All teachers have to adhere to a curriculum. That curriculum dictates what needs to be taught to children within which time period, gearing up toward examinations or tests to assess the ability of those children to understand the coursework they have been taught. The time scale within which the teacher needs to work has to take into account the amount of information the children need to learn and the amount of classes this is fitted into. Of course, in the teaching environment, things never go to plan. Add children to the equation, and things can change dramatically as a teacher without a lesson plan will find out. The lesson plan is the preparation that enables a teacher to know the parameters of what is needed to be included within that lesson to achieve the overall aim of the coursework.
When buying into a course outside of the school environment, for example correspondence courses, the lesson plans are laid out in advance so that the student sees where they are going and can gauge their progress. In a classroom environment, they help the teacher to keep within the parameters of what is being taught and ensure that all the coursework is covered within the time available to them leading to those tests which not only test the children, but test the teacher’s ability to impart information.
How the lesson plan helps
A class needs some kind of structure. The teacher leads the class, and if having a plan will find this a lot easier. The plan tells the teacher what has to be included in that particular lesson and helps them to gear their teaching to it, rather than letting the classroom dictate the amount of work done. For example, in language teaching, a lesson plan may include the use of conjugating verbs. It would be unrealistic to believe that a subject as wide as this can be taught in one lesson. However, if the teaching plan breaks this into small, manageable areas over the course of the term, what the teacher is heading for is understanding and reinforcement of learning. It is this reinforcement that really helps a teacher to impart information.
When no lesson plan exists which takes into account the whole term, individual lesson plans may fail because the ideas need to be reinforced in future lesson plans, so that students learn the application of ideas, rather than merely ideas themselves. The teacher who writes an astute lesson plan will have mapped the term to include that reinforcement and thus their lesson plan will work toward an end result of understanding. In academic studies of language, science, math etc., this reinforcement is vital, whereas with classes on non academic studies may separate the lessons into individual learning processes which are in themselves complete.
Substitute teaching and future classes
Another obvious benefit of lessons plans is that of absence. These give a substitute teacher an indication of what would have been taught to the children had the teacher been present. This also provides continuation for the children. Disruption to the plan can often disorientate them and take future plans off course. The lesson plans are also time savers for future classes, and can be kept and adapted to save the teacher time.
The use of teaching plans for future benefit
Teaching plans help a teacher to assess their own ability as much as the ability of children to learn. Those lessons which prove particularly successful give the teacher an indication of what style of teaching works with which subjects and which children. This also gives them great insight as to how success is gleaned, and to adapt future lessons to use that knowledge for the betterment of teaching future classes. A teaching plan should be adjustable and a good quality teacher will be able to adjust their teaching skills to fit both the curriculum and the kind of kids they encounter within the parameters of an overall plan.
Dr. Bob Kizlik of Adprima, which gives information for teachers, uses the argument that the fundamental skill that gives teachers “ownership” of teaching methods is indeed planning. The planning sets parameters and tests a teacher’s ability to impart information that the student retains. An inexperienced teacher for example, may arrive in a classroom unprepared. Communication is the most vital skill a teacher has, but planning allows them to have the right materials and information ready to implement a set lesson on a given subject or element of it.
Teachers who have written lesson plans know what fails as well as what works, and are able to develop and hone their teaching methods using their experience with failed lesson plans to ensure that the lesson plans are adapted to suit the student for future lessons. The main ingredients remain the same, though the teacher needs to adapt their teaching skills to get the results required. In fact a failed lesson really does help a teacher to examine and improve their methods of imparting information, and gives them an idea of their own ability to teach and a measure which helps them improve that ability.
The downside of lesson plans is when these are rigidly adhered to regardless of learning abilities of the children. There does need to be a rapport between the student and teacher, and a lesson plan should incorporate ways to teach which are adaptable to different skill levels and backgrounds of children being taught. Rigid lesson plans assume that all children learn at the same rate though this is not the way the real world is. Once the teacher understands how to adapt their teaching skills within the framework of a lesson plan, they will also be able to give the students a better learning experience, using flexibility within the solid framework of the curriculum, rather than adhering to the same ineffective teaching methods. The teaching plan helps teachers to improve their methods by showing them their weaknesses. Once these are recognized and resolved, the lesson plans help to structure the overall direction of the curriculum being taught.