When I started in education, teachers still closely followed the Madeline Hunter lesson format.  Dr. Hunter (1916-1994) was hugely influential and based her template on the most recent research available in the 1970’s and ’80’s.  Recent research into learning has given us a lot of new information on what we should consider when designing lessons.  While there is still some value in studying the work of Madeline Hunter, we’ve compiled an infographic that looks at the most recent research and trends in lesson planning.

The Infographic

lesson planning
Organizing Lessons for Learning


Lesson Planning:  A Discussion

Task analysis is something that special educators have been doing since the early days.  As the need for general educators to differentiate increases, so too have they started using this powerful tool.  Deconstructing a complicated, higher order skill into smaller, more manageable pieces to assess and teach is a powerful technique to make sure students with “holes” in their learning are not left behind.

Prioritizing the subskills that are most important allows you to get the most “bang for your buck” from your lessons.  It helps assure students will have early wins with skills that they can leverage to address a variety of problems.  The 80-20 rule, also known as the Pareto Principle, is not an exact science.  It is a rule of thumb that reminds us that some skills that we teach have more enduring value, better application to a wide variety of topics, and more importance for success in future learning.

Now that you’ve selected what you’re teaching first, how can you distill it down to its most essential parts?  Attempting to create a one-page summary of the rules and principles is a powerful technique, as is using metaphors and analogies to link the new concepts to previously learned ones.  Can you use graphic organizers or mnemonics to encode larger concepts so students can visualize the big picture?  As always, an important part of lesson planning is serving up the content so your customers can digest it.

It’s Show Time

Now it’s time to build your presentation.  How you organize your lesson is quite important.  Giving students confidence with an “early win” of knowledge can be a great motivator.  Lesson planning should really start by referring back to your formative assessment to see where you will begin is vital.  Teacher modeling interleaved with student-solved questions is a best practice according to the Institute of Education Science.

Closely tied in to the organization is the execution, where you will decide things like massed vs. distributed exposure.  If you have the time, spreading out the study sessions is much more powerful than packing it into a marathon session.  As you can tell your students, studying 15 minutes a night for four nights is much more powerful than studying for one hour right before the test, especially with regard to long-term retention.  Also, we remember what we hear at the very first (primacy) and the very last (recency) the most.  This is part of the famous von Restorff Effect.  Breaking up the lesson using brain breaks and “take fives” multiplies the number of those primacy and recency moments.

Do Some Action Research Of Your Own

Leveraging the power of new research into how we learn and rolling that into your lesson planning process can have a significant effect on student learning.  Use our infographic as a guide of aspects to think about, but always put your own creativity and expertise into your lessons.