Questions to reflect on when planning a lesson

Here are some key questions I have created to support teachers planning lessons for their students. It is by no means comprehensive and constructive feedback is always appreciated.

Do the children have an understanding of what they are meant to be learning?

This does not mean that the learning objective needs to be shared at the start of each lesson but at some stage in the lesson, the children should be given the opportunity to reflect on the purpose of the lesson.

Do the children have an understanding of the criteria for success?

The best way to do this is often to compare a poor (anonymous) example of a previous attempt with a good example and let the children draw out the differences themselves – this then becomes the criteria for success in the lesson/series of lessons.

How are you going to collect accurate information relating to the children’s current understanding?

Asking the brightest children a question in order to gauge whether the majority of children in your class have understood a concept is a very poor way to make ‘on the spot’ judgements about levels of current understanding. Instead you might use a range of formative assessment techniques, including:

  • A random student selection process for questions – to ensure everyone is participating in the lesson.
  • Multiple choice questions and all student response systems – ask a question, students provide a response on fingers or with A, B, C, D cards & the teacher gains a quick overview of current understanding.
  • A hinge point question during the lesson to inform next steps.
  • Exit tickets.

Are you providing an opportunity for your students to think hard and struggle?

One of the key findings drawn out of research in relation to learning is that providing opportunities for students to really struggle & think hard in relation to the idea/concept/skill you are teaching them, helps children learn better over the long term. Counter intuitively,  making lessons easier for students so they can all perform well in the moment, reduces long term learning. Good quality learning is messy and does not happen within an hour. Ensure you put them in the learning pit!

How are the students using the feedback you are providing to improve their learning?

If the students are unable to answer this, then the feedback you are providing is probably ineffective. Ensure the children understand the feedback and have an opportunity to put it into practice in the current activity or in the next planned activity or it is likely to be wasted. Remember, avoid ‘sat-nav’ syndrome – providing overly detailed feedback that helps the student perform in the lesson but reduces learning. Provide a little, just enough to help the student reflect on how to improve. Encourage thinking responses not ego responses.

What is the teacher’s role during the activity?

Although you may need to pop around the tables from time to time to keep children on task, flitting around the class aimlessly (or sitting at your computer) during the entire activity session might not be a productive way to encourage learning. How are you going to stretch children and continue to prompt & support their learning once the whole class teaching session has ended? If you are using teacher focus group sessions, ensure each group gets a fair share of your time over the week.

What is the teaching assistant’s role during the lesson?

Do they have a clearly defined role in this lesson or are they arriving at the lesson ‘blind’? Lots of research shows T/As impact on learning negatively because they automatically work with the low achievers which means the low achievers get a reduced amount of time to work with the teacher – usually the most qualified person in the room. Consider the use of T/As carefully & communicate your expectations.

For a summary of the research relating to the effective use of Teaching Assistants in class, see the Education Endowment Foundation’s Teaching and Learning Toolkit:

Further reading:

Embedded Formative Assessment (2012) by Dylan Wiliam

What if everything you knew about education was wrong? (2015) by David Didau


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