Lesson plan structure

A solid lesson plan should provide you, the teacher, the direction and the ability to visualize the path of learning that consists of the “what, why, and how” of the teaching-learning activities. Your lesson plan is a sequence of well-organized learning experiences that connects instructional events. I believe an effective lesson plan also provides opportunities for students thinking to be visible, and allows them to interact and ask questions, tap into their background knowledge, and build new skills to make connections to a real-life situation to practice critical thinking skills. The use of real-world scenarios will increase rigor, relevance, and critical thinking. 

During my many years in the classroom and as an instructional leader, I believe educational practices are guided largely by what Segiovanni (1985) has termed “mindscapes.”  Mindscapes are mental frameworks or paradigm through which we envision reality and our place in reality.  Beginning in the early 1980’s the mindscape that drove teaching practices has changed.  This change is the move from psychometric/behaviorist philosophy to the cognitive philosophy of education.  The principal goal of education is to create individuals who are capable of doing new things, not simply repeating what other generations have done. Hence, I think lesson planning should also adapt. I have read many books on lesson planning including Skillful Teacher by Saphier, Powerful Lesson Planning by Skowron, and Classroom instruction that works by Dean to name a few to help me guide my thinking as an instructional leader.  Additional authors include Stiggins, Arter, Chappinus, Reeves, Wiggins, and McTighe.  Part of being an instructional leader is taking in all the information and making it your own with your lens and flair.  Below is what I feel is essential to plan a lesson to enhance student participation and engagement.


The purpose of the warm-up is to create a structured 2-5 minute period of time in which students engage in a range of possible activators that may or may not tie to the learning objective or the activities that will support the student attainment of the attended learning. The warm up sets up the students’ mental framework.

  • The warm-up activity helps stimulate brain activity.
  • Research also show that in this period children can move learning from their short- term memory to their long-term memory.

We can think of the warm-up in terms of an athlete “warming-up” for an activity.

S/he gets their body in tune with the activity, they develop their mental framework.

Framing the Learning:

  • Framing the Learning is a group of activities that establishes clarity for the lesson.
  • Framing the learning ensures that the student understands what s/he will know and what s/he will be able to do. 

The parameters of “Framing the Learning” are:

  • The objective: The What
    • An objective states what a student will know and be able to do.
    • Use of objectives raises students’ scores
    • Students knows what they’re going to learn and what to focus on when they read, listen, watch, or interact during the instruction
  • Agenda: The how
    • Informs the student of what they are going to be doing an in what order
    • Each part of the agenda should be linked to the completion of the objective
    • Provides clear guideline for teacher and students
  • Big Idea/Essential Questions: The Why
    • Provides focus for the learning
    • Helps the student internalize understanding to the overall learning –“Do I know the information necessary to answer the question?”
    • Leads to improve student performance

The Learning Experience

During this part of the lesson, students need to be engaged in activities that promote justification of their work to themselves and to one another connected to the objectives and learning outcomes. Or as I like to call it Active Learning! Knowledge is not transmitted directly from teacher to learner, but is actively built up by the learner during learning experiences. During this time, the students develops understanding by using ideas to incorporate new information or assimilating new experiences to what they already know.

A knowledge-building community is essential because learning does not occur in isolation. The notion of collaboration, not only between teacher and students, but also among students is crucial to the development of knowledge.  Plan collaborative learning during student learning experiences that pushes thinking and develops critical thinkers.


Closing a lesson require students to internalize their learning and helps them to summarize learning. It will promote metacognition allowing thinking about thinking; the process of considering and regulating one’s own learning. Closure is too often missed due to “ran out of time” or a quick “wrap up”.  Closure is critical to cementing instruction moving from a group of tasks to deeper student learning and retention.


Routines are important in the classroom because students know what to expect and thus feel safer in the environment. Having consistent lesson planning and pace makes it easier for students to focus on the flow of instruction, know what is coming, and comprehend what they are being taught. With a concrete lesson plan in place for each day, it’s easier for teachers to establish this routine because they don’t have to make last-minute adjustments and students are ready for the learning.

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