‘There should be a close relationship between the learning activities, the intended geographical learning and the learning needs of the pupils…Careful planning of the component parts must also consider how these parts connect to each other – ultimately, lessons need to be seen as a whole’
Biddulph et al (2021)
Topics on this page:
- What must teachers consider when they design lessons?
- Activity: Make a checklist for designing lessons
- Lesson planning templates
- Analysing lesson templates
- Observing and planning lessons
What must teachers consider when they design lessons?
When they design lessons, teachers need to decide the best way to teach the lesson so that the learning objectives can be met. How will they introduce the concepts and content of the lesson? How will they find out what students already know and remember from related topics they have been taught earlier?
They need to decide how to explicitly focus learning on the new material introduced in that lesson and anticipate what concepts students are going to struggle to understand? They need to consider how they are going to explain these, the examples to use, the questions to ask, the resources they will need. All of these questions feed into lesson planning.
Teachers also need to consider the learning journey of the lesson. How are the lesson aims and objectives taken forward during the lesson and brought to a conclusion? What progress are students expected to make in the lesson?
- Read about planning for progression within lessons in Taylor (2017) and study Figure 3 to see how objectives and learning activities are linked to bring about progress.
Lessons are usually structured into a series of steps or short ‘episodes’ that build up the students’ learning. The teacher plans the teaching strategy they will use in each episode and the learning activities or tasks that the students will be doing. Students benefit from guided instruction, having material presented in small chunks and then doing an activity to work with new material you are asking them to learn.
- Refer to Practice for information on the common learning sequence of explanation/modelling, then guided practice, then independent practice. This is known as the I-We-You approach.
It is very important for a teacher to think about the learning objective/s that they are working towards in each episode. Some lesson plan templates note the learning objective alongside each episode/activity to make the link explicit.
Teachers need to consider timing – how long will they spend on each episode? How can they allow sufficient opportunity for students to practise and consolidate new knowledge and skills? They will think about ‘spacing practice’ and identify points in the lesson when they will return to the new material they have introduced to check recall and understanding (retrieval practice).
Teachers also need to consider how to ‘scaffold’ students’ learning. This refers to the support that a teacher provides for students in lessons (see Scaffolding geographical learning).
From the above paragraphs, create a checklist of things to look for about how teachers design lessons. Use this when you observe other teachers’ lessons and afterwards discuss with them the decisions they made when designing this lesson and why they reached those decisions.
Lesson planning templates
When you are a trainee teacher, your ITE geography provider will probably provide you with a template to use for planning your lessons. It should support your professional development as a teacher and you may wish to make adaptions to help you to focus on the specific aspects of your personal teaching development that you are working on – for example, to show how you link learning activities with objectives. These are easy to make if your template is kept electronically. Explore different types of lesson templates and compare them with the one recommended for you to use.
- How do the different templates set out what geography will be covered in the lesson – Rationale? Title? Aims?
- How are links shown to the National Curriculum, examination specifications and/or the school scheme of work?
- Are links made to previous learning and/or students’ personal experience?
- How are objectives described? Are learning objectives distinguished from learning outcomes?
- How has the lesson template been adapted to consider the professional development of the trainee teacher?
- How are differentiation, assessment and resources included?
- Is specific vocabulary identified?
- What information is given for each episode in the lesson?
- What reference is there to other subjects/generic skills?
- Is evaluation included?
- How similar are all the templates in the elements they cover?
When you begin to teach lessons, it is important that you plan in detail so that you think carefully about all the elements link together and your written plans show this clearly. As you gain in experience discuss with your mentor how to adapt these written plans to retain the essential elements and links, while reducing the time it takes to produce them.
Continue to explore ideas about lesson design when you observe others teaching – there is a lot to consider when creating a good geography lesson. In these web pages you will find lots of different teaching approaches and learning activities to use in your lessons. Pace yourself as you begin to plan your own lessons; don’t try to do everything from the start. Focus on each element of a lesson in turn so you master it securely – you will find plenty of guidance in these webpages to help you.
Observe a geography lesson without seeing the lesson plan or knowing the lesson intentions. As you observe the lesson try to recreate the plan for the lesson.
- What do you think were the objectives and the expected learning outcomes?
- What geographical concepts and vocabulary were being taught?
- What was the timing for the different teaching and learning activities, or ‘episodes’ in the lesson?
You could record this on the regular lesson planning form. After the lesson discuss this with the teacher and compare your ‘plan’ with the teacher’s intended one! Discuss what you found out with the teacher. (A fuller outline of this activity is given in Biddulph et al (2021) Task 3.5 p 88.)
By the time you reach the end of the first term as a trainee teacher, you should be able to securely plan a lesson to ensure that all students in the class are making progress in learning geography.
- Biddulph, M., Lambert, D. and Balderstone, D. (2021), Learning to Teach Geography in the Secondary School: A Companion to School Experience, 4th edition, Abingdon: Routledge. Chapter 3.
- Taylor, L. (2017) ‘Progression’ in Jones, M. (ed) The Handbook of Secondary Geography, Chapter 4.