Lesson Plans

As is the case with objectives and unit planning, lesson plans come in different varieties. Some schools adopt a style that all teachers are to follow. It may also be the case that in your student-teaching experience, there was (will be) a particular format that you were (are) supposed to follow. Of course, in these situations you will need to be sure to meet the expectations placed upon you. However, when it really comes right down to conceptualizing how you will teach something, the format must be something that works for you. We are not suggesting that you try to bamboozle anybody and slide your preferred lesson plan style by them. However, plan in a way that facilitates your work and then, if need be, you can write it out in a format that satisfies your other requirements. It will not be difficult to do because your plan will already have the necessary elements.

Traditional Lesson Plans

A traditional lesson plan is the generic format that is used in most introductory methods courses. It looks like this:



This unit begins with students identifying their ancestors, identifying their ethnic backgrounds, connecting historic events with the lives of their ancestors, and growing into their own unique personal identities, and leads to students developing a better understanding of the U.S. as a melting pot. We will focus upon the concept of immigration and relate the past to the current issues of immigration in the U.S.


The primary purpose is to foster an understanding that America is politically, ethnically, culturally, and economically a nation of immigrants. Study will focus on the motivations for immigration, the dangers of the journey to America, the challenges in adapting to a new world, and the development of a melting pot culture in this country.

Objectives (Days 1-5): The students will

  1. record and transcribe an interview of their families,

  2. provide documentation of immigrant ancestors,

  3. write an overview of the country after researching their country or countries of origin.


The main resources will be family interviews, documents, records, and pictures. For interviews, students may use tape recorders, digital cameras, notebooks, and pens/pencils.


Family Tree Activity

Students will trace the family tree, if possible as far back as their ancestors who were immigrants.

  • Diagram the family tree

  • Place of birth

  • Pictures (if available)

  • What brought them to the U.S.

  • Summary of their lives in the country of origin and in the U.S.

  • Research the history of U.S. immigration

  • Examples of customs, dress, music, religious traditions, etc.

  • Written overview of the country of origin (2-3 pages)

  • Family traditions that relate to ancestry

  • Report will be written and shared orally

  • This assignment can be a resource throughout the school year in teaching the history of the U.S.


The oral presentations and reports will be graded using two teacher-created rubrics.

Note that the objectives are written using behavioral verbs that indicate what the students will do (e.g., interview, seek, research, and write). Conceptualizing objectives in this way emphasizes student engagement in the lesson.

Some traditional forms also include other sections, such as "anticipatory set," "extensions," and "modifications." Another traditional lesson plan format is taken from Madeline Hunter's planning model. The basic format for that model is illustrated below.


  1. Anticipatory set: a brief activity or prompt that focuses student attention at the beginning of a lesson; can be a discrepant event, a handout, or focusing question
  2. Purpose: the objective(s), what is to be learned and/or what students will be able to do
  3. Input: procedure, what the teacher will do. Includes vocabulary and skills, etc.
  4. Modeling: what you will show or demonstrate so that the students understand what is expected of them, what a finished product will look like
  5. Guided practice: how you will lead the students step by step using the trimodal approach—hear/see/do
  6. Checking for understanding (CFU): using questioning strategies to find out if the students have achieved the objectives and to help you pace the lesson
  7. Independent practice: what students will do to practice on their own
  8. Closure: how you will end the lesson; can be a review or summary or the "L" part of a K-W-L

Learning Cycle Lesson Plans

The Learning Cycle planning format is based upon a constructivist perspective on learning that can be traced back to John Dewey. In this view, ideas are not transmitted by teachers telling them to their students but are actively constructed by the students themselves. Among the founders of this view of learning were Piaget and Vygotsky, and from their theories, an instructional model emerged in the 1960s that would later be called the Learning Cycle. This format is most popular among science teachers but has relevance for other subjects as well. The original format for the Learning Cycle had only three steps (Exploration, Invention, Discovery), but the format evolved into five steps and most recently seven (Eisencraft, 2003). The purpose of changing the model to the 7E format is to remind teachers of the importance of eliciting students' prior knowledge and the extending of concepts to the real world and to other areas where they may be relevant. Here are the steps with a brief description of each phase:

  1. Elicit: You assess the students' prior knowledge of the content, which can be a pretest or a K-W-L chart, or simply by conducting a talk with your class about what they know.
  2. Engage: You do a demonstration or pose a problem that helps focus student attention to the topic, helps them make connections, and gives them a heads-up as to what they will be studying.
  3. Explore: Now your students are at the center of the action as they seek information or collect data to solve a problem.
  4. Explain: Here students report what they did and what answer(s) to the problem emerged while you introduce new vocabulary and use questions to assess their understandings of the concepts.
  5. Elaborate (or Expand): You offer new information that adds to the study and you pose problems or issues that students solve or discuss by applying what they have learned.
  6. Evaluate: Students self-assess, and you evaluate by whatever means you choose to find out what they have learned.
  7. Extend: Here you help students connect newly acquired skills and knowledge to new situations within the subject area or to other subject areas.

Much research has been conducted on the effectiveness of the Learning Cycle approach and supports the conclusion that this planning model, compared against traditional approaches, results in better student achievement and retention of concepts, as well as improved attitudes, more sophisticated reasoning ability, and better performance of process skills (Gerber, Cavallo, & Merrick, 2001). Using a Learning Cycle format can help you develop a conceptual storyline that accommodates both selection and sequencing of teaching activities so that you avoid fragmented activities (Ramsey, 1993). But always remember, there is no one best lesson-planning model. Elements of the models presented here can be used to create a framework that best fits your own teaching philosophy.