In the last post on titled Lesson Planning: Start at the End I likened the planning process to the design work of an architect, starting with a vision of the end product or concept for a building before passing it over to the builders for construction. Teachers are both architects and builders and this is part of what makes our professional lives so complex.
Moving to the Lesson Plan
Having completed the lesson planning process through initially determining the best that has been thought or said or done within your subject, then defining what excellence would look like, how you would evidence it, determining the structure of the learning and eventually sequencing it you are ready to produce the plan.
Having done all this work it is easier than you think. You simply need to turn the planning process on its head, the lesson plan is the reverse of the planning process.
This is easier to see if you print off a copy of the sheet blow, having started by lesson planning with the end in mind – the key concepts and ideas of your subject – you need to actually write lesson plans and teach from the foundational factual knowledge that is required back towards the big concepts and ideas hence you end up back at the start.
A copy of this planner is available as a download here in PDF:
A publisher version you can type into is available via this Dropbox link.
The lesson planning process actually provides the connectives for the lesson plan as shown by the graphic below.
The first blog post of this series, Planning Lessons: To Plan or Not to Plan emphasised the need to plan the learning across a series of lessons.
A lesson cannot be planned in isolation from the lessons that have gone before or the lessons that will follow as the current learning has a root in previous learning and the fruit of future learning is dependent upon it. There is a sequence and structure required to the learning.
Developing this learning flow requires a view that sees the learning over time. It may also be found that students make faster progress in a lesson than expected and so the next stage of the learning needs to be ready rather than a task to keep them busy and quiet. Once you’ve planned a series of lessons you can follow the learner rather than following the plan.
This is where the structure of the learning becomes important. In the previous blog post I used the example of planning lessons around Particle Theory. One of the learning intentions (you may call them objectives) was:
Compare and contrast the physical properties of the three states of matter (Relational)
Thinking about the structure of the learning within the objective is very important. Which of the two tables below would you either use as a card sort or expect the students to produce?
The second table is arguably more powerful as it does actually compare and contrast the physical properties of solids, liquids and gases showing their similarities and differences. It provides the opportunity for students to understand
The similarity between solids and liquids in terms of the fixed volume and ease of compression explained by the proximity of particles to each other
Whilst noting the similarity between liquids and gases in terms of the ability to change shape and flow as the particles can move relative to each other and are not fixed in a rigid structure.
There is also a lot that can be thought about here around the development of students’ use and understanding of technical language and thinking about the possible questions that need to be asked to check students’ comprehension of what they are reading.
This is essentially the assessment element of the planning and what vehicle will be best to assess students’ learning is one of the key decisions.
Students need to be able to evidence this learning and in this particular case I have found annotated diagrams very useful. In fact, it would be interesting to get students to start the scheme of learning with an annotated diagram, “What does s/he already know?” and then keep going back to the same task to develop and refine their explanation of Particle Theory.
The learning outcome can vary hugely from one subject to another and often within a subject. A performance in Drama, a picture in Art, a piece of writing in English, an artefact in Design Technology plus a whole mixture of different ideas.
The critical thing that needs planning is how can students best evidence the expected learning?
“There are two parts in targeted learning: the first is being clear about what is to be learned from the lesson(s) (the learning intention); the second is having a way of knowing that the desired learning has been achieved (the success criteria). Targeted learning involves the teacher knowing where he or she is going with the lesson and ensuring that the students know where they are going. These pathways must be transparent for the students.”
Hattie (2012), Visible Learning for Teachers, p. 47
I’ve blogged about this more extensively in a post called When #SOLO Met Bloom Taxonomy. First, you have to be clear in your own mind what excellence looks like and then you have to communicate this with absolute clarity to your students. Great success criteria have three composite components. They are specific, extensive and challenging.
Specific – it’s important to be clear about the elements that are required for excellence. Clarity comes in part through specificity.
Extensive – this is linked to specificity but requires all the main elements of the excellent answer to be included. The issue of balance is raised here as students won’t necessarily be helped by a long tick list, what are the main elements that are key to excellence?
Challenging – keep asking yourself, “Would this produce an A* answer at GCSE?” There is a real danger that we do not ask enough of our students.
Major Concepts & Works
Throughout this series of lessons, I know where I am going as I put in place the factual bedrock that builds towards the greater understanding of Particle Theory. With an understanding of Particle Theory students can begin to explain the World around them.
Have you ever wondered why seagulls find it easier to fly through the air than the water? Or why they can dive into the water but bounce of ice? I use to worry about these things a lot
Don’t Forget to Plan the Procedural & Metacognitive Knowledge
In focussing on factual and conceptual knowledge above I wouldn’t want to finish this post without adding in the importance of developing students’ procedural and metacognitive knowledge. We all have a particular way of working in our subjects that we need to explicitly teach to students and then give them the opportunity to practise and develop their skills.
Scientists work through experimentation to test hypothesis. The focus is on control variable of variables after determining the independent and dependent variable and metrics to test a hypothesis.
Metacognitive knowledge is about developing the learner. Expectation of a student’s ability to plan in Year 7 and Sixth Form are different but too often we are not explicit enough. Sixth formers who I tutor for the Extended Project qualifications are shown the use of a GANTT chart, Diigo and Harvard Referencing via Neilstoolbox. Planning over months with a major outcome.
Other posts in this series:
Postscript & Acknowledgement
The idea for producing the connectives between the lesson plans phases was inspired by Zoe Elder (@fullonlearning). She produced a series of posts around “Marginal Gains” including one focused on “constructing learning outcomes and/or objectives” titled Constructing Learning SO THAT it is Meaningful & Purposeful with this really useful graphic.
I really liked the idea and so adopted it above. Interestingly, I’m not fully convinced that are definitions are totally the same. This isn’t an argument about who’s right or wrong but a word of caution about the need to have agreed definitions of learning intentions, learning outcomes and success criteria within a school so we can communicate with each other clearly.
Hattie, J (2012). Visible Learning for Teachers. London: Routledge
Robinson, M (2013) Trivium 21c Preparing Young People for the Future with Lessons from the Past, Independent Thinking Press
Teaching is an unusual profession in so much as you need to be both the architect of the learning and its builder. Architects start with a vision or concept of what a house or building should be whereas builders start with the foundations and build upwards from this solid ground. Continue reading