Once you have a clear idea of what you want to teach and at what pace, you can start to think about how to structure sessions.
The lesson itself, when removed from the restrictions that schooling places on learners, can take many different forms and it’s important to allow your creativity to be your guide here. Learning outside the classroom has the scope to be much more imaginative, but some basic principles have to be followed in order for it to be effective.
Creating a lesson planning system (a quick form or list or a diary entry that you can refer to) is strongly advisable; if you have no structure, your children won’t either. Despite fashionable arguments from the 1970s onwards against structure in learning, there is precious little evidence that unstructured teaching does anything other than confuse children and produce very weak lessons.
A lesson plan should begin with a learning objective; this is a question you wish your child to be able to answer by the end of the lesson. Try to limit it to one objective per lesson. Make sure that the objectives of lesson two follow on from the objectives of lesson one; this makes the new ideas children have in each session far easier to grasp.
Example lesson plan:
1. Starter (5-10 minutes)
This is a short, fun, active introduction to the lesson that is related to the topic. If you were teaching about the Norman Conquests to Key Stage Three learners, perhaps an appropriate type of exercise would be to give them a mixed up series of cards with key events from the historical narrative, which need to be quickly re-arranged into the right order, with the pupils arguing why their version of events is right.
2. Main Exercise (30-40 minutes)
Now you have got your child switched on, focused and engaged, you are into your window of peak learning, which is about half an hour to forty minutes. This time is precious, so don’t clog it up with too much talk, you need to give the learner a sufficient amount of information in a handout, book, DVD or website so they have knowledge from which to learn, but you aren’t so much driving towards filling them with facts as teasing out a judgement or evaluation. Your lesson needs to have a key question, such as ‘Why did William win at the Battle of Hastings?’ or ‘What were the consequences of William’s victory for England?’, otherwise it is just a process of chewing through facts, and if your learner doesn’t find that boring, you will!
3. Plenary Session (5- 10 minutes)
A plenary session is where you assess whether the learning has been effective, and it’s a nice conclusion to the lesson that gives the learner a sense of resolution. In this last ten minutes, try not to ask ‘did you understand that?’, as most learners will try to please their teacher by saying yes, even if they didn’t. Instead, you need to coax the learner into ‘teaching’ you; by asking them bigger questions that ascertain what meaning or conclusions they can draw from the lesson, you’ll know how much learning really happened.
We’re here to support you and help make learning fun! For more lesson plans and ideas from our teachers and homeschool experts, check out the advice section of EdPlace’s homeschooling hub.
A scheme of work is simply a plan that describes what will be done over a series of lessons.
Sometimes children will learn a new topic or skill quickly, and sometimes they might need longer to pick it up. Not to worry, this is perfectly normal and you should not be disheartened!
Ideally there should be a variety of activities rather than repetition of similar tasks in order to engage your child and keep their interest.
Miss Amy, teacher and homeschooling writer
If you are teaching Key Stage 1, 2 or 3, you will need to refer directly to the National Curriculum; this will give you a general idea of what should ideally be taught in each subject area at each stage. If you are teaching GCSE and beyond, then you will need to choose an exam board that you feel comfortable with.
Exam boards will give you a much more detailed outline of what needs to be learned in a given topic and also what skills a learner has to have demonstrated in order to pass at a certain level.
Most exam boards will send out email updates if you register with them, telling you about changes to the syllabus and informing you of the dates of exams and other assessments, so it is always a good idea to subscribe.
If you have decided not to use the National Curriculum, you will still need to work out what you want to teach and when. If you want to teach history or English, it is a good idea to create a learning module that keeps the learners focused on a topic; for example, the Russian Revolution 1905-1924 or Shakespeare’s comedies. In both examples you can take the student on a journey, exploring change over time or comparing different plays.
Remember, both lesson plans and schemes of work are flexible working documents; not every lesson will go to plan, even for the most experienced teachers!
Lesson plans are more detailed descriptions of the activities that will be carried out in individual lessons. Schemes of work help with long term planning and allow you an overview of the types of activity your child does. Ideally there should be a variety of activities rather than repetition of similar tasks in order to engage your child and keep their interest.
In terms of lesson ‘success’, one measure of progress is your lesson objective question; if your child could not answer this question at the start of the lesson but can by the end of the lesson then they have made progress.
However sometimes we need a more specific measure of progress. You could use exam boards’ past papers for KS4 children but often these assessments are designed for the end of the entire course rather than at the end of a topic.
EdPlace’s assessments help give you visibility on your child’s topic strengths, as well as the topics they find more challenging. We also send weekly progress reports you keep you in the know.
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