What does an effective lesson plan consist of, and how can we embrace broader child development into the process?
Introduction to Lesson Planning
Every journey begins by taking the first step and as an educator trainee you have embarked on an incredible voyage of sowing the seeds of education that lays the foundation for the fundamental building blocks in Early Childhood Development (ECD) which is from birth to nine years old. Interacting with a kaleidoscope of learners and having the ability to connect with each one on an interpersonal level is one of the greatest gifts for an educator to possess. In the words of Robert John Meehan, “It’s the little conversations that build the relationships and make an impact on each learner.”
We are no longer living in an era where educators are trained in a monocultural context resulting in them not being sufficiently prepared for implementing multicultural education. 21st Century training of educators focuses on key issues of diversity and inclusion to ensure that these concepts co-exist in our learning environment and is embedded within the lesson plans that we develop.
This article will discuss the importance of how classroom teachers go about designing a lesson plan by having an all-inclusive approach that applies Piaget’s theory of cognitive development, Gardner’s multiple intelligence and Bloom’s taxonomy to ensure efficacy. The style in which the objectives are written and the tools that are employed for the assessment strategy bear relevance to the knowledge, skills and values that are necessary for the core structure of the lesson. Furthermore, the various types of teaching strategies that can be implemented will be explored including a brief discussion on the influence of play in teaching and learning activities.
As a trainee teacher in the field of education, your dedication and willingness to learn plays a pivotal role in your success as your infectious fervour will inspire young learners and motivate them. This path provides you, the class teacher with opportunities to experiment with new methods of teaching and learning and exciting ways of engaging with learners. Displaying a sense of humour cultivates a responsive classroom atmosphere and facilitates learning outcomes. The positive attributes that you portray will be ingrained in the hearts and minds of the learners that you educate leaving an indelible mark.
We must consider the pluralistic society that we live in and keep this at the forefront of our thoughts and ideas when developing lesson plans. Hence, from the moment that a learner enters the school’s environment it should exemplify the concept of ‘Geborgenheit’ where the learner feels a sense of safety, security, warmth, protection, love and trust by the subject teachers which creates a ‘home away from home’ (Geborgenheit 2022).
The holistic development of a child in Lesson Planning
Lesson plans should be developed by ensuring that the holistic development of the child is prioritised. The holistic development of the learner embraces the physical, moral, social, emotional, cognitive and language developmental spheres of a child. Thus, the mind, body and spirit are interconnected with each other.
As stated by Salami (2016), it is the responsibility of a structured preschool to incorporate developmentally appropriate programmes within its curriculum to ensure the holistic development of the child. One way to ensure this is for the educators to plan every lesson that embodies this idea by positioning behavioural objectives that can accomplish this goal. It can then be deduced that a holistic approach is crucial when planning and assessing. The learner can be assessed as an individual and the educator is cognisant of the linkage of the developmental areas and how progress in one domain can have a ripple effect in another.
Considering key educational theories when lesson planning
By incorporating key educational theories into your lesson planning, you can create a more engaging and effective learning experience for your students. For example, using Blooms Taxonomy can help you structure your lesson in a way that ensures students are not just memorizing information, but truly understanding and applying it. Similarly, incorporating Gardner's Multiple Intelligence theory can help you design activities that appeal to a diverse range of learning styles, making the lesson more accessible and engaging for all students. Ultimately, by using these theories to inform your lesson planning, you can help your students achieve deeper, more meaningful learning outcomes.
Experienced teachers know the value of incorporating key educational theories into their lesson planning. They understand that by doing so, they can create a more dynamic and effective learning experience for their students. By using a variety of theories, such as Vygotsky's Zone of Proximal Development and Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, teachers can better understand their students' cognitive and emotional needs, and tailor their lessons accordingly.
Experienced teachers also know that by continually reflecting on their practice and seeking out new theories and strategies, they can continue to improve their lesson planning and provide the best possible learning experience for their students.
Lesson Planning using Piaget’s theory of cognitive development
Jean Piaget (1896-1980) was a prominent psychologist of the 20th century and a pioneer in developmental child psychology (Scott and Cogburn 2022). According to Piaget, children’s development can be categorised into four successive stages which is pivotal in early childhood development.
