What Is a Lesson Plan?

A lesson plan is a teacher’s daily guide for what students need to learn, how it will be taught, and how learning will be measured.

Lesson plans help teachers be more effective in the classroom by providing a detailed outline to follow each class period.

This ensures every bit of class time is spent teaching new concepts and having meaningful discussions — not figuring it out on the fly!

The most effective lesson plans have six key parts:

  1. Lesson Objectives
  2. Related Requirements
  3. Lesson Materials
  4. Lesson Procedure
  5. Assessment Method
  6. Lesson Reflection

Because each part of a lesson plan plays a role in the learning experience of your students, it’s important to approach them with a clear plan in mind.

Let’s start with the first part of every lesson plan -- the lesson objectives!

1. Lesson Objectives

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Lesson objectives list what students will be able to do after completing the lesson.

These objectives let you easily tell if your lesson has effectively taught your students new concepts and skills.

It can feel overwhelming to pin down specific takeaways for a lesson, but you can break the process into steps to do it in a breeze!

First, it’s best to view your lesson objectives as goals for your class and students.

One of the most popular goal-setting strategies is the “SMART” criteria, which ensures goals are focused.

In the context of lesson planning, you can use the SMART criteria to determine your lesson objectives:

  • Is the objective specific?
  • Is the objective measurable?
  • Is the objective attainable by all students?
  • Is the objective relevant to your class and students?
  • Is the objective time-based to align with your syllabus?

For each objective, it’s important to start with an action that relates to what students should be able to do after the lesson.

Depending on what topic you’re teaching and the level of knowledge your students have, these actions will vary.

For example, when teaching brand new concepts, you may define actions like define, identify, explain, and determine.

However, if your lesson involves more advanced tasks, the objectives may include actions like create, use, perform, or measure.

To see these phrases in context, let’s look at examples that a computer teacher might choose when teaching Microsoft Word.

For an introductory lesson about Microsoft Word, objectives could be:

  • Identify parts of the ribbon menu
  • Determine methods of selecting text in a document
  • Define fonts and font styles

In a more advanced class, objectives might include:

  • Insert a document header
  • Use document themes
  • Add a page border

When creating your lesson objectives, keep in mind that it’s easier to measure student success when you have specific goals.

Once you’ve put your lesson objectives together, it’s time to tie them in with the next part of your lesson plan -- the related requirements!

2. Related Requirements

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Related requirements are national, state, or school standards that dictate what you need to teach in a class.

If you teach a CTE course you likely need to tie your lessons to certification requirements as well.

Every lesson you teach should help you hit those requirements. Listing them in your lesson plans helps you satisfy those requirements while focusing on the end goal of your class!

On top of that, some administrators require teachers to distinctly show how they will teach course standards in each lesson.

If you put them on your lesson plans, you’ve got a quick reference to prove you’re on the ball!

When listing course standards or certification items on your lesson plan, it’s smart to use the exact organizational system found on your standards to make sure your class aligns.

If you don’t have the specific outline for your course standards, ask another teacher or your administrator where you can find them.

To get detailed certification requirements, check the certification provider’s website for an exam outline or test plan.

Laying out each lesson plan according to your requirements can be tedious work, but it will ultimately help you stay organized and aligned with what you’re supposed to teach!

3. Lesson Materials

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The third section on your lesson plan is the list of materials that you need to teach the lesson and measure student outcomes.

This section prepares you to deliver your lessons every day.

Without this list, you may accidentally forget to print an important document or sign out the shared laptop cart!

Common types of lesson materials include:

  • Student handouts
  • Textbooks
  • Visual aids
  • Grading rubrics
  • Activity packets
  • Computers / Tablets

The list of materials for each lesson depends on what you plan to teach, how you’ll teach it, and how you’ll measure lesson objectives.

Because of this, many teachers compile their list of lesson materials in tandem with their lesson procedure!

4. Lesson Procedure

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Your lesson procedure is an in-depth explanation of how the lesson will progress in the classroom.

The lesson procedure is essentially step-by-step instructions that walk you through everything from the time students enter the classroom until the bell rings at the end of the period.

It’s smart to be very detailed in this portion of your lesson plan. After all, there will be cases when another teacher or substitute needs to fill in for you!

When writing your lesson procedure, you need to choose the type of activities that will help students meet the lesson objectives.

To do that, you can answer a list of questions, including:

  • How will you introduce the topic?
  • What’s the best way to teach this information to your students?
  • How can you incorporate problem solving and critical thinking?
  • What real-life scenarios relate to this topic?
  • Does this topic lend itself to group work?

