Creating an amazing lesson plan for students (or adults!) doesn’t need to be complicated. There are lots of long winded lesson development tools out there. Especially if you’re a new homeschooling parent or a new teacher, it can be overwhelming to plan out an entire year of learning and curriculum.
Expert teachers break down the large ideas into small questions or objectives. Ponder each lesson plan with, “What do I want my kiddos to be able to answer after this lesson?” Remember sometimes it takes 2, 3, 5, or more lessons before students can answer the question. That’s totally fine. But as you get to know your student(s) better, you’ll be able to bust out questions that are small enough to answer in just a lesson or two.
The link to the outline is below this paragraph. If you’re using it for educational purposes, go ahead and make as many copies as you want. (If you do want to share it, please share the link to this entire article. Thank you in advance!) The rest of this article will be spent breaking down the outline.
how to create an essential question
The very root of lesson planning is just asking and answering a question. When feeling overwhelmed, go back to the basics. Teach your student(s) the information they need to know to answer a question.
Before creating the daily questions you need to…
To hit all of the important learning topics in a reasonable amount of time, you have to have a long term plan of action. As a professional teacher, this long term plan is usually based on the end of year state/district tests. As a homeschooling parent, this long term plan is usually based on where you want your student to be at the end of the year. I highly suggest reading several different state standards for your students’ public school equivalent grade level. Even if you tailor those to fit your family’s needs, you will still have a good idea on what types of “big ideas” you need to hit on.
Once you have set a few goals, you can break them down into questions.
Here are the steps:
- Write all the questions that need to be answered to complete the long term, end goal. (This might take a little googling! Look at lots of videos and information on the topic. SAVE THE LINKS FOR WHEN YOU ACTUALLY TEACH THE LESSON.)
- Then grab a calendar. Count how many lessons you’ll realistically teach. That means leaving out a few days for sickness, time for reteaching hard concepts, holidays, etc.
- Then return to your question list and cross out the ones that are not quite as important (you can only do your best!), or add more questions until your days are filled. Creating more questions than lessons taught is fine as long as there are lessons that teach several questions at once.
- Make sure your question is relevant and necessary. Does this question help my student master a specific concept? Does this question help my student become a better citizen? Will this question help my student become a contributing member of society?
setting up the essential question
Once the essential question is out of the way, the rest of your lesson is a cake walk. If you’ve done your homework, you know where this question is heading. Now you can choose where you want to teach the lesson and what materials you might need.
If you’re a beginner, don’t stress this too much. Let me repeat. Don’t overwhelm yourself. There is nothing wrong with a student sitting at a desk and the teacher literally just telling the student the information. Is that a phenomenal teaching practice? No. Will you get the message out there? Yes. Grow at your own pace. It is better for you to be confident in front of students, than bumbling around trying to figure out a brand new way to teach.
So choose your place and materials wisely. When you are a lesson development pro, add some more complex teaching strategies, settings, and fancy materials.
Plan for the worst, hope for the best
On the outline there are places to plan out an attention grabber and behavioral tools. Expert teachers always plan these areas out. I promise that if you focus on the question, grabber, and behavioral tools, BEFORE all the other fluffy stuff (learning outside, creating an amazing visual, etc.) students will learn better and you will be less stressed during your lessons.
Honestly behavioral management in the classroom needs it’s own blog post. But here’s the basics:
Creating a grabber
When in doubt, start with the question. Yep. Just ask the essential question to students. You’ll see if they know anything yet, and they’ll be interested in learning more.
Other ways to create attention is showing a cool video, have students write about a related topic, create a cool related project, letting kids search the internet for sources on the topic, and lots of other cool activities for kids.
Creating behavioral contingencies
The easiest way to encourage good behavior is praising good behavior. Oh yeah, it’s that simple. I have professionally worked with students who cussed me out, kicked me, bit me, and threw things at me, and praising positive behaviors worked with every kid. It does not always eliminate severe negative behaviors, but it definitely encourages other positive behaviors.
Praise looks like verbally saying, “I love that you raised your hand!” It also can look like a prize like a sticker or “marble in the listening jar,” or whatever. Whatever you use, use it often. The magic behavior ratio is 5 positives to every 1 negative.
If you are homeschooling one or two children, unfortunately whole group social pressure is not going to help stop an acting out child. Create a behavior plan ahead of time. Do they loose privileges when their work isn’t completed? Will a “marble” be removed from the “listening jar?” Decide and tell the rule to your student(s) before hand.
Teaching the lesson
The outline gives a few bullet points where users can either add scripted communication, ideas to help remember, resources that will be reviewed, or whatever else will help review the essential question and further the lesson plan. This could be 5 minutes or 30. The timing and teaching strategies are up to you and your kiddo(s).
Checking if the question was answered or assessment
How students answer a question is not as important as actually checking their answers. Whatever makes the most sense to assess your student, do it.
However, if students totally missed the question, then something has to be done. This where teachers can re-teach the lesson, look and watch videos on the Internet of someone else teaching the same question, ask for help in the community on how others have taught the concept, and try it again differently, download, buy, or find lesson plan that cover the questions, or find a different way for students to answer the question.
Making sure students learn those questions will ultimately keep students from falling far behind their peers. Even homeschooled children should be moving forward each year.
If you are still struggling…
Here are a few other fantastic resources for lesson development:
Here are some new teacher resources:
Here are some behavioral supports:
(I started researching actual methods for behavior management, and I struggled to find a great site. Stay tuned for an article on that in the future!)
Last, if you have exhausted all of your free resources, or you need individualized help, start a discussion on this page or contact me directly. Your first consultation is always free, and then we can create a plan of action if necessary. I happy to direct you to resources, come to your home to teach with your student, create curriculum for you, create lesson plans, and provide coaching on your own teaching strategies.
Contact me on the website or email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org