I used to struggle a lot with lesson planning. For me, it wasn’t because I couldn’t do it, I just panicked so much, because I lacked confidence. I’d get hung up on all sorts of things, and in the end stay up really late, and wake up exhausted and feeling deflated.
So here’s how to go about things in a clever way: first of all: Take a deep breath, and take it one step at a time.
Start with your lesson objective. What do you want your students to be able to do at the end of the lesson? And next: how can you achieve it? First of all, break it down. Here’s a link to the info-graphic above that’ll help you to break things down, and plan more efficiently.
In languages, I’d look for one activity per skill, so that the students will be busy speaking, listening, reading and finally writing. If you don’t always manage to cover all of those skills in a lesson that’s okay. Just make sure to keep things balanced, and catch up with a skill you might have neglected, in your next lesson.
Start by either waking your students up, or settling them down, depending on the year group and the time of day, with a starter at the beginning of your lesson. This activity should not exceed 5-10 minutes. It’s really just to set the tone for your lesson, and to refresh their memory, or introduce something new in an engaging way.
Are you starting a new topic, or do you need them to revise a topic you’re already working with? Depending on that, you’ll plan your starter.
You can give them a small starter task as they enter the room, and they will sit down, and start working on it, as you’ve already set the tone for the lesson by having them enter the classroom quietly, and calmly, whilst you give them a sheet with the task at the door, or point to the board, and put a shushing finger to your lips to indicate that it’s a quiet task. This can be anything from a riddle, linked to your topic / lesson objective to a word search, or a math exercise.
Here’s a list of starters that work for me, and it also contains a link to a really useful Starter Generator for PowerPoint.
If you want to wake your students up, make it a bit of a thrilling starter, where they have to get moving, but make sure it all still fits into your 5-10 minutes, and be strict with that otherwise you’ll quickly run out of time, without reaching your lesson objective.
The starter will already cover at least one of your four skills, so now find an activity for each of the other 3 skills. Leave the writing task to the end, and make sure to leave enough time for them to finish it.
Also make sure to differentiate it according to levels in your class. You might have special needs, give them a writing frame, or a slightly amended task that makes it achievable for them, but still progresses your students. In languages, you could give them a crib sheet with an easier version of the text the other students are working on, or a gap fill with the vocabulary they need in a box.
Do the same for your high achievers. Stretch them, by adding something more sophisticated. You can simply ask them to write more complex sentences (but word it in a way that makes it very clear what you mean), to include at least x amount of adjectives, verbs, etc. Or you can give them an entirely different task that still deals with the topic, but is significantly harder. It doesn’t always have to be the holy grail of sophistication, but throw something special in once in a while, and differentiate as you go. I recommend setting up a challenge wall with different topics that you can refer to whenever you need it, in order to have writing frames and stretching materials ready. Here’s a blogpost about challenge walls.
If you want to give your students more freedom, and have them decide which level of difficulty they want to go with, put traffic lights on the board, and explain to them what the options are (green=easy, orange= medium, red = sophisticated).
Make them want to achieve, make it competitive, by promising a merit, or a prize to the person who manages to write most adjectives, most words, etc.
You can also make your students compete against the clock, where they have to achieve a certain thing, for example: find 15 words in the text that are used for cooking in one minute. Go, go, go!!
It is very important to make sure everyone has understood the task. Triple check to be on the safe side. Explain it once, now have a high achieving student repeat the task, and finally let a lower achieving student explain what needs to be done.
Over-explaining is worth it, it’s always better than having many students not understand it and having to individually go around re-explaining it. Also let them know why they’re doing a task, and how it will help them reach the next level. If they don’t know why they are supposed to do something, they might be reluctant to engage, which is only natural. Wouldn’t you?
Make sure to praise your students if they produce good work, and tell them that they are making good progress.
Remember your assessment for learning. Circulate the room to check what your students are writing, and if there are any questions. If it turns out they haven’t understood, stop the activity, and re-explain the task.
Stop the lesson 5 minutes before it officially ends, in order to do a plenary. This can be a mini whiteboard challenge, or they can earn to leave 2 minutes early, if they tell you something they’ve learned today, or anything else that makes it easy for you to determine if the class has met the lesson objective, and where you have to work harder to get them there.