Donald Orlich is professor at Washington State University and lead author of
Teaching Strategies: A Guide to Effective Instruction.
One hallmark of teaching as an organized activity is the process called
planning. Teachers who wish to instruct in a systematic manner must devote a
substantial proportion of their time and activity to planningdeciding what
and how you want your students to learn. Master teachers exhibit three common
traits: they are well organized in their planning, they communicate their
instructional objectives effectively to their students, and they have high
expectations for their students.
Time for a systematic approach
The more systematic the approach
to instructional planning is, the greater the probability of success. Planning
instruction or lessons means establishing priorities, establishing goals and
objectives, and establishing learning priorities for students. Written lesson
plans set out in advance your priorities concerning time, learning materials,
objectives, and types of instruction. They are tools for success, both for the
teacher and for the students.
Timewe have only so much of it. Even master teachers cannot create a single
extra second in the day, but master teachers do control time by
systematically and carefully planning its productive use for instruction. The
lesson plans teachers prepare help them organize and deliver their daily
lessons efficiently. Numerous studies have shown that, for teachers, being
well-organized correlates highly with effectiveness.
Developing a comfort level with planning
The types of lesson
plans used by teachers vary widely due to the teacher's experience, the grade
level, and the subjects being taught. Writing lesson plans is similar to
learning to ride a bicycle. Beginners concentrate on balance, feet on the
pedals, and hands on the bars. Only short trips are completed. With
experience, pedaling and balance become automatic, and the focus is on safety,
comfort, and fun. New teachers tend to overplanthat is, to prepare very
elaborate plans, being careful not to omit any point; more experienced
teachers prepare brief plans. It is important for all teachers to make wise
decisions in helping their students reach the intended outcomes.
New classroom teachers will probably begin making detailed plans by imitating
a favorite teacher. Later, after further study and experience, new teachers
will expand or adapt the basic planning skills they have acquired to address
their students' specific needs. Classroom innovations are usually developed
once teachers are in their own classrooms with their own set of learners, have
developed their own instructional resources, and have experience with various
strategies. Although the fundamental steps in lesson planning remain the same,
the basic formula is always modified to suit individual teachers' objectives
Planning is nothing more than thinking about what you want to accomplish. You
think about the details, such as who does what, when, for what length of time,
and what opportunities will be created for effective student learning. The
main objective of lesson planning is to ensure that all activities and
processes provide a supportive educational environment for the learner.
Teachers sometimes forget about the learner and concentrate instead on the
teaching process or on what is being taught. If lesson planning is to be a
useful task, it must always focus on the interactions between what is to be
learned and the learner.
Plan to be flexible
Teachers who develop highly structured and
detailed plans rarely adhere to them in lock-step fashion. Indeed, such
rigidity would probably hinder rather than help the teaching and learning
process. For example, a teacher may plan for a twenty-minute student activity,
only to discover it requires sixty minutes to complete. The teacher would then
make the appropriate adjustment in his or her plan to ensure student success.
Although the teacher has prepared carefully (perhaps precisely) to teach a
lesson effectively, he or she must allow for flexible delivery. Furthermore,
during the classroom interaction, teachers need to make adaptations and add
artistry to each day's plan.
Elements of planning
We approach the process of planning as
reflective experience. Effective teachers spend a great deal of time thinking
about what and how they will teach. Effective teachers will often plan with
their colleagues and may also plan with their students for various student-led
activities. When developing instructional plans, use these key ideas:
Planning Process Components:
Standards being met
Theme or unit
Cognitive level check
Reteaching as needed
More of an 'art' than a 'science'
Effective planning has a
positive impact on student achievement. Planning is a time-consuming process
for the beginning teacher and even more experienced teachers. As they gain
experience, teachers will begin to know which activities take detailed
planning and which do not.
Knowing when to abandon plans to take advantage of that unintended learning
opportunity is a master teacher's skill. A good plan provides teachers with
the context for this decision. Does this new opportunity (teachable moment)
contribute more positively to the objectives of the lesson? Are you meeting a
student's important need with a lesson detour? A teacher must exhibit a
balance between preparation and flexibility in executing the plan. That, of
course, is the artistry of teaching.
Reprinted with permission from Teaching Strategies: A Guide to Effective
Instruction, Seventh Edition. Copyright © 2005 Houghton Mifflin Company.
All rights reserved.