Academic instruction is your primary duty as a teacher. You're in the classroom to teach effectively so that your students can progress to the next grade level with a good understanding of the academic material in your state's curriculum. Also, you're required to teach core values to students, such as tolerance, responsibility, and good citizenship.
If you're not doing all that, you're not teaching. No, you can't always reach every student, but you must nevertheless consistently strive to deliver the highest-quality instruction possible.
One of the first tools you'll want to use in your classroom-management toolkit is the skill of effective lesson planning. A widely accepted formal lesson-plan model was developed by Dr. Madeline Cheek Hunter, Professor of Educational Administration and Teacher Education at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).
Consider using this format when submitting a formal lesson plan for administrative review or in connection with your ongoing teacher evaluations. Here's a version of Dr. Hunter's lesson-plan model:
Objectives: Write a paragraph here about what students are expected to learn. Note any materials to be used, pages and exercises to be completed, and skills students should internalize.
Standards: Access your state's website and match your lesson to one standard from the academic-content standards listed. If you can't match it to a standard, don't teach that lesson.
Anticipatory Set: Explain how you'll motivate your students to participate in and benefit from your lesson by relating the lesson topic to the students' own lives and interests.
Teaching: Explain how you'll teach the lesson. Give details on how you plan to use texts, supplemental materials, audio-visual aids, etc., to help students learn the desired skill objective.
Guided Practice/Monitoring: State what work your students will be expected to complete, whether individually or cooperatively, and how you'll plan to actively monitor for understanding.
Closure: Explain how you'll check for anticipated comprehension by asking your students to recap and recall the most important points of your lesson.
Independent Practice: Discuss the homework you'll assign in connection with your lesson and how the assignment relates to the lesson.
According to The Harvard Medical School Guide to a Good Night's Sleep, by Dr. Lawrence J. Epstein and Steven Mardon, sleep deprivation, where you remain awake beyond the normal 16-hour wakefulness cycle, can cause dangerous “microsleeps,” where you fall unconscious while performing conscious tasks. If you microsleep while driving to work, your students could end up deprived of your company — permanently. Get your eight hours.
The Madeline Hunter format is easy to use, self-explanatory, and straightforward. The following is a typical example of what such a lesson plan, following the Hunter format, might look like:
Objectives: Students are expected to analyze, in writing, the characterization techniques used in the novel A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, specifically in Stave 5 (Chapter 5), as it relates to the positive character changes and development of the novel's main character, Ebenezer Scrooge. Students should complete page 655, question number 1, “Literary Analysis: Characterization,” in our literature textbook, Prentice-Hall Literature: Timeless Voices, Timeless Themes, edited by Dr. Kate Kinsella, et al. This exercise should engender in students an appreciation of the ingenuity used by the greatest fiction writers, such as Dickens, to create characters that are lifelike and believable.
California Standard: California reading Standard 3.3: Analyze characterization as delineated through a character's thoughts, words, speech patterns, and actions; the narrator's description; and the thoughts, words, and actions of other characters.
Anticipatory Set: Students can be asked to think about and verbalize whether they are exactly the same people now — with exactly the same attitudes, beliefs, and philosophies they have always embraced — or rather, if they have philosophically changed and developed over the years. Have any of their beliefs changed as a result of the new information? Have their corresponding actions changed? After proffering various instances of positive developmental growth, students should think about the fact that well-developed fictional characters undergo similar developmental growth as a part of the process of making characters seem lifelike and believable.
Teaching: Input: Students can be provided with a textbook-based definition of characterization as well as examples of how Charles Dickens has utilized characterization to show how his main character, Ebenezer Scrooge, has grown and developed as part of the process of making the character seem lifelike and believable. Modeling: Students can be shown examples of various types of appropriate and reasonable written responses as models for answering the above-referenced page 655, question number 1, in our Literature textbook, Prentice-Hall Literature: Timeless Voices, Timeless Themes. Checking for Understanding: Students can be provided with an opportunity to practice writing some examples of various types of appropriate and reasonable responses to the above-referenced page 655, question number 1, in our literature textbook.
Guided Practice/Monitoring: Students are expected to demonstrate their grasp of the material by working in cooperative groups, assisted by the teacher, to help one another write a paragraph-long response to question number 1, page 655. The question is as follows: “Literary Analysis: Characterization: 1. By the end of the [novel], how has the character of Scrooge changed? Support your answer with three incidents that show this change.”
Closure: Students can be cued to the fact that they have arrived at the end of the lesson and are now expected to work conscientiously, in cooperative groups, to complete the writing task that has been assigned as guided practice.
Independent Practice: Students are expected to complete independent practice in the form of an individual homework assignment, due the next instructional day following assignation, which will consist of the following: Page 654, question number 1, from our literature textbook. The question is as follows: “Review and Assess: Thinking about the Literature: Do you believe that people can really change completely, as Scrooge does? Explain your answer.”
The example above contains a great deal of detail, and not every administrator will want or require quite so much information. However, sometimes it's better to err on the side of an abundance of caution. Ask for five minutes of your principal's time and briefly discuss the subject of lesson planning, asking for guidance on what's expected.
When it comes to lesson planning, you'll need to keep two sets of books, so to speak — formal lessons for formal occasions and a regular lesson-plan book for the daily job of educating students. Generally, your district will provide you with a plan book, or you can purchase one from a teacher-supply store if the district's book doesn't seem adequate. You can also download plan-book templates to your computer from countless websites. For example, one popular template is the Microsoft Corporation's “Planning Book No. 8,” for use with Microsoft Word 2000 (or later) word-processing software, and which resembles most standard plan books. These planners generally use a similar format.
The top line of each page has a space to write your name and room number, plus a “Week Beginning” space to write the starting date for that week's lessons.
Each page is divided into rows and columns, creating large squares. Down the left, each weekday occupies its own full row, starting with Monday and moving down to Friday.
At the top of each column, left to right, write the name of each subject you teach. Secondary teachers might use only one column, but elementary teachers will use several columns.
In each square, note your lesson objectives, teaching activities, textbook pages and exercises to be completed, and special instructions for yourself (or a substitute teacher).
Keep your plans handy on your desk because you'll be referring to them constantly. Also, substitute teachers will find them invaluable if you're ever absent. Moreover, count on administrators occasionally visiting your classroom and asking to see your plan book. Keep it at hand so that you'll never have to admit, “Sorry, my lesson plans are at home.” Such a lack of professionalism can have serious consequences, possibly the loss of your teaching position. Plan ahead for career success.
However, planning ahead doesn't mean chaining yourself to your desk and neglecting your health and your loved ones. Plan as far ahead as you can reasonably manage, but keep a balance between dedication to your job and attending to your health outside of the classroom. Get adequate rest, eat right, exercise, and spend time with friends and family. In this way, you'll become the teacher that your students need — rested, refreshed, recharged, and ready to provide the best academic instruction possible.