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ChangingMinds Blog! > Blog Archive > 16-Feb-14


Sunday 16-February-14

Lesson Plans that Work

My wife is a former teacher, whose latter years were blighted by a young head of department who seemed to think formal, written plans was essential for the success of every lesson. By charting the teaching, moment by moment, the principle suggests a controlled march towards universal learning.

But lessons are not that simple. First, children learn differently and at different rates. Their motivations also vary wildly as they struggle towards adulthood. Teaching is more like herding cats than marching soldiers. If you try to force the plan, you will get either mystified compliance or outright rebellion.

So should you just not plan? Should you start with a general intent and feel your way forward? Somehow this seems just as blind and progress is likely to be slow.

In practice, my wife never stopped planning. She was constantly thinking, collating materials and preparing for every one of her lessons ahead. Contrast this with the formal planner who sits down, devises a plan, writes it out, then goes off to do other things. When you complete a task, you get mental closure, whereby you can let go of it, putting it behind you. Who, do you think, was most ready for their lessons?

In fact in a recent revelation, my wife realized that most of all she was preparing herself. With all the thought beforehand, she could walk into the classroom confident and ready for anything.

Formal planning can yet be a good thing. For the inexperienced it is a discipline that can help marshal their thoughts. If you are working in a team, it is a useful shared communication. It can also be a record that may be re-used at a future date.

Formal planning can also create a paper mountain that is never used again. My wife talked often about her teaching within the department, seeking ideas and freely sharing things she had found effective. In this way she influenced not just her students (many of who still communicate with her, years after they left school), but also other teachers. I suspect that if she just wrote it down and filed it, then few if any would have read it, let along have gained the benefit of a dynamic conversation.

Eisenhower said 'Plans are nothing. Planning is everything.' It seems he was right.

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