Five-minute lesson plan: A teacher's guide

Paul Main

A teacher's guide to the five-minute lesson plan: save time whilst getting your class to do more learning.

What is a five-minute lesson plan?

The universal thinking framework was designed to help teachers create rigorous learning experiences. These learning experiences could be schemes of work, projects or individual lessons. Effective lessons facilitate good thinking and that's exactly what this taxonomy is all about. Using the learning actions that are organised in our taxonomy, teachers have been able to create a 5-minute lesson plan that gets everyone thinking for themselves. Using this lesson planning method, teaching staff have been able to create well-constructed learning experiences and save valuable time. Lesson planning for too long has been a burden for teachers, the universal thinking framework transforms this process into a creative act of learning design. We encourage educators to think about an ambitious and goal, this usually explains what a student should be able to do with their new knowledge and skills. Using this as an end point, we then work backwards and think about the individual steps involved in reaching this destination. This exercise involves educators taking on a metacognitive mindset, and we have to imagine not knowing what we already know which in its self, it's quite a skill. Thinking about a piece of learning as a series of smaller steps provides us with a more manageable mindset of how to proceed through a task. This can have a positive impact on students engagement and confidence. An actual lesson plan will probably take longer than five minutes but nonetheless, you could certainly thrash out the skeleton of a lesson using a methodology such as the thinking framework.

A new type of planning template
five minute plan templates


How do you design a lesson plan in 5-minutes?

Often seen as a mandatory part of teaching practice, the lesson plan can cause headaches for teachers. We have taken a slightly different approach using this new set of planning tools. The key question we start with is 'How do you want them to think about the task?'. This metacognitive question requires a bit of reverse engineering. We are inviting the teacher to break down the lesson structure into bite-size chunks. These chunks or learning actions and explained individually in the universal thinking framework. Breaking a complex task into stages of lesson planning enables us, the educator to really think about what success looks like. Traditional lesson plan templates can be cumbersome and ultimately become a burden for teachers. We like to think about the lesson planning process as being akin to giving someone a set of clear geographical directions. Having the process broken down into manageable chunks means that we can really think through how to get students from 'A' to 'B'. Creating a set of easy to follow instructions ultimately reduces lesson anxiety as your pupils will know exactly how to achieve their goals.

what does a five minute plan look like?
what does a five minute plan look like?


Designing a 5-minute lesson plan

Recently we created a challenge for a group of inexperienced teachers. Using the universal thinking framework, could they break down a complex science task into a series of smaller actions. Initially, they were not very happy with the allocated planning time but they all managed to produce quite brilliant five-minute lesson plans. Each member of staff then talk their way through their lesson structure. Learning actions provide teachers and students with a clear language for learning. This means that it becomes easier to direct students attention in the right direction. Each teacher then emphasised the learning verb in their plans, for example:

1. Can you identify the effects of...

2. Categorise those effects according to...

3. Rank the effects in terms of how serious they are...

4. Explain your reasoning to the other groups...

Ironically, this type of direct instruction leads to independent learning as the pupil begins to understand what these learning actions mean.


What makes a good five-minute lesson plan?

In the UK, OFSTED the school Inspectorate, want to see an appropriate level of challenge in the lesson. The framework allows teachers to differentiate a task with ease. A learner who may struggle with a particular piece of content can have the learning scaffolded. Meanwhile, that group of learners who always finish first, we can have a task ready that's really going to 'stretch' them. This approach ensures that there is no ceiling on the learning and the lesson can go in different directions. The classroom teacher can adapt the way in which a pupil processes the content instead of creating a completely different task. This ensures educational equity for all members of your school community. Whether you are running sessions for trainee teachers or facilitating CPD for senior leaders, the planning resources provide a launchpad for a rich dialogue around learning. Primary teachers are also using the statements attached to the learning actions to create deeper assessments.

Five minute lesson plan with the universal thinking framework
the universal thinking framework being used for lesson planning


Reducing Teacher workload with the new lesson plans

The ultimate aim of the universal thinking framework was to create a toolkit that teachers could use to optimise learning experiences. It quickly became apparent that it was saving teachers a lot of time. Every weekend thousands of teachers spend their free time creating powerpoints that will only be used once. With the right tools, this sort of teacher stress can be bypassed and as a profession, we can work smarter. As an organisation, we are working with student teachers to support them in adopting these time-saving approaches. We firmly believe that we can increase the amount of cognitive work that the pupils are doing and at the same time reduce the amount of teacher preparation time involved. Get your spare time back and get them really thinking!

Designing learning experiences using the framework