How to Quickly Write an Effective Lesson Plan

Updated on December 29, 2016

How to Quickly Plan Lessons

When training as a teacher, nobody taught me how to write a lesson plan. I picked it up as I went along, combining lots of lesson plans into one I was happy with. Even when I had a proforma I was happy with, it would still take me hours to plan a single lesson. Something was wrong here - I was spending nearly three times longer planning the lesson as I did delivering it!

This hub is the collection of my own experience. It is filled with the advice I have picked up over the years from lots of different practitioners. It is not the only way to lesson plan - it is what I find effective. If you are new to the profession, or just trying to freshen up your planning, I hope you can find something that is useful to you here. I can now plan a two hour observed lesson in 30minutes.

1. What is your topic?

Ideally this should slot into a wider scheme of work. You lessons will not work in isolation; they need to build on what was learnt in previous lessons, and pave the way for future learning. If you don't know where you have come from, or where you are going, the learners will not make progress.

Even if your lesson happens to be standalone, the first thing you need to do is to figure out the topic of your lesson. This will make up your lesson title.

We are going to use the example of a lesson about Biomass for a year 9 (13yrs) class.

Resources for Starters and Plenaries

Classroom Starters and Plenaries: Creative Ideas for Use Across the Curriculum
Classroom Starters and Plenaries: Creative Ideas for Use Across the Curriculum
A huge collection of ideas for engaging starters and plenaries. I have used many in my own lessons. All the ideas are readily transferable and easily modified.

2. What are your Learning Outcomes?

I find that figuring out the outcomes of the learning focuses your lessons much better than first thinking of the objectives of your lesson.

What do you want the pupils to know or be able to do by the end of your lesson? What are you looking for from your pupils? This can also be called your success criteria. These should be differentiated (using Bloom's Taxonomy or Anderson and Krathwohl's Taxonomy ) or marked by grade - ideally both.

For our lesson on Biomass, some relevent success criteria would be:

  1. I can state why food chains usually contain a maximum of 4/5 organisms (E/D).
  2. I can sketch a pyramid of number and a pyramid of biomass from a food chain (C)
  3. I can explain the advantages and disadvantages of pyramids of biomass (B/A)

3. What are your Learning Objectives?

I find these easier to write once I have my success criteria. What are the pupils learning about in this lesson? What is the context of this lesson?

Our Biomass lesson could have learning objectives such as

We Are Learning Today:

  • How energy flows through food chains.
  • What pyramids of biomass and numbers are.
  • The advantages and disadvantages of pyramids of numbers and biomass.

Lesson Planning Cycle

What makes a good plenary?

  • Quickly and clearly demonstrates the learner's progress against given success criteria.
  • Easy to administer.
  • Quick and easy to mark.
  • Not always a 'test' - assesses learning in many different ways.
  • Offers (limited) choice to the learner.
  • Requires active participation by everyone.

4. How will you Assess Progress?

Outstanding lessons have mini plenaries and assessment woven throughout the lesson. It always helps, however, to assess how well pupils have performed against your learning outcomes by the end of the lesson in addition to these on-going assessments.

Think how you can gain evidence of how much progress all learners made against all learning outcomes. Which pupils mastered all of the outcomes? How do you know this? Which pupils only mastered the first outcome? How do you know? How can you help them move on? A good plenary/assessment will not only demonstrate to you how well each pupil mastered each outcome, but will also show the pupils how far they have come in the lessons.

Types of assessment include:

  • Exit cards
  • Class quizzes with mini whiteboards
  • Pass-the-parcel quiz/ Hot potato quiz
  • Stick questions underneath chairs
  • Pictionary/charades/taboo
  • Dictionary/encyclopedia entries for the lesson
  • Sum up the learning in 5 sentences, now reduce this to 5 keywords, now say what we learnt in 1 word.

Good assessments are vital for you to keep up with the progress of your class. Our Biomass lesson could have many plenaries - in this case I used an exit card with a 5-5-1 analysis.

Rules for Lesson Activities

  • Should be diverse and hit all learning styles.
  • Should teach pupils new information, or consolidate previous information.
  • Must be engaging.
  • If it doesn't help your pupils progress, don't use it.
  • If it is too complicated to explain to non-teacher, don't use it.

5. What activities will you use?

You will be pleased to know that the hard part of the lesson plan is over! You should now know:

  1. The topic of your lesson (Title)
  2. What you want to pupils to know or be able to do by the end (Learning Outcomes)
  3. What the pupils are learning (Learning Objectives)
  4. How will will assess progress (Plenary)

With these variables decided the activities of your lesson will now be much more focussed. Everything you do should contribute to making progress against the learning outcomes.Now you need to plan activities that will ensure maximum learning in the minimum time:

  • Card Sorts
  • Lectures
  • Puzzles
  • Reading Comprehension/research tasks
  • Making Models
  • Experiments
  • Group Work

All of the above are potential activities that can be used to teach students new information. This is by no means an exhaustive list! The activities should start off short and get longer; they should be diverse and hit visual, auditory and kinaesthetic learning styles. Think of your lesson in blocks of time no longer than 15minutes. This will keep the pace in your lesson up. If you want to set a longer task, give feedback at regular intervals to break up the time and give the illusion of diversity of task.

Our Biomass lesson could contain the following activities:

  1. QCI Analysis (5mins)
  2. Worksheet with questions (two fill in blanks, one full sentence answer, one graph and one spot-the-error) (14mins)
  3. Sketch Pyramids of Numbers and Biomass (7mins)
  4. Q&A 6mins - also throughout lesson whilst circulating.

Rules for Starters

  • Should have easy-to-understand instructions.
  • Must be fun and engaging.
  • Must be related to your upcoming lesson.
  • Should be accessible by all abilities in your class.
  • Must be able to be easily written onto the whiteboard, or handed out in a small A5 sheet.
  • Must contain at least one extension task.
  • Does not have to be a written activity - could be verbal or even charades!

6. How will you start the lesson?

Now you know what the pupils will be doing, you need to give some thought to how the lesson should start. The first activity should hook the pupils in and get them thinking along the lines of the lesson outcomes.

It is very important to have a sharp start to your lesson, so the starter should be something that everyone can attempt without any further explanation from the teacher. It should also involve extension tasks to keep those who work faster occupied - this will also ensure that people who arrive to your lesson first are still engaged when you are dealing with late-comers.

Possible starters include:

  • Put up pictures and get the pupils to guess the learning outcomes
  • Put up fake (or real) newspaper headlines and ask pupils to guess the learning outcomes
  • Word jumbles or crosswords based on last lesson or this lesson
  • Think-pair-share activity with question on the board


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    • profile image


      3 years ago

      this was very helpful (:

    • mkjuett profile image

      Mary Juett 

      7 years ago from Omaha, NE

      Thanks so much! This will come in handy as my girls get older and we officially start more homeschooling. Right now we're doing preschool work, but it's still important to plan!

    • Nettlemere profile image


      8 years ago from Burnley, Lancashire, UK

      Really useful hub - wish I'd had it when I was teaching - it's not something that anyone ever seems confident about when you ask them. It's good to have your resource to point people to now!

    • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image

      Marcy Goodfleisch 

      8 years ago from Planet Earth

      This is such a useful guide for anyone who is teaching or instructing students of any age, and in any type of setting. In addition to grades K-12, college instructors or people who teach other types adult classes can benefit from this information. Thanks!


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