As in other professions, experience can and should be shared. Collaborative planning can be liberating, supportive and effective. Work with other colleagues, draw on their specialist knowledge and involve teaching assistants where possible.

As you write your plans, think about what you are going to assess. Be selective, focus on the key aspects of learning that you wish to assess, and highlight these on your plan, then use a simple system for recording pupil's progress. Link curricular targets to your plans for groups of pupils and some individuals.

Timing and pacing

This is something which will become easier with practice, but an important thing to bear in mind as you plan your first lesson is how to pace it - too few activities can lead pupils to seek diversion whilst too many can get them confused. The transitions between classroom activities can be unstable periods which need effective orchestration. They are well handled when preceded by some advance warnings: 'There are three minutes before we return to the whole group', 'We've been working on this experiment for 10 minutes now so you should be about half way through'.


Do your planned activities achieve learning outcomes? Most importantly, do your pupils understand the goals of the classroom activity? It is paramount that your pupils are engaged on the learning journey and for this to happen, they need to understand where they are going and how what they are doing will get them there. You also need to think about how you will recognise and reward pupil effort.

A few tips to save time

  • Use the previous year's plans and add your own ideas.
  • Work with colleagues in the same year group - split up the work and share your plans and resources.
  • Some things are the same each week so if you use a similar week's plan you only need to amend the details.
  • Keep a copy of everything.

Ready, Steady, Teach!