Unit Plans For Teachers (page 2)

Updated on Nov 18, 2011

Goals and Objectives

Objectives for a daily lesson plan are drawn from the broader goals of the unit plan but are more specific and often stated as learning outcomes that are achieved over a defined time period. In writing lesson objectives, consider first what you want your students to be able to do as a result of the lesson. Also consider the conditions students will work under to accomplish the desired outcomes and the criteria you will use to judge a satisfactory attainment of the objectives—in other words, how your students will demonstrate that they have met the objectives of your lesson. Also consider if your students are ready for the new material or if first they will need some prerequisite knowledge or skills to succeed. This step allows you to factor in any needed preparatory work so that the necessary prerequisites are attained and students are able to meet the objectives. Finally, based on the unit goals, decide how many lessons will cover the unit and write a specific objective for each lesson.

While every education professor will have preferences for how you do lesson plans for his or her class, there really is no single right way to organize your units or lessons. Check to see if your school or school district requires a particular format. Many states will have sample lessons available that illustrate how to teach to their standards, so look for those to see if they are useful for your own classroom. You can always modify such lessons or the lessons you find that are suggested in textbooks. The format of the sample lessons might be useful as well as a guide for your own planning. We will consider a couple of different formats in this unit.

Usually lessons are planned in the context of a unit of instruction—a series of lessons organized around a theme or related concepts. In science, for example, a unit might be created on weather or mammals; in social studies, perhaps on Colonial America; in math, on fractions. So, we recommend you first conceptualize your unit. Begin by roughly sketching out what you want your students to learn in general: the unit goals.

In writing your goals, ask yourself why you are teaching this unit. What do you want your students to learn from it (knowledge, skills, attitudes, and appreciations)? How will you answer when a students ask, "Why do we have to learn this?" Consider giving an answer that tells them how learning whatever it is will benefit them now in their daily lives, rather than, for example, when they are in high school or college or working a job.

An example will illustrate how goals differ from objectives. A unit on biomes in science may have the following goal: "Students will understand and appreciate the diversity of plants and animals that make up each of the biomes." The lesson objectives, however, will be more specific and contain indicators that will inform you if the student has achieved the objective, such as, "The student will define diversity in the words of others or in his or her own words," or "The student will explain how maintaining the species diversity in a particular biome can be achieved."

In general, units will have goals, which are more general statements of what is to be accomplished, while lessons within the unit will have more specific objectives.

Elements common to most lesson plans include:

  • Objectives (sometimes combined with the state standards being addressed)
  • Activities (read-alouds, investigations, role-plays, WebQuests, homework, etc.)
  • Time estimates
  • Materials needed
  • Alternatives (for students who may be absent during a lesson, or for differentiating instruction for different ability levels or interests)
  • Assessment

Sometimes teachers also include prerequisites that indicate what the students need to know or be able to do to achieve the objective(s). It is always important to consider prior knowledge and skills when you are planning instruction, since researchers have found that most learning, more than two-thirds, is dependent on how prepared the students are for the instruction.

Activities are the "meat" of your lessons and should be carefully planned. Don't include activities just to keep students busy. Each activity should contribute to the students meeting the lesson's objectives.

Using your calendar as a rough guide, you can write out or word process your units and lessons. Teachers vary a great deal as to the level of detail they create in their lesson plans, and this typically changes with years of experience as well. Some will use an outline with times indicated to help keep track, while others will write out detailed notes on the content. We recommend that you have a daily agenda prepared that can be shared with your students, and this will help you to make smooth transitions as you move through topics and activities.

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