Kay K.Stephens
School of Education
Oregon State University

Planning Your Lesson

It is important when planning your lesson to think about several things: How does this lesson build on students' prior learning? How is it congruent with the unit and curriculum goals? How will I assess that we have met the lesson objectives by the end of the lesson? How have I met the different learning styles of the students?


A context statement (some people call this the statement of purpose) is optional, but may be useful to begin a lesson plan for your work sample with a sentence that sets the lesson's context, especially if it is not readily apparent from the objectives and activities how the lesson fits into the overall plan. The context may ...

  • set the tone for the lesson,
  • explain a special need you've discovered,
  • explain what happened before,
  • answer the question, "Why are we doing this now?".
    Whatever its purpose, it should not be longer than a sentence or two.


    Because students demonstrated at the end of the previous lesson that they did not understand the family's relationship to Calpurnia in "To Kill a Mockingbird", I decided that we needed to set a historical context for understanding the role of the black servant in the southern white home. Hopefully, this lesson will help students understand the attitudes of other characters that they will meet in the novel.

    Lesson Objectives

    A lesson objective is not a unit goal, a content standard, or an activity; it is a means of achieving the unit goals and defines what students will know, value, or be able to do as a result of the lesson activities. When designing lesson objectives, ask yourself, "After today's lesson what will my students know? be able to do? value?

    Sample lesson objectives:

    Alignment with Unit Goals and Standards

    Alignment with unit goals and standards is a list of standards and unit goals addressed in the lesson. Instruction should move students toward meeting unit goals and benchmark standards; however not every lesson will address all the goals and standards. When you are planning, ask yourself two questions:

    1. What unit goals and standards does this lesson address, and
    2. How does this lesson promote learning that allows students to demonstrate mastery of the standard.

    Anticipatory Set

    Anticipatory set is the label given to the beginning or transitional activity of the lesson plan that engages the students with the content and process of the lesson. The anticipatory set can take a number of different structures:

    An important characteristic of the anticipatory set is that it be congruent with the lesson activities. Beginning the lesson with a discussion of last night's football game might not be congruent with a lesson on Silas Marner's miserly ways; however, it might be with Brancato's Winning. You need to use a variety of creative structures since nothing is so deadly as using anticipatory set structure repeatedly. Connecting to the student's own experience and prior learning is the best strategy.

    Sample anticipatory sets:

    1. For a lesson selecting a topic for a career search: "Make a list of all the toys you played with in childhood." Pause for students to liset. "Besides a toy, list a career to which the play activity may be related." After writing, students share.
    2. For a lesson on superstition in Julius Caesar: With your partner, brainstorm a list of the superstitions that you recognize in your culture. After listing, compile a class list.
    3. For a lesson on "The Lottery", by Shirley Jackson: What is the general attitude about winning the lottery?" Pause for discussion. "Are all of the consequences positive?"
    4. For a lesson on rituals in Things Fall Apart: Place a slite of an African dance mask on the overhead and lead a discussion of what purpose the mask might serve in a tribal dance. What do students know about masked dances? What experience do they have with masks?
    5. For the second day of a lesson on To Kill a Mockingbird: "List three things that happened in Chapter 1 and 2 that might reveal Scout's character." Students write and then share.
    6. For the introduction of a lesson on receiving feedback on a performance review: Ask, "Have you ever received feedback on your work that you thought was negative? In writing describe in detail what the person said, how you felt, what you thought, what you said." It's probably not productive to share this with the entire class since this might take the students off task. It is appropriate to validate a students feelings about feedback.


    This portion of the lesson plan is a chronological list of the activities that the teacher and students will do to meet the lesson objectives. It serves the useful purpose of acting as a script for the teacher if she gets distracted and a record for the outside observer (mentor, supervisor, evaluator, administrator) of what she did to meet the objectives. It is not mandatory for the teacher to march lock step through the plan because it may become necessary to monitor and adust as the instruction goes forward; however, writing the list of activities is a helpful rehearsal for the lesson. Ask yourself as you are writing your lesson activities: What will this look like? sound like? You know your students (cast, if you will), so run the movie in your head.

    Adaptation for Special Needs

    Most classrooms include students who need special accommodations. Accommodations include strategies that you will use to adapt instruction for...

    1. talented and gifted students,
    2. students for whom English is not their first language,
    3. students with physical, learning, and behavioral challenges.
    Constructivist, student-centered instruction uses structures that involve collaborative activities, student choice projects, and extensions. While you may have embedded these strategies in your activities, you are expected (by parents and administrators and others) to articulate the accommodations you make to meet the needs of students who need them.


    Assessment is what you and your students do to demonstrate that you have met the lesson objectives. It may be the practice activity that follows the lesson where students apply the knowledge they've gained while you look over shoulders and give feedback; it may be a quiz over the lesson material; it may be a feedback session on the principles learned. Whatever the structure, it should be congruent with the anticipatory set and the lesson activities.

    Research shows that classes that end with a specific closure activity reflect better student performance and behavior. Closure alerts students that "passing time" is near. If students recognize that the teacher will watch the clock and respect their need to wrap things up before the "bell", they are more likely to stay on task and use their time productively. Closure may be a reporting on what was accomplished during work time, putting away materials, review of the homework assignment, aquestions about what happens next, checking for understanding, orthe assessment activity.


    The lesson reflections should be written at the end of the day. These can be brief, handwritten summary notes that are synthesized later into the reflection for your work sample. The length of the reflection vaires; however, it should include specific details of what went well ("it was a good day" doesn't tell as much as "all of the students were able to list three details from the story"), what event(s) got in the way of teaching and learning, questions you have about the effetiveness of your teaching and learning, questions you have about the effectiveness of your teaching and the student practice, some ideas for re-teaching (what you'd do again; what you'd not do again).

    Reflection Record Form

    This form can be used to record your reflections. It contains the pertinent information which you will want to include. Click here to access the Reflection Record Form.