Go with the flow: the 2 minute lesson plan

NB: This post does no longer represents my latest thinking. I’ve updated my approach to planning here.

Like all teachers, my main aim in life is to run, whooping, out of the school gates by 3 o’clock. My time is therefore precious and I can’t be wasting it mucking about planning lessons. Fortunately for us skiving scoundrels,  SMW recently told us that as far as Ofsted are concerned there is no need for lesson plans. As long as lessons are planned.

These are my two guiding principles for lesson planning:

  • Marking is planning
  • Focus on learning not activities

So, how’s this for a minimalist approach to lesson planning? Just answer the following questions, and then try to ‘break’ the plan:

  1. What did students learn last lesson and how will it relate to this lesson?
  2. Which students do you need to consider in this particular lesson?
  3. What will students do the moment they arrive?
  4. What do you want students to learn and what activities will they undertake in order to learn it?
  5. How will you (and they) know if they have made progress?

By breaking the plan I mean that you should conduct a thought experiment where you anticipate everything that could go wrong and consider your response. A bit like a risk assessment.

The only other consideration I will typically indulge in is whether the plan is likely to produce ‘flow’. Basically, is the level of challenge complemented by the level of support? Here’s  my handy visual for mapping flow based on the ideas from Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi‘s book. The theory is that if lessons are high challenge/low stress students will be more likely to enter the mystical state where time flies, they become utterly absorbed in their work and ideas just, er… well, flow.

imgres

I have the diagram above up in my room and regularly ‘take the temperature’ of a lesson by asking students to place themselves on the graph. This gives me valuable information about whether I need to raise or lower the stress or challenge of a particular activity. Invaluable.

But can you really do all this in two minutes? No. Of course you can’t. Certainly not from scratch.This was a bit of a childish response to Ross McGill’s rather nifty 5 minute lesson plan which you can download from the TES here. And I have adapted (shamelessly pinched) the ideas for this quickfire approach to planning from John Tomsett’s marvellous Lesson Progress Map which can be found here.

I do, however, believe that teachers often spend too much time on lesson planning, and that marking is generally a better use of time. In fact I’d argue that marking (if done well) is planning. If you’ve thought carefully about your medium term plan and have a clear overview on where students are supposed to get to, marking their books provides all the input I need to plan purposeful lessons.

It’s worth bearing in mind that most of the time we spend planning gets wasted thinking about Question 4. You can save yourself a lot of frustration and get some elegantly simple ideas by using something like the Learning Event Generator.

Why wouldn't you?

Why wouldn’t you?

In any given week I’ll sometimes spend a disproportionate time planning one or two lessons but most will be put together in no more than 5 minutes. My formula tends to be that if every fourth lesson for every class is a corker, all will be well. Using a checklist like the one above could help us streamline the process of preparing lessons and free up more time for formative assessment. Or having a life.

Anyway, give it whirl; see what you think.

Related posts

Planning the ‘perfect’ lesson
Work scrutiny: what’s the point in marking books?
Are worksheets a waste of time?

30 Responses to Go with the flow: the 2 minute lesson plan

  1. Debaser says:

    Can you really do all that in 2 minutes?

    I can do steps 1, 2 and 5 in two minutes without too many problems.

    However, for me, steps 3-4 (planning a ‘starter’ or ‘bell work’ and planning the ‘main activities’) are the big time-sinks.

    Should I dispense with starters? If so, how do you deal with the ‘straggler effect’ and negate the overspill of breaktime gossip?

    How about the ‘main activity’? How often do you employ the ‘home/expert group’ technique? How much preparation time does that involve?
    Could you go into a bit more detail on your example of summarising Act Two of Romeo and Juliet? How would you divide that task up into five parts?

    Sorry to bombard you with so many questions. I’m a big fan of your work, but I’d appreciate some more specfic examples of the techniques in action.

  2. learningspy says:

    Home/Expert is one of my favourite ways to teach. Isn’t A2 of R&J already divided into 5 scenes? Just give one scene to each expert. group.

    Your point about starters is an interesting one. I address it here: http://learningspy.co.uk/2011/09/03/the-end-of-the-starter/
    Basically, I’d advise avoiding fireworks (activities which take ages to set up but which are over in seconds)

  3. Debaser says:

    Ok, but, to take your example screenshot (use of the apostrophe using an illustrated diagram), surely we would still have to spend time creating that ‘diagram’, deciding what students should do with it etc?

    Or would you ask the students to come up with the diagram themselves? If so, what do you do about misconceptions? What guidelines would you give them in terms of what the ‘diagram’ should look like?

  4. learningspy says:

    I really wouldn’t spend any time creating the diagram – that’s for them to do. We would come up with success criteria for the diagram together. Misconceptions can be dealt with considering Q5 AND Q1 of next lesson.

    In fact – that is now a planned lesson which I’ll use with Year 9 this week. Took less than 2 mins thanks to your input. Thanks.

  5. Sue Dixon says:

    I’ve found this thread really interesting – thanks everyone. I used to challenge school to take the plug off the photocopier for a week and see what happened; more thinking and learning usually! I now do sessions with teachers and parents with a series of active learning ideas – manageable ‘chunks’ of learning (starters /homework ideas etc). I get half the room to do a worksheet on a literacy or maths concept and the other half to do a thinking / active /games type activity. We then talk about the differences. Only last night at a session a parent who had the worksheet said ‘Well mine was much more boring’. Try it with children/young people see what they tell you when faced with a direct and thoughtful comparison.

