Increasingly, there is a formal and written expectation that newly qualified teachers will have a completed lesson plan for every lesson they teach. I am not sure what to think of this. When I first started teaching, this expectation was outlined to you on the first day of term, but no one checked up on it. Consequently, you’d get away either with a few ideas sketched out in a planner or, in moments of supreme lassitude, the four-step lesson plan (made up in the four steps you take towards the classroom door).
Allowing the teacher to decide how detailed they wish their planning to be strikes me as a fairly civilised way of doing business. Since you, the teacher, are responsible for the amount, or lack, of planning you put into lessons, you, the teacher, will be on the receiving end of the consequences if you attempt to wing it.
Go in unprepared at your peril
If you don’t have sufficient reserves of energy or charisma, and you enter a difficult class with a totally unplanned lesson, you are likely to be eaten alive. And so, if only for this, I would advise that you make a decent fist of planning something for your classes for every lesson. The well planned lesson is key to keeping your students in decent order. Even if it goes pear-shaped you still have a script that you can cling onto grimly as you wade through the treacle of time towards the end of the lesson.
But by ‘decent fist’ I don’t mean that you should spend your whole life lesson planning. You’ll soon come to the understanding that planning a really excellent ‘bells and whistles’ lesson that completely engages takes the best part of half a day. You do not have that amount of time to plan a single lesson. It may be that you have six lessons a day – to plan bells and whistle lessons for that day would take three days itself. Erm … this equation is entirely insoluble unless you learn a few advanced skiving/workload management techniques.
You cannot plan every lesson to be as good as you can possible make it. Neither will you be able to fill in every single one of the silly little boxes asking you whether you have cross-checked your art lesson for links with numeracy, or what ICT skills the kids will be learning in your PE lesson. So don’t try. If you do, you will give yourself a nervous breakdown.
Remember that it is only a job after all, and have three different versions of lesson planning readily available, knowing when it is appropriate to bring them into operation:
1. The ‘it’ll do’.
2. The ‘I did my best’.
3. The ‘full Ofsted’.
The first of these is the only time you really bother with the notion of the four-part lesson, only you don’t bother with the starter, so it is, in effect, a three-part lesson plan. You teach them something new, give them independent work to investigate this new concept, and then check whether they learned anything at the end. You will find that most of your lessons will follow something related to this pattern.
The second is when you really want to give a class a decent learning experience, because they are either really nice or really horrid. You sit with a piece of paper for five minutes (you will be surprised how rarely you will get to do this), come up with three or four ideas as to activities you can use to teach the kids the subject, and then hastily scribe these onto a lesson plan, checking whether you have some differentiation for the SEN kids and an extra task for the higher attaining.
The third version you do ‘as and when’ someone else is in your classroom, and it is worth going to town on it. If you want to be seen to be a really good teacher then you must focus on the parts of your teaching that are visible. You therefore pay a great deal of attention to getting your learning environment sorted, and come to a pretty quick and certain realisation that you must take observed lessons deadly seriously.
The full Ofsted is not to be brought out every day, however. There will be managers who pay lip service to the idea that you are expected to prepare every lesson down to the last degree. Check their timetable in the staffroom. They may very well be able to do this (but probably don’t), as they don’t actually teach very often. Your job is to give of your best and much of this is realising, in your early years, that teaching is, to regurgitate a cliché, a marathon not a sprint.
You can’t give of your absolute best to every class, every lesson. If you attempt to do this you will find that you have exhausted your physical and emotional reserves within the first two or three weeks of term, and will have a long distance to drag your still breathing corpse to the holidays. As a rule of thumb, it’s probably a good policy to give each of your classes a version of your best at least once a week. If that runs over into twice a week then all to the good, but don’t expect to be able to turn in the full Ofsted every lesson.
This excerpt is from Phil Beadle’s essential and irreverent guide to the classroom, How to Teach, ISBN: 9781845903930
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