What is the importance of a lesson plan?

6 mins read
Arti Kotecha

A lesson plan is essential as a cornerstone of successful teaching practice. Walking into a room full of young people expecting them to engage and respond to you with nothing prepared is a recipe for disaster. You will reach that level through trial and error, where a couple of quick notes in your day-planner will be all the preparation you need. However, when you begin teaching, lesson planning is an essential skill for you to develop.

What is a lesson plan?

A lesson plan is an outline for each daily lesson over a unit of work detailing:

  • Learning outcomes: These are the objectives of the lesson. Map out what the students will learn in the lesson.
  • Teaching practice: The classroom instruction and activities that will guide student learning. Think about how to introduce the lesson, the sequence of activities to scaffold learning, and how the conclusion will tie the class together.
  • Resources: Any equipment you will need to use during class to support student learning. Also, think about how you will set up space.
  • Assessment: How will you measure student achievement of learning outcomes? How do you facilitate student feedback and reflection?

Why do we plan lessons?

As professionals, teachers are responsible for educating students to achieve the highest possible learning outcomes.

Strategic lesson planning plays a significant role in reaching those outcomes.

An effective lesson plan should:

  • Engage students, challenge them to think about and question ideas, and promote independence while taking ownership over standard mastery.
  • Provide the appropriate amount of rigor to produce academic growth while limiting frustration.
  • Meet the diverse learning needs of students through differentiation and increased choice.
  • Integrate technology for more interaction and a richer learning environment.
  • Allow the teacher to map goals and assess the achievement of outcomes.
  • Enable teachers to critically reflect on and improve their teaching practice.

A recent independent report concerning teacher workload notes that subject area, availability of resources, training, and support will all affect the quality of lesson planning. So keep that in mind!

The overriding theme is that time spent on lesson planning should add value and make a difference.

The Importance of Lesson Planning

1. What is your objective?
2. Understand your learners
3. Better classroom management
4. Understand content
5. Understand pedagogy
6. Reflect on and improve


1. What are you trying to do?

Try the backward design method of lesson planning to give you a better view of a unit of work. By starting your planning with lesson objectives and then ranking these in terms of importance, you will be better able to manage your class time and achieve learning outcomes.

Different strategies for effective planning include:

  • Developing an introduction: This can involve asking questions to gauge background knowledge, addressing commonly held ideas and misconceptions, and starting with an activity that will spark interest.
  • Planning learning activities: Think about presenting information in various ways to appeal to your students. Also, consider the timing of activities, transitions, and how you can check for understanding.
  • Assessment of learning: Preparing questions that will guide students towards achieving the lesson objectives is essential. You may also pre-empt questions they might have and have responses ready. Finally, how does your activity allow the students to demonstrate what they have learned?
  • Concluding the lesson: Bring the focus back to the main objectives of the lesson. Summarize key points and then provide a brief overview of future learning to increase relevance and create context.
  • Teaching timeline: When you have decided upon the length of a unit, consider how much time each section will require. You may need to re-evaluate how many objectives you can meet based on your students’ needs. Prioritizing lesson objectives allow you to be more flexible in the classroom.

Following this strategy can simplify the planning process and give your students the security of a dependable structure which can help to reduce student anxiety.

2. Understand your learners

A report from NFER noted the importance of teaching meaningful and relevant lessons to students. A similar article revealed (from a survey of over 400,000 students) that students “want their education to be more relevant to their everyday lives and teachers to show more interest in them as individuals.”

So, let’s take a look at ways you can plan lessons centered around your students’ needs.

If you plan a week’s study on what atomic mass represents on the periodic table for a lower ability 8th grade science class, it’s highly likely you’ll have trouble maintaining their attention.

Start planning any lesson by taking into consideration how your students learn.

Here’s how to prioritize the needs of your students as you plan:

  • Identify areas of challenging content you can break into smaller bite-size chunks.
  • Use scaffolding to offer support while slowly leading them to independence.
  • Facilitate independent learning through group work and student-driven class discussions.
  • Inspire students to take ownership over their learning to increase responsibility and accountability.
  • Employ a variety of assessment items throughout the learning process to adjust instruction where necessary to meet the individual needs of students and assess overall growth.
  • Be open to student feedback on the learning process.

Providing students with the tools they need to succeed and facilitating their learning drives an engaging, action-driven learning environment.

3. Better classroom management

When your lessons are well thought out and strategically planned, you’ll have more confidence in your teaching, and your students will have more confidence in you!

If you aren’t confident in your teaching skills, your students will recognize that, lose motivation, and be more likely to act out.
For better classroom management, take these proactive steps when lesson planning:

  • Provide clear structure and direction in a lesson
  • Make expectations explicit
  • Outline achievable learning goals
  • Set time frames for activities and transitions
  • Keep students engaged and on-task
  • Allow flexibility during class

Finally, be there to offer assistance and positive reinforcement to your students to foster a productive learning environment throughout the lesson.

4. Understand content

Have a solid understanding of the content you’re planning to teach. The more knowledge you have concerning the content, the more successful you’ll be in planning the best way to deliver that content. Your student’s ability to grasp and respond to content will reflect your knowledge.

Thinking about the content of your lessons will allow you to:

  • Address any gaps in your own knowledge before class
  • Highlight difficult areas of the topic and present it in a manner that improves comprehension
  • Develop activities that better match your students’ abilities
  • Provide better examples to illustrate underlying principles linked to background knowledge
  • Create stronger connections by linking past content to future learning
  • Provide practical contexts and real-world examples to increase the relevance to students’ everyday lives.

It’s easier for students to internalize learning when it goes beyond test-taking and applies to their everyday life. When you provide an environment that encourages and fosters your students’ insight, you not only help them grow academically but also support their emotional well-being.

5. Understand pedagogy

Knowing what to teach is only half the challenge. Understanding the pedagogy behind other teaching methods helps you to deliver better lessons. You are actively improving your teaching ability as you try out different ideas in the classroom and judge what is working for you and what needs tweaking.

Research suggests five critical elements of effective pedagogy as follows:

  1. Joint Productive Activity: teachers work alongside students to solve problems.
  2. Developing Language and Literacy Skills Across the Curriculum: facilitating students’ understanding and use of language and literacy skills concerning content vocabulary.
  3. Contextualization/Making Meaning: relating new information to familiar concepts they have constructed during their lives and bringing the “real world” into classroom experiences.
  4. Cognitive Challenge: Building on students’ background knowledge and having high expectations of what they can achieve.
  5. Instructional Conversation: Paying attention to classroom dialogue to support better responses to questions, student communication abilities, and inclusion.

Copying notes from the whiteboard period after period will not garner the best responses from students who have grown up in a digital age with an incredible array of communication technologies. You have to think about how you can challenge students to use what they already know with what they are learning to deepen their knowledge and develop critical thinking skills.

6. Reflect on and improve

We know that teaching is a challenging career choice. It can also be a rewarding career, and when you pull off a successful lesson, it’s a great feeling.

The key things to remember are:

  • When a lesson elicits a great response from students, analyze what strategies you used so you can replicate that success in future lessons.
  • Understand that things will not always go according to plan—don’t beat yourself up too much.
  • Try out one-or-two ideas at a time, so you’re not overwhelming yourself or your students.
  • Talk things through with your mentor and colleagues to gain perspective.
  • Be responsive to feedback because there’s often room for growth.
  • Take breaks and mental health days when you need to recharge.

You’ll eventually find your rhythm. Hopefully, you’ll have a long and successful career as a teacher, so don’t burn yourself out too early by unnecessary overplanning. You’re trying your best, it’s great that you care so much, and you will become better with experience.