  6. Debaser says:

    Would that activity fill a whole lesson?

    What would it look like?

    1. Introduce learning objectives

    2. Establish success criteria

    3. Each group table given a different rule to illustrate on big paper (omission, possession, plurals, it’s vs its etc)

    3. Home/expert group to synthesize each rule

    4. Plenary

    Something like that?

    This is all new to me. I work at a very high performing grammar school and am finding it hard to let go and fully embrace independent learning, even though I know it’s the best way forward.

  7. learningspy says:

    ‘Activity’ is the wrong way to look at it. Just the LOs could take 30 mins if you wanted it to. But yes, that’ll take an hour. Even better if each group had to produce a different outcome: diagram, roleplay, song, sculpture. Whatever.

  8. […] place in the classroom, careful planning of lessons is crucial. Recent posts by @TeacherToolkit and @learningspy have talked about 5 and 2 minute lesson plans respectively but the timing of the planning belies […]

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  10. […] Go with the flow: the 2 minute lesson plan « The Learning Spy Some thoughts on Learning Styles « The Learning Spy The rusting can of worms that is Learning Styles has been prised open again and the wriggling mess is crawling all over the educational twittersphere. And on that note I will stop extending the metaphor. I have been in too many situations where young people who weren’t ‘getting it’ one way then started ‘getting it’ when we tried a different way, to dismiss the whole learning styles thing as a fad. As a teacher, I don’t care what the different learning styles a class of children have (although knowing such things when working with individual learners can be useful in my experience) and I don’t care what you call it. All I know is that a variety of learning approaches (you can call it VAK, you can call it multi-sensory learning, you can call it the application of the Dunn and Dunn Learning Styles Model , you can call it whatever you want) makes a difference and helps me as a teacher and them as learners. Target grades are good aren’t they? […]

  11. […] The first is fairly straight forward. Students do work, I mark it with feedback that requires them to do (or re-do) something and then they do it. Based on my knowledge of each individual I will have a good idea of what they’re capable or and whether the work they’ve handed in demonstrates progress. I would aim to mark a class’s books regularly enough that at least 1 out of every 4 lessons is spent acting on feedback. Not only does this mean that every student in the class has a uniquely differentiated lesson plan, it also means that I don’t have to fritter away my time planning ‘activities’ (shudder!) This is an integral component of the 2 Minute Lesson Plan. […]

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  14. […] planning but I’ve recently boiled it down to the following essentials: • Time is precious (the 2 minute lesson plan) • Marking is planning • Lessons should focus on learning not activities I’ve written […]

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  17. […] says in one of his blogs that if every fourth lesson for every class is a corker, all will be well. http://learningspy.co.uk/2012/11/17/2-minute-lesson-plan/.  Similarly, one of my colleagues, Penny Hall, said to me recently that she spins plates with her […]

  18. […] – Tags: flow, planning, Teaching – Kelsie Strohmaier – 5:32 pm This is a minimalist approach to lesson planning… 2 minute lesson plans. The author’s main point to get across is […]

  19. […] I plan a lot of lessons in my head. I keep my medium term planning up to date and aim to focus each lesson on one particular student’s needs. I tell them that they’re my student of the day and that this is lesson is especially for them. Can be very powerful. Here’s a more extended discussion of my ideas on planning: http://learningspy.co.uk/2012/11/17/2-minute-lesson-plan/ […]

  20. […] I plan a lot of lessons in my head. I keep my medium term planning up to date and aim to focus each lesson on one particular student’s needs. I tell them that they’re my student of the day and that this is lesson is especially for them. Can be very powerful. Here’s a more extended discussion of my ideas on planning. […]

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  22. […] Student teachers seem to be under the assumption that a great lesson is about planning lots of fun activities. They are spending an enormous amount of time on planning activities which require time-intensive resourcing. Unfortunately this has led to nothing more successful than an addiction to laminating and guillotining. How much it has led to an increase in student progress is questionable. We spent time in the session thinking about how these time-intensive activities could be tweaked to ensure that they did not require such a vast input of resources. By the end of this part of the session, the student teachers had come up with a bank of hooks they could start each lesson that required little resourcing and could be reused with minimal changes each week. They also decided on a bank of ‘takeaways’ as we call it, to judge whether students have understood the most essential new piece of knowledge from that lesson. The key is to use these hooks and takeaways in a cycle so students focus less on the activity because they are so familiar with it and more on the thinking they will need to evidence their learning. At our school, we have our version of the 5 minute lesson plan that staff can use to plan their lessons quickly yet effectively. We also like to share David Didau’s post ‘Go with the flow: 2 minute lesson plan’. […]

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  24. […] these.  I also like David Didau’s (@learningspy) ‘break the plan’ (read about it here).  If they have thought about what could go wrong they should be more prepared.  I also recommend […]

  25. […] I plan a lot of lessons in my head. I keep my medium term planning up to date and aim to focus each lesson on one particular student’s needs. I tell them that they’re my student of the day and that this is lesson is especially for them. Can be very powerful. Here’s a more extended discussion of my ideas on planning. […]

  26. Re: Q5. Reading your book, ‘progress’ takes quite a bashing (rapid vs sustained, lesson performance an unreliable proxy for learning). Have you reviewed this post in light of that?

    • David Didau says:

      Yes – this post is garbage! There’s an NB right at the top. I think it might be ask whether students are appearing to make progress. But you’re right to point out the error. I didn’t know then what I know now. 🙂

Constructive feedback is always appreciated

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