The lesson plan should be for the teacher and nobody else. It is their aide memoire. Nothing more, nothing less.

Here’s the thing… planning is an essential component of any successful teaching experience. However, lesson plans are not.

That might appear to be a massive contradiction, so let’s explain. Nobody would deny that long term and medium term planning over the duration of an academic year are not important. In fact, it’s vital. It is the only way of ensuring coverage of a syllabus or specification. It is also the only real way you can allocate a sufficient amount of time to each unit of a course, revision, etc. If medium term planning and long term planning are not done carefully then it can lead to a variety of problems further down the line.

So, it would follow that short-term planning – the day-to-day and lesson by lesson – should follow the same principle too?

Well, yes, these need to be carefully considered and thought-through, but individual lesson plans can be taking things a step too far.

There is no perfect lesson plan template

There is no such thing as the perfect lesson planning template. If there was one, all schools would have it! However, many schools seem to be hell-bent on embarking on a Holy Grail-style quest for one!

Driven by a desire to please Ofsted (even though Ofsted don’t expect to see one!), schools try to design the ultimate lesson plan – one that can be used by all, that covers outcomes, objectives, Pupil Premium, levels of progress, success criteria, starters, plenaries, stretch, challenge… and any more buzz words you can think of.

The thing is that if you fill in such a plan, for lessons a day, it takes up way too much time!

A lesson plan is just a piece of paper

Ultimately, a lesson is just a piece of paper, or a page on a tablet screen. It is how the teacher converts what is on the plan into practice in the classroom that counts.

Putting those plans down onto paper can be useful in helping the teacher to think through how to bring things to life in front of the class. More often than not, those plans are not for the teacher though. The lesson plan is for the benefit of the school, the department or the independent observer (such as Ofsted). It becomes a box-ticking exercise. It becomes yet another layer of scrutiny and accountability.

Schools will often have standard policies in place for the delivery of lessons. This might include how assessment objectives or learning outcomes are displayed and communicated with students. As with any whole-school approach, there are pros and cons – but the uniform approach and familiarity it brings are clear benefits.

A school might also have a policy regarding starters and plenaries. If there is a whole-school policy it needs to be agreed and adhered to. However, beyond that there is no single way of submitting a lesson plan that is better than any other.