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Off-the-peg plans you can personalise

There's a lot of help out there for lesson preparation. Sara Bubb tells you how to make sensible use of it.

Planning is fundamental to teaching. But it is a skill. Finding the right format - one that suits you - is your first job. Length and detail vary depending on the lesson and your individual style.

The most useful formats 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. All will check is that "teachers plan effectively, using clear objectives that children understand".

Your planning shouldn't be judged on what's written on paper, but on the quality of learning that happens as a result. The Department for Education and Skills's Time for Standards says 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. Long and medium-term plans should be established 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 some good ideas.

The Hamilton Trust has lesson plans for every primary year group on its website. Ruth Merttens, director of the charity's maths and reading project, says: "The object is to help teachers and reduce their workload.

We want to give teachers back their Sundays!"

Following a pre-produced plan needn't stifle your creativity - see it as a starting point. But using an off-the-shelf plan can cause problems if you haven't considered it and adapted it for your pupils.

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