How to Write a Lesson Plan for Elementary School

Instructor: Clio Stearns

Clio has taught education courses at the college level and has a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction.

Lesson planning is one of the most important aspects of being an engaged and organized teacher. In this lesson, you will learn about how to write an elementary school lesson plan by setting goals and objectives, thinking about your class, and following a basic architecture to ensure successful planning.

Why Plan?

As a second grade teacher, Ms. Hayes knows that planning is important, and this year she has taken on a student teacher, Pam, who asks Ms. Hayes about the time she spends planning. Pam wants to know the point of writing a lesson plan for elementary school students, when they can be so unpredictable and things can go awry easily. Ms. Hayes explains to Pam that planning has several purposes: it helps her clearly articulate her goals, and it ensures that she knows what materials she will need for each lesson. Careful plans, Ms. Hayes tells Pam, might take some time to create, but in the end they actually save time for students and teachers by making sure the instructional hours are put to good and thoughtful use. Pam is sold on the importance of planning, and she asks Ms. Hayes to talk to her about how she writes lesson plans for her second graders.

Set Goals and Objectives

Ms. Hayes tells Pam that one of the most important aspects of planning is setting goals and objectives. A goal is a major understanding you hope your students will achieve by the end of a unit, or series of lessons. Goals might be for the whole class or they might be for individual learners. An objective is a more concrete attainment that students can work toward over the course of one lesson. A lesson might actually have several objectives. For instance, Ms. Hayes reminds Pam, their class is working on decoding skills in reading and the overall goal of the unit is for students to know how to tackle tricky or unfamiliar words in texts. Ms. Hayes explains, though, that the objective of today's specific lesson was for students to use the strategy of finding smaller words hidden inside longer, trickier words. The lesson was oriented toward teaching the objective, but with the broader goal in mind.

Consider Your Students

Ms. Hayes then cautions Pam that a lesson for elementary school students can only be successful if the teacher keeps the students in mind while writing the plan. For instance, this year's class of second graders tends to be fidgety and restless, so Ms. Hayes keeps them on the rug only for short stretches of time and gives them lots of opportunities to change what they are doing. Last year's students could sit still for longer but tended to struggle more with independent tasks, so Ms. Hayes focused on helping them gradually become more independent. Pam is beginning to understand how different students might benefit from different lesson styles even when the objective of the lesson is the same.

Architecture of a Lesson

Next, Ms. Hayes advises Pam on the basic architecture, or design, of her lessons. She finds that the most successful lessons:

  • Begin by bringing the class together and assessing prior knowledge or connecting to the previous day's work;
  • Provide direct, teacher-led instruction oriented toward the lesson's objective;
  • Give students a chance to practice the objective in partnerships or alongside the teacher;
  • Give students a chance to work independently or in collaborative groups toward the objective; and
  • Provide a chance for students to reflect on their work and assess themselves.

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