I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – I’m particular about my lesson plans. Downright picky. In part, this is because I think the lesson you believe in is the one you’ll deliver the best. It’s also because I want lessons to be catered to my students. Because I’m picky about my lesson plans, I write almost all of them entirely myself. It’s been a bit of trial and error but I’m finally in the sweet spot of feeling like I know what I’m doing when I sit down to plan out a lesson. I’ve discovered some best practices that make this planning faster but also, more importantly, that lead to engaging and effective lessons. I want my lessons to flow well and be fun, but that’s not enough. They need to actually WORK!
I’ve also realized that my lesson planning is well aligned with what the research says is best practice. As someone that’s easily excited by research and data and evidence-based practices, this was mega awesome! Research and peer-reviewed publications aren’t everyone’s jam though, so I’ll put those bits and pieces at the end of the post.
Without further ado, my top 5 best practices in school counseling lesson planning. I’ve tried to link within to specific examples.
1. Ask yourself: What’s the objective of this lesson?
2. Skip the worksheet.
I rarely use worksheets in my classroom lessons. The next post in this series will be all about this idea so I’ll save some details for later; I just encourage you to consider ditching the worksheets and coloring sheets, or at least use them more selectively. There’s much cooler and engaging things you can do that will result in deeper learning and growth. Save some trees. Ask yourself this: When’s the last time someone’s attitude, beliefs, or behavior changed because they completed a worksheet?
3. Chunk the lesson.
Each lesson I do, whether it’s 30 minutes in kindergarten or 45 minutes with my 4th graders, is chunked into three or four parts. One reason is due to my students’ short attention spans – I’ll lose them if I try and do the same thing with them for too long. Another reason is that different components connect with different students and with different parts of their heart and mind. My lessons all include three or more of the following: hook , teach, apply/practice, and reflect/assess.
4. Get them working together.
Even when the lesson isn’t explicitly about a specific social skill, it just about always involves students working and learning together. It’s good instructional practice, it helps develop communication skills (extra important because of our large ELL population), and they always get the opportunity to practice some healthy conflict resolution. I also love peer collaboration because it allows me to incorporate more “challenging” (emotionally or academically) tasks and activities than if students were working independently. My reputations lesson is an example of a lesson that wasn’t explicitly about a social skill but involved two different activities that required lots of student interaction.
5. Incorporate movement.
This probably isn’t mind blowing to anyone; we all know kids need movement, more movement than is typically part of our crazy academic school day schedules. While including movement in my lessons often adds an extra layer of work for me (planning use of space in different classrooms, modeling appropriate movement, etc.), the lesson usually has a better flow if I let them move and it connects with their kinesthetic learning side (which everyone has). You can see in the graphic above some of the ways I put movement into a lesson. Sometimes it’s as simple as doing different chunks of the lesson in different parts/arrangements of the room and moving in between them (and sometimes moving in fun ways: “waddle like a penguin back to your desks”). Other times, movement is a core part of the activities like in scoot or quiz-quiz-trade.
The Research Says…