Creating Lesson Plans: How and Why?

You’re about to teach your first class at Academy of Art University. Perhaps you share some of these fears:

"Students won’t like the class and they'll revolt!"

"I'm afraid I'll run out of things to do in class."

"I'm an actor without a script, and the play starts right away…"

"I’m drawing a blank. I don’t know where to begin."

Most teaching fears can be calmed, if not entirely eradicated, with a good lesson plan. There are many models of lesson planning floating around the teaching world. Some are terribly complex; others are deceptively simple. All, however, agree that two components are necessary:

1. Clear outcomes

  • What will the students be able to do by the end of the lesson?
  • How will I know they "got it"?

2. Meaningful progression of activities

  • How do I guide the students to the outcomes?

Outcomes help us focus on our destination. If you know your destination and you are familiar with the city, you will arrive there eventually, in spite of roadblocks and traffic jams. If you forget where you are going, or if you have only a vague idea of the destination, you will get frustrated (and so will your passengers).

The first step in creating a teaching outcome is narrowing down the topic enough so that it is of teachable size for one day. You cannot, for example teach all of Photoshop in one three-hour lesson, but you can effectively teach a number of tools in that time slot.

Second, clearly visualize what the students will be able to do once they have completed the day’s lessons. Attach a student behavior to the teaching topic. A teacher with clear outcomes can leave the classroom with a good idea of how well the students grasped the material for the day, rather than a vague “I think they got it—they were nodding”—feeling.

The progression of your activities will vary according to what you are teaching.

It pays to think about the beginning, middle and end of your lesson. How are you warming students up to your ideas? What kind of atmosphere are you trying to create? What activities will most efficiently help the students progress? How are you building their skills? What do you want them to know how to do once they leave the class that day?

Planning how long each activity will take is also important—three hours can go by awfully fast if one has the tendency to go off on tangents. Never plan to lecture for more than 20 minutes at a time.

Making sure that you have planned a variety of activities will ensure that all types of learners are going to find something to tune into in your lesson.