Lesson planning tips for new teachers

6 mins read
Travis Edwards

Lesson planning is an area that can be stressful for beginning and even experienced teachers. Hopefully, you have found yourself in a supportive school environment, and your colleagues are looking out for you. The following is some advice for the busier times when you’re feeling a little overwhelmed.

We know how vital new teachers are for the future of education. Remember, we’re always here to support you through challenging times with fantastic curriculum-mapped lesson plan ideas at your fingertips.

Realistic lesson planning

Student teachers spend countless hours devising lesson plans and making resources that their university will assess. By comparison, experienced teachers use daily planners that give a brief overview of a lesson because constantly creating those detailed plans is not sustainable.

Resoundingly, research confirms that effective teaching practice requires planning. It doesn’t say that you need to write a multi-page document for every lesson.

Effective lesson planning should achieve the following:

  • Clearly outline learning objectives
  • Provide structure and logical sequence to learning
  • Facilitate delivery of activities and transitions
  • Guide you on what to do next if there is a hesitation
  • Allow for modification based on learner knowledge and feedback
  • Be relevant to the student’s lives

While getting to know your students, be mindful to monitor where they need help, their strengths and weaknesses, and how you can begin to differentiate your plans to improve their ability to learn. Develop your classroom management skills and think about setting up your classroom to make lessons run smoothly. This will be more productive than lengthy planning sessions.

Working backwards

A study following new teachers quoted feelings of being lost at sea and drowning when lesson planning. Backwards lesson design principles can help give your lessons structure and direction.

When you have determined what your students will be studying for a unit of work, consider the overall goal of the unit – that is what the students need to know, and how this meets curriculum standards – that is why the students need to know it. Now, you have X number of weeks to get your students to this point.

Backwards planning asks that you answer these questions:

  • What is worthy and requiring of understanding?
  • What is evidence of understanding?
  • What learning experiences and teaching promote understanding, interest, and excellence?

By focusing on the ends, you will better understand the content and activities you need for classes and draw connections to students’ lives. This broader picture outline will provide you with the flexibility to adapt daily lessons as you can assess whether relevant skills and knowledge have been acquired before progressing.

Lesson planning tips for new teachers
Planning self-guided or group activities can take the pressure off teachers during busy periods.

Planning more efficiently

If you find that you’re being too ambitious with your lesson plans, constantly running out of time, poor transitions, and lack of conclusions, it’s time to reassess what you’re doing. Sometimes less is more. Plan activities that give your students more agency in their learning and reduce the time you’re spending overpreparing for class.

Examples of zero (or almost zero) preparation time activities that will engage and stimulate learning include:

  • Brain dumps – students write down everything they know about a topic or remember from their studies over a set time
  • Think Pair Share – Students pair up to share and discuss their ideas about a topic before you consolidate learning with class discussion
  • Google Slides – Students create slides on given topics to share ideas and collaborate on projects
  • Kahoot! – Break students into teams to create and participate in fun quizzes against their classmates on topics they’ve been studying
  • Using interactive video – great for facilitating flipped learning, differentiation and allowing students to work at their own speed
  • Use the textbook – finally, using textbooks, library books, student devices, and other resources readily available to you is perfectly acceptable

Reduce marking

Try being more critical about how and when marking is going to benefit your students.

Planning strategies for reducing your marking load include:

  • Clarify the skills you will focus on assessing
  • Have students create marking rubrics with criteria for success
  • Have students assist in marking various items during class time
  • Simplify marking for day-to-day assignments, like homework (e.g., Completed/Attempted/Not attempted record)
  • Design a rubric you can copy and staple with a feedback scale including spelling and grammar, clarity, relevance, and organisation you can simply tick to indicate the level
  • Allocate boxes for student achievement on assessment (e.g., Advanced/Competent/Requires re-thinking)
  • If necessary, provide group feedback

You can allocate some class time for students to correct their mistakes and ask you for further feedback. Students may increase their grades up to a designated amount if they put in the effort to find and fix errors in their work. This makes marking more meaningful to your students because the onus is placed on them to evaluate the work they are handing in critically.

