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4 ways to plan successful lessons

MONDAY, APRIL 20, 2015 11:53 AM

The implementation of the Common Core State Standards is changing the way teachers consider their instruction of math or English/language arts at every grade level. With key changes in what's expected of students in these subjects, planning effective lessons is all about prompting pupils to think independently, and use reasoning and critical thinking to solve complex problems. Read on for four ways teachers can craft successful lessons:

1. Understand the Standards
To plan effective lessons, teachers must consider both the State Standards and their own standards for what should be expected of their students by the end of the school year. Math teachers must understand the specific formulas, processes and skills needed to advance to the next grade level so they can create a plan for how to help their students reach that goal. ELA teachers must consider the specific reading, writing and analytical skills students need to move forward. Understanding the required Standards will help teachers create a broader plan of action as well as develop specific lesson plans.

2. Develop a purpose
Engaging activities and lessons that elicit class participation and discussion are important. However, they're only effective if they successfully teach students the lesson the teacher has prepared. So, instead of planning lessons around types of activities, teachers must first develop a clearly defined purpose for each lesson. Should students know how to factor equations by the end of the lesson? Should they be able to use language clues and context to interpret a piece of poetry in various ways? Developing goals like these will allow teachers to come up with the best activities to help students achieve them.

3. Instruct in multiple ways
Every child learns differently, so a single activity or discussion can't possibly be effective for each student in the classroom. Teachers should craft lessons that use several different teaching styles and activities that can engage students in various ways. For example, an ELA teacher may incorporate a short lecture, a class discussion, a small-group activity and then an independent worksheet into one lesson plan.

4. Include a conclusion
Teachers should make time to follow up at the end of the lesson with a summary of the key points and to answer questions. Leaving students with a final thought or a summary of what was most important about the lesson ensures these points are memorable. If homework is assigned, directions should be clear and easy to follow, and the task must be clearly connected to building the skills students learned that day.