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The essentials of lesson planning

By Mark Richards,

24 Jan 2020

There’s no shortage of advice and guidance out there on lesson planning.

Much of that advice is very useful, and some people make a living out of delivering courses or writing books on the topic. Of course, there is no single, completely fool-proof method or formula to follow that guarantees a successful or ‘Ofsted Outstanding’ lesson every single time – anything that claims to do so is a downright lie. There are a whole host of factors that will ultimately determine whether a lesson is great or not, from class dynamics to the mood of the pupils on the day, there are many things that can either go wrong or simply have an effect on how things go. And you should never forget that a lesson plan ‘on paper’ is not the same as ‘in practice’ – the delivery of the lesson will always be very important. Having said that, finding a method of lesson planning to stick to makes a lot of sense.

One of the better ones – and a method that does contain the essential elements of lesson planning is the Hunter Method. The Hunter Method Devised by the late Madeline Hunter, a former UCLA professor and life-long educationalist, the Hunter Method (as it became known) has been followed by teachers across the world at all levels.

Even if they’ve never heard of it before, any teacher will recognise the various elements.

They are essentials, after all. Objective/Purpose The first step of the Hunter Method reinforces the notion that pupils learn best when they know what they are expected to learn and why. Anticipatory Set The anticipatory set is the next step.

It involves getting students excited and engaged about the lesson.

For that reason, this step is sometimes seen as the first step.

Think ‘starter activity’ – the ‘hook’ that draws the learners in. Modelling The next step, also referred to as input modelling, modelled practice, or direct instruction is, essentially, ‘the teaching bit’ – the part when the teacher explains or demonstrates what is to be learned. Check for Understanding It’s important to check understanding as you progress through a lesson.

There’s not always a direct correlation between what a teacher teaches and what the pupils learn and understand.

Teaching would be a simple job if this was the case! But, of course, it isn’t.

You need to check that pupils are grasping key points before you move on. Guided and Independent Practice People start to learn by having things modelled, explained and demonstrated to them.

But true, deep learning occurs by doing and through practice.

At first, this will often need to be guided or directly supervised by the teacher, but the real proof of the pudding will be if pupils can complete a task or activity independently. Closure It’s important that the teacher wraps things up.

This is the time for review and reflection, and to go over key points or address any areas of weakness. There you have it, teachers in the UK might be used to a different vocabulary and set of terms, such as ‘starter’ and ‘plenary.’ Whilst the likes of ‘anticipatory set’ might feel unfamiliar, the ideas behind all the steps of the Hunter Method are tried and tested.

It’s hard to argue that these are not the essential elements of lesson planning.


1- The best lesson planning methods

2- How to make a lesson plan?

3- 7 Steps to prepare an exciting and effective lesson plan

4- 4 Secrets of successful lesson plans

5- How to plan a lesson for a teaching interview