Lesson planning versus student learning

Louise Emma Potter

The truth of this simple sentence always strikes me when I think about our profession:

"We are not teachers, we become teachers".

Teaching is like a never-ending story. We never get to the bottom of it. There is always something new around the corner, waiting to turn our lives into a constant turmoil. We can never stop studying on account that our jobs consist of helping students learn. Thousands of students with different learning skills, interests and backgrounds are sitting out there, waiting for us to motivate them to learn. Yes! I believe that is our main focus: motivate our students to learn.

Why is lesson planning important?
I consider a good class plan one of the most important first steps of becoming a good teacher, and also a very important step to be able to motivate our students to learn. I like to compare a good lesson plan to a well planned trip: when a trip has been planned in details – problems anticipated, hotels reserved, money saved, weather taken into consideration, tickets issued, etc., the journey is usually a smooth one and we come back with only happy memories.
Our classroom plans are like road maps. They keep our minds focused and objectives clear. They sometimes act as reminders and, at other times, reflections for a coming class. They keep us on track. I can assure you that when a teacher´s mind is focused and on track, students are naturally focused. Your classroom planning is directly related to your student´s learning.
A good lesson plan is easily distinguished from a lesson plan that has not had much thought put into it. Students are misbehaving, no clear objectives are accomplished during the class and language points are not understood.

What must be taken into consideration in a lesson plan?
Lesson plans are not about the pages of the book you will cover during the class. It is neither only about the vocabulary and grammar points your students will use. It goes way beyond that. It is not an easy task; it becomes quite complex, depending on the profile of students you have. However, your students will definitely gain from your detailed lesson plan.

Below, I have numbered some important aspects that should be thought about and noted in your class plan:

    Of course, the topic, vocabulary and grammar points will be in your lesson plan. The main objective of the language you want your students to achieve is extremely important.
    Do you have everything at hand? What will you be using? Flashcards, songs, realia, books, colored pencils, paper, etc.
    The learning skills you want your students to develop must be considered in your classroom plan. How you will accomplish each skill is essential to understand the objective of each activity. By observing which learning skills your students will be developing, you can identify the cognitive skills in action. Note taking, using visuals, graphic organizers, solving problems, being cooperative, summarizing, carrying out investigations are some examples.
    Cognitive skills are the skills your brain uses to think, read, learn, pay attention, interpret, process and reason. We can divide the skills into higher order thinking skills (reason, interpret, process) and lower order thinking skills (memorising, repeating, applying, understanding). It is important to have in mind what skills your students will be using.
    Have your steps been carefully thought about?
    • How long will each activity take?
    • What questions will you ask (Yes! Write down the questions. It is amazing how it helps)?
    • What are the roles of the students and teacher during each activity?
    How you will group your students and why you have decided to group them this way (it should be according to the skills you want to develop) are essential aspects to consider.
    How will you check that your students have actually understood the point you are trying to teach? What questions or games can you play with them to check for understanding?
    After the class, it is indispensable to look back and compare your class plan to what really happened during the class. On occasions, the outcomes can be quite different. Ideas come up, students intervene and unanticipated problems occur. However, if your class plan was carefully thought about, your objectives will still have been accomplished.

Have a good trip!