It took me a long time to figure out what lesson planning was. I had this impression it was a long-drawn-out, formal thing that you needed special training as a teacher to do. And since I was a homeschooler, planning lessons wasn’t needed anyway. I didn’t need to know how to lesson plan, I thought. All I needed to do was plan the learning activities we were going to do every day.
Which, ironically, is exactly what lesson planning actually is.
The Four Parts of a Lesson Plan:
Lesson plans have 4 main parts: the objective, the resources, the method, and the assessment. While these don’t have to be written out, you use these parts to actually create your plan. Every learning activity includes these elements, but they don’t have to be formal.
The objective is the purpose of the learning activity.
Knowing how to lesson plan starts out simple. Figure out the purpose of your learning activity. You can ask these questions: What question is your child going to learn the answer to? Or what skill are they going to develop?
All learning activities should be based on either developing one of the academic skills or exploring content. Academic skills are those that help students learn: reading, problem solving, critical thinking, etc. And content is based on questions about what, when, who, where, how and why things are the way they are: how do plants grow? why do people live where they live? what is the moon made of? etc.
Once you’ve determined your objective, figure out your resources.
Resources are the tools, books, materials, and other things used in the learning activity.
This second part of how to lesson plan includes all the tools you use to explore the content or develop the skill that is the purpose of the lesson.
For most homeschoolers, most lessons consist of the curriculum and school supplies used to complete that day’s assignment. So the resources for a particular lesson might be a particular book, a workpage, a pencil and an eraser.
Resources can include books, workbooks, worksheets, and texts. They can also include craft supplies, art supplies, and things like pencils & erasers. But you can also use things like: audiobooks & podcasts, Youtube videos & documentaries, toys & puzzles, board & card games, field trips, sports equipment & playgrounds, grandparents & older neighbours, community classes, and many others.
Just about anything can be a lesson resource.
The method is the description of what you plan to do.
This third part of your lesson plan is the “how” of learning. It’s the activities you plan to do with the resources to achieve the purpose. This is where you organize your resources into the amounts and order you’ll use them in.
If you’re using a book, list the pages to be read, or the chapters, or however much you want read in it. Maybe it’s a short story, and your child will enjoy the whole book. Or maybe it’s a chapter in an historical fiction novel. Or perhaps it’s just the next section in their textbook.
If you’re watching a YouTube documentary, jot down the link, or save it somewhere, and note the title of the video. Or maybe you’re using a browser-based game to practice a skill. If you’re using an online resource, make sure you save the link somewhere you will be able to find later.
If you’re going to a museum exhibit, list the date/time/location & name of exhibit. If you’re participating in a community activity (ie. an astronomy club demonstration, an historical re-enactment, etc), list time/date/location & name of activity. You may also want to include costs & supplies you want to bring.
Maybe you’re playing a board game or card game? Is there a toy set you’re going to bring out just to explore this topic? A craft to do, or an experiment to perform?
Whatever it is, list the resource and a brief description or note on how you plan to use it.
Then put all your resources in the order you want to use them. For example, first, you might read the pages in that book. Then while you’re watching a documentary, they’ll work on the “proof of learning” (see below). Then you’ll head out to the museum, or work on an experiment or other activity.
You shouldn’t need more than 3-4 resources to study a topic. Sometimes all you need is 1 resource. Sometimes, you’ll turn your lesson plan into a complete unit study, with multiple lessons over the course of a week or month.
The assessment is the “proof of learning”.
This is probably the most important part to those who don’t understand homeschooling, but really it’s the wrapping up of your learning activities. Assessments let your child show off what they’ve learned.
The assessment portion of your lesson plan doesn’t have to be a test or quiz. It can be as simple as taking pictures while they are enjoying the activity you planned. There are two uses for assessments: to “prove” what learning happened and to give you feedback so you can create better lesson plans.
For example, what if you want your child watch a video on YouTube on castles, but they’d rather just build their own instead? You could do both, challenge your child to make a castle like one in the video, and then take a picture of the castle they built out of Lego. That picture shows that your student learned about castles — and it captures the amazing work your child did!
Proof of learning doesn’t have to be a test or report. All it needs to be is something tangible.
This evidence then helps “prove” that your child actually learned something, which can be useful if you need to report on your homeschooling, or you have interested people who might be skeptical of homeschooling. It can also help you measure progress in skills or gained information, so that you can build further.
Skeptical folk tend to assume assessment means a grade of some kind, and “proof of learning” is often associated with a test. But you can “prove” learning happened in lots of different ways.
Some assessments are easy. For example worksheets are easily understood, easily completed proof of learning, which is why they’re used so often. Art projects have a finished item. An experiment has an observable result and report written. All of those become your “proof of learning”.
But what do you do with a non-writer, or if workbooks just aren’t your style?
For example a picture of the child at the field trip or in the middle of the game is proof of learning, when you caption it with the right jargon. Drawings, models, posters, lapbooks, journals, notebooking, videos, blogs .. are all “proof of learning” for the uninitiated. Any kind of documentation works. And all “proof of learning” make great gifts for the grandparents too.
Generally speaking, all of this would be written out in a “lesson plan” of some kind.
Again, this doesn’t have to be a formal plan. Much of my lesson planning consists of a scribble in a box on my planning sheet. Yours could be jotted notes in a planner book or notebook. Or maybe it’s just a sticky note on top of the book.
Many curriculum also come with pre-made lesson plans. They do the work for you, so you don’t have to.
The whole purpose behind lesson planning is so that you know what you’re doing before you get to that point, and that you know what supplies you need. That way you can gather everything together easily, making your homeschool run that much smoother.
Lesson plans give you more stability in your homeschool, day-to-day.
There’s no “winging it”, but instead you know what the plan of the day is. It gives you more control. And the “proof of learning” gives you mementos of special moments in your homeschool, as well as demonstrated progress. And that is always encouraging.