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How to get your lessons down pat

Advice for teachers in their early career

Planning is a real skill. In training you usually do lesson plans in detail, but you need to become efficient at writing them when you're in your first year of teaching - or you won't survive!

But how much you should do is something that worries new teachers. One teacher on The TES website is concerned because: "Another NQT in the school is writing an A4 lesson plan for each lesson, with vocab, differentiation, and so on, as well as weekly plans. Her file is huge! I am not doing as much. I just use my weekly plans for literacy and numeracy. What is expected?"

All that is specified in the Ofsted framework is that "teachers plan effectively, using clear objectives that children understand". Your planning shouldn't be judged on what's written on paper, whether it's for the week or the hour, but on the quality of learning that happens as a result.

The DfES's Time for Standards (2003) states that your time should be used for aspects of planning that are going to be useful for you, and which have a direct impact upon the quality of teaching and learning. You should rarely have to start with a blank sheet when planning for the week ahead.

Long and medium-term plans should be in place in school, so all you have to worry about are translating them into lessons. There are lots of published schemes and websites that can give you good ideas. Start with the learning objective from the school's curriculum, and then translate it into what you want the pupils to know and understand. Obviously you need to consider what they already know. If you phrase outcomes as you would tell them to the class, you won't go far wrong. Then think of how to get the pupils to meet objectives, what resources to use, what activities to do and how you'll teach.

Finding the right written format, its length and detail will vary depending on the lesson and teacher. The most useful are easy to follow - and you need to be able to read them quickly in case there is a distraction or you lose your train of thought. Some people like to script their lessons, others write down key points. Both are fine - if the children learn.

Sara Bubb's The Insider's Guide for New Teachers is published by TESKogan Page (pound;12.99) See www.tes.co.ukbookshop

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