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A lesson plan is a teacher's detailed description of the course of instruction for an individual lesson. While there are many formats for a lesson plan, most lesson plans contain some or all of these elements, typically in this order:

  • the title of the lesson
  • the amount of time required to complete the lesson
  • a list of required materials
  • a list of objectives. These may be stated as behavioral objectives (what the student is expected to be able to do upon completion of the lesson) or as knowledge objectives (what the student is expected to know upon completion of the lesson).
  • the set or lead-in to the lesson. This is designed to focus students on the skill or concept about to be instructed. Common sets include showing pictures or models, asking leading questions, or reviewing previously taught lessons.
  • the instructional component. This describes the sequence of events which will take place as the lesson is delivered. It includes the instructional input—what the teacher plans to do and say, and guided practice—an opportunity for students to try new skills or express new ideas with the modeling and guidance of the teacher.
  • independent practice. This component allows students to practice the skill or extend the knowledge on their own.
  • the summary. This is an opportunity for the teacher to wrap up the discussion and for the students to pose unanswered questions.
  • evaluation. Some, but not all, lessons have an evaluative component where the teacher can check for mastery of the instructed skills or concepts. This may take the form of a set of questions to be answered or a set of instructions to be followed. The evaluation may be formative; that is to say, used to guide subsequent learning, or summative; that is to say, used to determine a grade or other achievement criterion.
  • analysis. Often not part of a lesson plan, this component allows the teacher to reflect on the lesson and answer questions such as what went well, what needs improving, and how students reacted to the lesson.
  • Continuity - the content/ideas/theme/rules etc. from previous day are reflected upon or reviewed

The exact format chosen for a lesson plan will be driven by school requirements and personal tastes of the teacher, in that order. Unit plans follow much the same format, but are intended to cover an entire unit of work, which may be delivered over several days or weeks.

In today's constructivist teaching style, the individual lesson plan is often inappropriate. Specific objectives and timelines may be included in the unit plan, but lesson plans are more fluid as they cater to student needs and learning styles. As students are asked to engage in problem or inquiry learning, rigid lesson planning with title, behavioral objectives, and specific outcomes within certain time constraints often no longer fit within modern effective pedagogy. Today, formal lesson plans are often required only of student teachers, who must be demonstrably familiar with the components of a lesson, or teachers new to the field, who have not yet internalized the flow of a lesson.

Units of work are also known as Schemes of work in the UK.

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