Whether you are teaching science, reading, history, math or another subject, there are certain ways to structure your lesson for maximum effectiveness. Here are the elements of an effective lesson plan.
Start with the Objectives
When you write a lesson, start off with the objectives. What exactly do you want the students to learn? One to three clear, concrete objectives are best. Having too many objectives makes the lesson confusing and doesn’t allow enough time to go into depth for each one. For example, if you are teaching a lesson about the different types of volcanoes, two objectives would be enough, such as: 1. Students will be able to name the three types of volcanoes, and 2. Students will know the type of lava, type of eruption, and shape of mountain for each type of volcano. These are concrete objectives that can be assessed at the end of the lesson.
The beginning of the lesson is often called the anticipatory set. This serves to arouse the students’ interest and tap their background knowledge of a topic. Begin the lesson with a question or short anecdote about something that most students are familiar with. Bringing the concept into their realm of experience enables them to grasp the new knowledge more readily. In the example of the volcano lesson, you might ask if students have ever seen a video of a volcano erupting. Hands will shoot up, and most students will be familiar with at least some aspects of an erupting volcano. They will then be able to add the new knowledge to what they already know.
In this part of the lesson, the teacher provides information directly to the students. It is most effective to use more than one mode of communication to address different learning styles. In addition to verbal communication, incorporate visual aids such as pictures, slides, or diagrams, and realia, objects from real life, such as samples of different types of lava rocks in a volcano lesson.
Guided practice allows students to work on an activity while the teacher circulates and gives help as needed. Students may work individually or in groups, using the knowledge from the lesson in writing, drawing or some other type of hands-on activity. This gives the teacher a good opportunity to observe whether the students are mastering the concepts of the lesson, and to help clarify ideas for students who need extra help.
Checking for Understanding
Checking for understanding is critical, and should take place throughout the lesson. Frequently stop during the lesson to ask students questions to see if they are paying attention and understanding what you are teaching. Reteach if there is confusion.
Closure or Review
The end of the lesson should always include a review of the objectives. This serves as an informal assessment to see if the students have understood what you were trying to teach. Ask questions directly relating to the objectives, and randomly call on individual students to get an idea of how well the material was understood. Reiterate the objectives as the students answer the questions.
Individual practice allows the students to use their new knowledge on their own, without being guided by the teacher. This may be done as homework, or in class at the end of the lesson. Especially when teaching math, it is helpful to allow students a few minutes to get started on their homework in class if time allows.