Lesson planning tips for new teachers
Try being more critical about how and when marking is going to benefit your students.

Using ClickView teaching resources

There are countless teaching resources online, but finding the right resources for your classes can be difficult and time-consuming. We have simplified the process through our customised search engine allowing you to select content based on subject, year level, strand, sub-strand, and curriculum code. This means that you can be confident that our videos can be used in your class.

Other benefits of using our interactive video content in your classroom include:

  • Many of our videos come with teacher packs containing lesson plans mapped to outcomes and learning resources for teachers to use
  • You can adapt our lesson plans and interactive videos to suit your needs and stimulate student engagement
  • You can easily differentiate content to provide the proper scaffolding and level of challenge for your students
  • Use ClickView for assessment (e.g. Primary) to efficiently track student participation and progress, allowing you to target areas where their learning requires more support easily
  • Access current TV programmes and request other programmes you would like for teaching purposes to increase the relevance of resources you’re using during class.
  • Support for remote teaching to lessen the burden on teachers supporting their students while they’re away from the classroom

As you implement these lesson plans, please take note of the activities and resources that your students particularly enjoy and incorporate them into your future lessons. You will also gain valuable insight into the appropriate timing of activities and lesson structure as you tailor ready-made plans to fit your needs.

Maintaining realistic standards

New teachers often feel compelled to be the perfect teacher, trying hard to control everything in an environment subject to constant change and disruption, and strongly influenced by institutional demands. You need to realise that things might not always go as planned and you won’t master teaching in your first few years… and that’s OK.

Hindsight is valuable and has taught more experienced teachers the following:

  • Prioritise by distinguishing what needs to be done, what you want to get done, and what can wait
  • Have a system to help you stay organised like separate trays for items that need grading, filing, or copying, making to-do lists, and using Google Classroom for online management
  • Focus on building rapport with your students (be friendly, not friends) and maintain firm expectations for behaviour and achievement
  • Acknowledge that it is impossible to cater to every student’s every need and learning style in every lesson every day—it’s not beneficial to plan that way
  • You don’t need to reinvent the wheel every lesson
  • Ask your senior colleagues if you can use or adapt plans that they have taught in the past and find and adapt units of work online
  • You don’t need to know everything and it’s OK for you to admit that to students and learn together
  • Think clearly about the skills and knowledge your students need to acquire and build on, select one or two of those skills at a time and focus on teaching those properly

Talk to your Head Teacher or Executive Team to see what kind of support they can offer you to get through your demanding workload. They managed to get through this stage, so ask them for their best advice (a small thank you present for helpful colleagues is also a great idea).

Finding time to recharge

Have you been eating properly? Are you getting enough sleep? Do you have time for your hobbies or exercise? When your workload throws your work-life balance into disarray, too many areas begin to suffer.

Six in ten teachers have recently reported feeling stressed in their job. This is especially true for new teachers. Research consistently finds that a supportive school environment and leadership is vital to teacher retention. Make sure that you reach out to your mentor and school leaders for support when you need it.

Promoting your resilience and success as a teacher requires you to care for your physical and mental health. Limiting the amount of schoolwork done at home is a key coping strategy that can help clear your head and help to improve your focus. Make it a hard rule that you spend some time each day doing something that you enjoy, like going for a jog (any exercise is great!) or listening to a podcast.

Cooking dinner may seem like an impossible task, but countless 30-minutes recipe ideas are available to make on busy nights. Try picking four recipes (Monday to Thursday) and plan your shopping list accordingly, then prep and label the meals on Sunday to save you weekday stress. Save take-away for a Friday night reward.

If this all feels difficult, reflect on whether those extra hours you put in make a real difference in the classroom. If you think that it’s too much work for too little benefit, you should check the requires re-thinking box!