I’ve been experimenting with the five minute lesson plan recently. I’m not in the mood to add links, but it is very easy to come by: just Google it. Basically it’s a single page lesson planning proforma with lots of boxes and arrows which you complete by hand. It’s been formally approved at college as a possible lesson plan for observations, so I thought I would give it a try. To be honest, it’s got a bit of work to go on it. Most of the page is taken up with stuff about the lesson, leaving not much room for detail about what is going to happen in the lesson itself, which for me rather defeats the object. I mean, the point of a lesson plan is to help you to decide what is going to happen in the lesson and when it is going to happen. The clue is in the name, right? Well, perhaps.
The Big Kahuna Form
This is the traditional full fat one you use for lesson observations. You know, it probably has lots of boxes for things like learning outcomes, timing, teacher activity, learner activity, differentiation, assessment, self evaluation/reflection (which I usually just delete: why use a box when you have a blog?). It’s probably got some checklists on it for things like equality and diversity, embedding maths and English, all that stuff. The thing I like about this is its ability to spell out to an observer precisely why I am doing something in class. LOOK, it says, THIS IS THE DIFFERENTIATION BIT. AND THIS IS WHERE I AM EMBEDDING SOME MATHS. AND THIS IS THE ASSESSMENT BIT. AND IT’S NOT JUST A LUCKY ACCIDENT. This is what this plan is for, for me, anyway.
The Five Minute Lesson Plan
If the Big Kahuna is full fat, this is semi-skimmed. There’s still space for stuff like assessment and differentiation, but you’re supposed to be able to fill it in by hand, in no more than five minutes. A nice idea, and I think with a bit of tweaking, this could work, although I like the idea of a lesson plan for an observation being a bit more “in your face” in its approach to showing an observer why you are doing things. When done well, it gives them, and you, nowhere to hide.
The Blank Piece of Paper Plan
Also known as the “back of yesterday’s handout” plan, or the “tapped out using the Notes app on my phone on the train” plan. You are probably thinking that for me, most formal lesson plans for are not so much there for my benefit, as for the benefit of showing to an observer that I know what I am doing. You’d be right: my preferred planning document is indeed a blank piece of paper. Usually it starts off as a few bullet points, aims in the top margin if necessary, then decorated with swirls and arrows and comments and extra bits, and crossings out and so on.
The No Piece of Paper Plan
This is where the lesson arrives fully formed in your head,or simply that the stages are so clear, or familiar, there is just no point in writing them down. It’s unusual, for me. Like I say, the process of writing helps me to plan. But for some people this can work and does work well.
Processes & Products
There is a distinction here between planning as a process and a plan as product. Planning on a blank piece of paper is a process, a way of thinking through what is going to happen, whereas the formal plan is more often a product. I’m not allowed to pace the office talking to myself, which is my other way of thinking things through (*call me an auditory-kinaesthetic learner, however, and you and I will have to step outside for a Quiet Chat) so I am limited to scrawling notes on pieces of paper. Very often I will never look at the plan during the lesson: it is the act of planning which is important for me, not the plan itself. That said, I don’t do one plan for the observer and another for me, because that, to be honest, is just stupid. If you can find time to do this then you can find time to plan a better lesson. If the situation requires a full fat plan, then I plan straight onto there and print it out for the lesson.
I suspect that no plan suits everybody all the time, partly because if there were it would have made its way round the world by now. This, for me, is a good thing, because it shows up the diversity of not only the different types of lessons and learners we teach, but also the diversity of who we are as teachers. What works for me may not work for you. What works for me teaching a teacher training session may not work for me when I am teaching an ESOL class. What works for me with Level 2 ESOL may not work for me with Beginners.What works for me on Monday may not work for me on Thursday.
Isn’t that wonderful?