It’s also a great idea to find out how other teachers address the topics in the classroom. You can do this by talking to coworkers, joining an online community, or searching for lesson ideas on educational blogs.

After writing out a rough draft of your lesson procedure, many teachers outline it according to a specific teaching strategy.

At AES, we recommend teachers use the four phases:

  1. Explore: Students discover a concept
  2. Learn & Practice: Students apply their discoveries
  3. Reflect: Students review what they’ve learned
  4. Reinforce: Students apply their knowledge to problem-solving scenarios

Phase 1 - Explore

In the Explore phase of your lesson, you’ll introduce the objectives of the lesson and discuss key concepts students should know.

This portion of your lesson procedure may entail an icebreaker activity to get students thinking about a new concept.

In other cases, you might introduce the information by using a presentation to lecture while your students take notes.

Ultimately, the strategy you use in the Explore phase will depend on the topics you’ll be teaching and your students’ prior knowledge.

Phase 2 - Learn & Practice

In the Learn & Practice phase, your students will work independently to get into the details of your lesson.

If you use a textbook as your main curriculum resource, your students can read through an assigned passage to take notes or complete a worksheet.

If you use a digital curriculum system, it’s the perfect time for students to work through the digital lessons and guided notes.

You may also incorporate a class activity, group work, or skills practice to further engage your students in what they’re learning.

Overall, this phase will make up the bulk of your lesson time, so be sure to detail everything out in your lesson procedure!

Phase 3 - Reflect

In the Reflect phase, students will look back (and reflect on) what they’ve learned in the lesson.

Most often, teachers lead a class discussion with critical thinking questions for students to answer aloud or in their class journal.

It’s important to list the questions you plan to ask within the lesson procedure, to make sure you don’t forget anything!

Phase 4 - Reinforce

In the Reinforce phase, students will apply what they’ve learned through critical thinking activities.

Depending on the lesson, you may want students to complete these tasks individually or as part of a group.

This portion of the lesson procedure helps you gauge if your students will achieve the lesson objectives and often tie in with the assessment method!

5. Assessment Method

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The assessment method measures whether your students learned a lesson’s information and met your lesson objectives.

The methods listed on your lesson plan will most often be formative assessments and vary from lesson to lesson.

To start, there are dozens of ways to measure student learning through formative assessments. Some of the most common assessment options include:

  • Quizzes
  • Hands-on activities
  • Writing assignments
  • Group presentations
  • Exit slips
  • Class journal entries

In addition, your assessment method may be an in-class assignment or homework for students to complete prior to the next class.

When choosing your assessment method, it’s important to incorporate your lesson objectives.

If an objective was related to understanding a concept, consider an assessment that requires students to explain that concept.

If an objective was for students to demonstrate a skill, design an assessment to confirm they can do that skill.

Also, while many assessments receive grades in a class, formative assessments don’t always need to be graded!

Ultimately, the purpose of this assessment is to measure how well your students learned a lesson’s material based on the way you presented information.

This measurement will help you wrap up each lesson plan with the lesson reflection.

6. Lesson Reflection

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The lesson reflection portion of a lesson plan encourages teachers to take notes on how to improve a lesson after it has been completed.

By this point, your lesson has clear objectives, a plan for teaching, and a way to assess student learning.

But if you don’t  critically consider whether you succeeded, you’re doing a disservice to your future students!

When completing your lesson reflection, ask yourself questions like:

  • Did a part of the lesson take longer than expected?
  • Was there a portion that students asked for a lot of help with?
  • Did students breeze through the information with no problem?
  • Were students engaged and interested in the lesson?
  • Were the objectives met by most (or all) of the students?

Essentially, you want to note any part of your lesson that didn’t go as expected.

In addition, it’s smart to record ideas for improvement or adjustments in this section as well.

That way, when you go to teach your lessons in the future, you have all of the information for improvement in one place!

Lessons Are Just the Beginning

Lesson plans are the first steps in creating a full-fledged curriculum for a class.

They dig into the details that ensure you teach the right information to your students at the right time, and they simplify your career by giving you a roadmap to follow each and every day.

But what about the big picture?

This is one of the hardest parts of teaching for educators throughout the world. It’s not just the individual lessons that need your attention — it’s the class as a whole!

To do that, you need to create a curriculum.

So where do you start?

Learn how to create your own curriculum now!

Learn How to Create Your Curriculum