Every fortnight, one of our NQTs will write a reflective blog post focusing on issues raised in our professional development sessions. This is the second in the series, by one of our NQTs in the English department, and follows a session on lesson planning.
As an NQT, I am constantly looking for ways to improve my practice and refine my craft; naturally this results in careful consideration of my planning. Having come straight from PGCE, I can honestly say we were encouraged to produce three page lesson plans for every single lesson we taught. Whilst admittedly this had some advantages – helping to form and create a learning journey, helping to consider the core elements of ‘good’ and ‘outstanding’ lessons, and to consider differentiation in detail – I found it cripplingly time consuming, exhausting and quite often a waste of time.
Any teacher will vouch that lessons are fluid, dynamic things, changing in response to the needs of the pupils in the classroom. As a result, many of the lesson plans I produced, quite rightly, were adapted and deviated from. Indeed, sometimes my plans stayed in the folder and were not used or were revisited and re-imagined in response to the needs of my pupils between the writing of the plan and the lesson itself!
With this in mind, I have been trialling the five minute lesson plan (by @TeacherToolkit) and have found it to be quite useful for prompting my thought processes to consider the vital elements which encompass the heart of planning such as: my objective (WALT) , criteria (WILF) and interestingly the concept of ‘Stickability’. Stickability should feature on every single lesson plan (I’m now convinced!), not to be mistake with your objective but to be linked to it as something tangible that can be assessed and monitored to check pupil understanding of the most important element or ideas from that lesson. I must also add that I found the differentiation box quite limiting due to its small size. As a teacher of two KS3 bottom-band classes, many of my pupils have a range of complex learning needs. However, it was successful on focusing my planning on particular groups of students and exploring how best to enable these students to progress and demonstrate their learning.
As an NQT in my third term, I can honestly say using the five minute lesson plan has aided my planning considerably. Not only does it remind me what the core elements to consider are, and hone planning on to one sheet of paper but it honestly demonstrates how it is wholly possible to plan a lesson in five minutes. This reduction in planning time leaves ample time for lesson preparation, resources, and for us as teachers to truly consider how to meet the needs of our pupils and differentiate accordingly. By reducing the amount of time spent writing out detailed plans – which are of no importance to anyone but myself – I have begun to find a work-life balance and to love, enjoy and embrace teaching more. I have found that I can effectively and creatively form my lesson plan and still meet the needs of my pupils. Indeed, I would say my planning is beginning to improve because of it. I honestly am beginning to experience the creative thought-process of lesson planning and ensuring that the needs of pupils are met, and let me tell you it’s far more rewarding than outlining copious amounts of detailed information that is of no benefit!
The five minute lesson plan series also have a range of five minute plans to help teachers in other aspects of their teaching and planning. For instance, there is a five minute TA plan (by @R1chWilliams), which I will be trialing with my TA, to evaluate its effectiveness and usefulness in directing the support to where it will be most beneficial. I would very much like to see a five minute reflection sheet, as I feel this would be an ideal complement to the series and would enable NQTs and indeed other more experienced teachers to reflect on their teaching and hone their planning using this. Perhaps even a box for reflection on the plan could be worth its weight in gold. Whilst, we undoubtedly do this within and after our lessons, sometimes seeing your reflection in note form, written down can help to: focus, adapt and improve your teaching. This can lead to trialing new things , approaches and considering more acutely what has been successful and why and similarly what was not successful and how this could be changed to create a successful outcome; or in some instances to be put aside and not attempted again period five on a Friday afternoon!