NQT boot camp: five tips for lesson planning

In the next part of her summer advice series for newly qualified teachers, a teacher educator shares her tips for efficient and effective lesson planning

Sarah Wright

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Planning will be one of the most time-consuming aspects of your new role. So, how can you avoid the pitfalls and reap the rewards when it comes to the all-important prep for your lessons?

Here are five things to consider:

  1. Who are you planning for?

    This question is the "horcrux" of planning. Before you even begin to plan, you have to understand who you planning for. As an NQT, your lesson plans will still be subject to scrutiny, just as they were during your training. But don’t be tempted to over-plan with additional detail you think will impress your mentor. Ultimately, your plans are for you and your learners. A good plan should guide you to the most effective way of teaching your lessons. Don’t be afraid to adopt a less narrative style, or even include images to make it easily accessible.
  2. What is the point of planning in the first place?

    Think about why you are planning, as well as who you are planning for. Strong planning will keep you organised and your lessons focused. But the real point is to support effective and efficient teaching, which leads to engaged learners who are making progress. Carefully consider the individual needs of your children and strive to genuinely meet them, rather than just ticking a box to say you have.
  3. Wheels shouldn’t be reinvented, but they should be personalised

    Collaboration is at the heart of the teaching community, so you will have access to thousands of ready-prepared lesson plans, some of which will be marvellous. However, these will have been prepared with a specific set of children in mind. By all means, borrow ideas and use resources, but ensure you are putting your own spin on things. If you don’t, children will soon sniff out the smell of generic planning and question whether you are really teaching them, or just a lesson you found on the internet…
  4. Plan with your own workload in mind

    When you are planning your lessons, remember that you are also planning out your own time. Think about the preparation of resources, marking and research. When you can see a prep-heavy lesson on the horizon, try to balance it with something that can be prepared more efficiently or has less marking. You will have a plethora of sensational “reduce your lesson planning to seconds” tools thrown at you; approach these with caution. While you can eventually develop your own style, start with the school planning format and make that work for you.
  5. Don’t be afraid to go off-piste

    Whether there is a wasp in the classroom, a burning question arises, or the students just aren’t getting it today, you will need to learn to deviate from the lesson plan.  Sometimes, off-piste learning just happens. Learning should be adventurous, so if the journey veers off course, go with it. The same can be said for when things go wrong. We all have mid-lesson realisations that things aren’t going to plan. You must be brave enough to stop, regroup and attack things from a different angle.

Sarah Wright is a senior lecturer at Edge Hill University in Lancashire. She tweets as @Sarah__wright1

You can read new instalments of her NQT boot camp every Wednesday and Friday during the summer holidays. On 24 August at 3pm, you can watch a special video instalment of NQT boot camp via TES on Facebook.

For more advice on how to prepare for your NQT year, visit our dedicated New Teachers site, where you can find videos, hints, tips and job listings. 

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Sarah Wright

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