How to Write a Great Lesson Plan, Part 2: The How

This is part 2 of our 2 part series on lesson planning. In Part 1: What & Why? we went over the first steps of lesson planning: title, audience, objectives, and materials. Now that we’ve got the foundations laid, we’re ready to dive into deciding the steps you will take to get the idea across.

Movable Type galley. Galera con tipos móviles.

5: Procedure

Here it is: the how. If you did your homework from Part 1 and have the what and why thoroughly worked out, the how tends to fall right into place. It’s important that your lesson plan empowers students to achieve the objectives… and that’s pretty much it.

Simple right?

Unfortunately, every teacher has gotten to the big finish only to have his or her students clueless, lost, and frustrated as they’re unable to complete the final tasks. Here are some tips to help your lesson meet your objectives almost every time:

Pro Procedure Guide:

Let your students know the end goal!

“By the time we’re done today, you’ll be dividing fractions.” “By the end of today’s lesson, you’ll have ordered a complete meal in English.” “When I’m through with you, you’ll be able to say the alphabet backwards, in your sleep.”

When your students know what they’re going for, it makes it easier for them to string all of those facts together into a coherent, meaningful plot. You wrote the procedure with an end goal in mind; it’s likely that to fully understand the lesson your students will have to have the end goal in mind as well. Give it to them!

Instructions are your friend!

If you start step 1 in your procedure without your students fully understanding what they’re supposed to do, you’re probably not going to make it to the objectives. Concept Checking Questions are vital even (perhaps especially) for your instructions. Be sure to plan enough to time into your lesson for every student to understand what they’re doing, or it probably won’t get done at all.

Write something to cut

In all probability, your lesson will run over. A wise teacher has planned for this and has something added deliberately to be cut out if need be or is comfortable snipping something out on the fly. Great lesson plans teach what they need to comfortably in the time allotted; they don’t rush through the last 3 steps because you were unwilling to cut something.

Have a back up

No matter how well planned you are, things can still flop. Have a back up and alternate activities that you can use to get you to the objectives in case something with the original plan goes terribly, or even slightly, wrong. At the very least, have other objectives in mind that you can meet easily when things go poorly.

Timken Roller Bearing Co., calendar, September 1950, teacher at desk

6: Assessment

You finish the final words of your lesson, and as far as you know, everything has gone wonderfully. Or has it? Although assessment has gotten a bad rap thanks to government mandated testing, it really should be a teacher’s best friend. Assessment lets you know if you’ve met the objectives, or in other words, if you did your job.

Assessments come in many forms. They can be formal or informal and occur before, during, and after the lesson is complete. Formal assessments are usually the first type we think of: those good, old fashioned tests and written assignments students usually do to prove they’ve learned something. Students can answer multiple choice questions, explain something in their own words, figure out the solution to a problem, make a diagram, or otherwise prove that they know what you hope they do.

Informal assessments come in a much wider variety. Concept checking questions are a form of informal assessment as is simply walking around and observing that students are engaging in the lesson successfully. Informal assessment is invaluable and often necessary. We can’t give a test on every thing, every day, but that doesn’t mean we can’t assess our students’ knowledge of it.

This may sound odd, but, when using informal assessment, it’s important to make sure you assess every student. Glancing around the room to see all students working often leads to inaccurate assessment. Walking around the room and looking at every paper on every student’s desk let’s you know who’s on track and who needs help.

In a perfect world, we would have time to do all kinds of assessments all the time: formal pre- and post-tests as well as informal assessments throughout each lesson. In reality, most teachers will only have enough time to do informal assessments throughout and a final assessment at the end of the week or even unit. This makes continuous informal assessments even more valuable, especially in classes where skills build on one another, and one day of missed material can result in weeks of lost understanding.

 7: Extensions and Other Notes

This is where things get pretty open ended. Maybe there’s some activity you just don’t have time for this year but would love to see done in the future when you’ve become more of a time-management master. Put notes or brief reminders of other things you could, should, or would do in the future. You’d be amazed how much you can forget in the year that passes in between lessons!

8: Share It!

You’ve put all this great work into your lesson plan. Don’t let it slumber soundly in the deepest corner of your hard drive. Share it with the world on Teachbuzz!


Creative Commons Love: Xose Castro, George Eastman House, and pmorgan on

Written by Michael Jones