Lesson planning is an area of teaching for which a lot of myths exist. Indeed, it’s well worth looking at what Ofsted has to say about lesson planning in its guidance document: Ofsted inspections: myths:

“Ofsted does not require schools to provide individual lesson plans to inspectors. Equally, Ofsted does not require schools to provide previous lesson plans.

Ofsted does not specify how planning should be set out, the length of time it should take or the amount of detail it should contain. Inspectors are interested in the effectiveness of planning rather than the form it takes.”

It’s important to hear Ofsted’s view on lesson planning ‘straight from the horse’s mouth’, so to speak, because what they say lesson planning should be is exactly right. Many teachers would argue that this is a rarity for Ofsted. Maybe it is, but they have hit the nail right on the head by saying it the ‘effectiveness’ not the ‘form’ that planning takes that is important.

The problem with lesson planning templates

Unfortunately, lesson planning is one area of teaching where Ofsted has been misinterpreted by schools. In schools nationwide, the ‘school lesson planning template’ is something that you will see in most schools.

Of course, on the face of it, this is perfectly understandable. It does make sense to have a uniformity of approach. If all teachers use the same lesson planning format then you would hope that it helps with consistency.

However, there are major drawbacks with such an approach. Lesson planning becomes little more than a box-ticking exercise and a highly ineffective way of evidencing that a teacher is doing ‘what they should be doing’.

So, we see boxes for ‘Starter’ and ‘Plenary’, ‘stretch and challenge’, ‘Assessment objectives’, ‘learning objectives’ and ‘learning outcomes’… the list goes on.

At its worst, this type of lesson planning regime takes a ridiculous amount of time for teachers to complete – and for what, exactly?

Lesson planning is simple

Essentially, the type of lesson planning detailed above is a complete waste of time. Lesson planning should be simple and straightforward.

Basically, the teacher should establish what they want pupils to learn in a particular lesson. That might be introducing a new concept, or developing a skill, but that, ultimately, is the crux of lesson planning: What do I want the pupils to learn?

Next, teachers need to consider what the outcomes of the learning will be – how will the pupils demonstrate their ability/confidence in their learning. From there, the planning is about getting the pupils from A to B.

That is lesson planning in a nutshell. You decide what you want the pupils to learn, how they are going to show this, and plan activities/strategies that will help your pupils get there.

Planning is crucial

Planning is vitally important. But it is crucial to remember what Ofsted have to say about the effectiveness of it being all-important. Effective planning means considering the long term and middle term planning alongside short term planning. At no point should it be onerous. It doesn’t need to be detailed.

It just needs to work.