Initially, when sitting down to write a lesson plan for your club, you may find it difficult to understand the value and purpose of the document, or how to go about writing it. This page will offer some guidance so that you can make a useful lesson plan.
- Writing a lesson plan
Initially, your lesson plans should be fairly detailed documents setting out what you hope to achieve with the lesson, exactly what exercises (and their component steps) you will use to achieve that goal, and how long each part of the lesson should take before you move on.
As you develop your instructing skills and confidence, you might feel less need to plan out all your lessons in such amounts of detail, and you may find it more helpful just to sketch out some rough summaries, to ensure that you stay more or less on track without needing to adhere to a document slavishly.
As you become even more confident and experienced as an instructor, you will probably feel increasingly able to run lessons without planning ahead of time. It is entirely possible to run a lesson without any advance planning other than deciding on a loose theme for the session, and for the session to be delivered to a professional standard, with valuable learning points for everyone who attends.
Initially, lesson plans are a helpful device to keep you running sessions according to your plan, especially if your confidence isn’t quite there, and you need that psychological boost of having a plan drawn up in advance. As you improve, spending time on lesson plans may seem to become less and less useful, and you may begin to ignore them completely. This is perfectly fine, and is a natural stage of development!
Nonetheless, being able to draw up detailed lesson plans can be very useful in a variety of situations. You might want to help some advanced students in your club become assistant instructors; they would need to learn to make lesson plans themselves, and so being able to walk them through the process and give them examples would be beneficial. You may need to submit example lesson plans along with applications for insurance cover, for instructing qualifications, for hall hire, or for funding applications.
Finally, it can be very useful to go back over the lesson plans you made previously, to observe the differences that have developed over time in your interpretations and teaching approach. It can also be helpful to have written notes for lessons that were particularly successful, so that you can run them again in the future without having to reinvent the wheel.
Writing a lesson plan
Blank template and example
Metadata about your lesson plan
Metadata is information about the information in the document. In other words, writing such details as the club or event for which the lesson is intended (so that you can remember where you gave the lesson), your name (so that people with whom you share the document remember that it is yours), the date when you write the plan (so that you can remember at a later date when you wrote it), and the length of the lesson described by the plan (because it sucks to have to count the total duration of all the exercises to work out if this is a one, one and a half, or two hour lesson).
Although you do not need to write any metadata for your lesson plans, you will probably thank yourself at a later date if you were conscientious enough to do so.
Consider your themes, equipment, and rationale
Every lesson should have a primary goal that you want to achieve, otherwise your lessons are going to seem somewhat random and will struggle to help people develop in a focused, structured fashion.
Therefore, as one of the first actions in creating your lesson plan, decide what the lesson is going to achieve, and then make sure that every exercise works towards achieving this goal.
You may wish to touch on a variety of other themes, goals, or ideas. It is worthwhile considering what else you might want to touch upon in the lesson, so that you can include the exercises to achieve these sub-goals. However, all exercises must still work towards achieving the primary goal, regardless of what other themes you might wish to touch upon.
Take the opportunity to consider what equipment will be required, and take a note of this. It will be helpful to have this kind of note easily accessible in the document in the situation where you may need to remember to bring additional equipment for one or other of the exercises, so that you do not forget it!
Your rationale should be your answer in the hypothetical situation where someone asks you “what are you teaching tonight?” and you say what, and then they respond with the question “Why?”
It is a useful exercise to be able to justify your lesson in terms of what it is teaching and why it will be useful to people. This helps you think about what you are doing and why, and how to make it relevant and useful to your students rather than simply something that is of interest to you right now, or that you saw at an event and thought was cool.
Furthermore, if you are intending to share your lesson plans with other people (perhaps assistant instructors at your own club), it can be immensely helpful to provide this sort of insight into the lesson, so that they are better prepared to run the lesson from a similar perspective to what you had in mind while planning it.
Choose the exercises you want to include
All exercises should work towards achieving your primary goal. If you include exercises that do not work towards achieving the primary goal, then they are in fact detracting from your lesson and confusing your students about what is important, so leave them out. Include only exercises that progress your lesson towards achieving your primary goal.
A good idea is to start with simple exercises, and gradually, over the course of the lesson, develop them to become more complicated and/or intense. With each development, develop just one thing: increase the intensity a little, OR make it slightly more difficult. This helps your students keep pace without getting lost.
Consider the timing
When you think about how long you should spend on each exercise, remember to include demonstration/talking time. In fact, you could even write that in explicitly, so that you don’t forget about it and try to cram too much into a single lesson!
Some exercises may take more time, others might take lesson time. As a rule of thumb, if you schedule 10 minutes (or more) for any one exercise, you had better have mitigation strategies to ensure that people are not getting bored of it. You can change partners, you can do whatever, but 10 minutes of doing just one thing with one person is probably going to lead to your students becoming bored.
I like to give 10 minutes for introducing and practising the first iteration of a new exercise, and then to write in explicitly the change of partners and give it another 5 minutes. I try to keep every single exercise to 15 minutes or less to avoid boredom creeping in.
Needless to say, make sure that all the exercises you schedule, with all the time allotted to them, fill the length of the lesson without going over!
Consider the notes
It can be worthwhile writing a few brief notes or comments beside each exercise, so that you remember what to look out for, or to remember what source describes that particular action or idea. These notes and comments can be worth their weight in gold when people ask you for further information, or when assistant instructors need to deliver the same lesson!
Being able to write a lesson plan is a valuable skill, no matter what your current stage of skill and confidence at instructing a class. The very process of writing lesson plans can help you understand your material better. Maintaining a library or catalogue of written lesson plans can also be a goldmine in the future, when you may have any of a number of reasons for wanting to consult or share such documents.