Rethinking lesson planning


Click on the image for a pdf version.

Over the last year I have been using the document shown on the right to help with my lesson planning. It is a document created by Research for Better Teaching (RBT in Acton, MA) which helps focus where lesson planning should begin. For many of us lesson planning begins with the activities and content we want to present in class. This document, an example of backwards planning, suggests that we should instead begin by determining our Master Objectives:

What do we want students to know or be able to do when the lesson is over? How will we know if students know it or can do it?

Every other element of the lesson (content, activities, differentiation considerations, and skills) is built around our answers to these questions. The language we use to describe our lessons is another way of thinking about the difference in the starting point. For example:

Instead of:     “Students will learn about subatomic particles and the periodic table.”
Try:     “Students will be able to use the periodic table to determine the number of protons, electrons, and neutrons for an atom of any element.”

Assessing whether a student has met the lesson objectives should be clearer with the second version. I have found the approach helpful in setting up rubrics for my classes and ultimately communicating student progress. Hope it is helpful to you as well.

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