1. In the sensorimotor stage (from birth through to the first 18 to 24 months), is characterised by the progressive acquirement of object permanence in which the child is able to find objects even if the objects have been removed from the child’s field of vision (Ojose 2008:26). It can be inferred that the child has the ability to know that objects continue to exist even though they can no longer be seen or heard.
2. According to Ojose (2008: 27), during the pre-operations stage (ages of two and seven years old) there is lack of logic associated with this stage of development; rational thought makes little appearance. The child links together unrelated events, sees objects as possessing life, does not understand point-of-view, and cannot reverse operations. Therefore, this can be attributed to the egocentricnature of the child who assumes that other people within their realm can see, hear, and feel the same as they do.
3. The concrete operations period (ages seven and 11 years old) sees the dissipation of the egotistic personality trait and the child learns to apply logical rules to concrete or tangible objects and mentally transform, modify, or manipulate what is seen and heard. (Scott and Cogburn 2022)
4. In terms of early childhood development, the above three stages are what would be taken into consideration during the planning phase of the lesson as the content has to be germane to the developmental level of the learners. However, it is still imperative for the educator to know and understand what the next level of development is, which is the formal operations period (age 11 and continues through adolescence). This is the final period of cognitive development. Ojose (2008: 27), states that the learner is capable of forming hypotheses and deducing possible consequences, allowing the child to construct his own mathematics.
Bloom’s Taxonomy in the lesson planning process
Bloom’s taxonomy originally developed during the 1950s and later named after the American educational psychologist Benjamin S. Bloom, who sought to provide a logical, progressive model that identified and ordered all cognitive educational outcomes from simple to complex (Gary 2018).
Questions must be posed at varying levels of difficulty by using Bloom's Taxonomy or any taxonomy including the relevant curriculum document. Educators must be conscious of the fact that learners are active participants in the digital field and incorporate the taxonomy verbs for digital learning. The sample questions designed should encourage learners to become critical thinkers and to steer away from Yes/No responses. Questions must be open-ended to allow for engagement and for learners to think about their own thinking (on a metacognitive level). The links below provide information on:
- Blooms Taxonomy and the verbs that accompany each domain
- Integrating Technology with Bloom’s Technology
Reaching the lesson objective through Gardner’s Multiple Intelligence model
For an educator to stimulate intellectual competencies in learners, it is essential to provide activities that encompass all types of intelligence. Gardner's Multiple Intelligences comprises of linguistic, logical/mathematical, spatial, bodily-kinaesthetic, musical, interpersonal, intrapersonal and naturalist (Dolati and Tahriri 2017).
If the educator considers these types of intelligence and arranges classroom activities and daily plans according to them, some difficulties regarding learning such as inattentiveness, undesirable behaviours, disengagement from a lesson, and perception of lack of success may disappear (Yenice & Aktamis, 2010 in Dolati and Tahriri 2017).
The links below provide examples of how Gardner’s Multiple Intelligence can be incorporated into a lesson:
- Using Multiple Intelligence Activities for Pre-schoolers
- The use of Spelling Activities based on Bloom’s Taxonomy Six Thinking Levels implanted within the Multiple Intelligence approach
It is therefore crucial that Blooms Taxonomy or any other taxonomy that is applicable and the inclusion of Gardner’s Multiple Intelligence is used when designing the lesson plan and should be evident in the presentation of the lesson as well.
The Role of Prior Knowledge in an effective lesson plan
We should not be dismissive on the importance of lesson planning as it is the onset of ensuring that optimal learning takes place. The educator must identify the learner’s prior knowledge and this entails reviewing the curriculum documents and identifying where the learners initially received the foundation of the lesson. Based on this knowledge, the educator then deems what concept will be built on.
Value based teaching (such as respect, honesty, accountability, responsibility), including 21st Century learning skills should be entrenched in the lesson plans to encompass the 7C’s: communication, collaboration, critical thinking and problem solving, creativity and innovation, change, citizenship, character, 3R’s: reading, writing and arithmetic and 2M’s: motivation and meta-cognition. Thus, for an effective educator to excel in planning and preparation, they must “design instruction that reflects an understanding of the disciplines they teach (Danielson 2007:27 in Straessle 2014:36).
Objectives and Assessment Strategies in successful lesson plans
When teachers are stating objectives, a measurable verb should be used such as ‘differentiate, list, identify, create, observe, or explain, instead of understand, know, learn as the latter cannot be measured. The knowledge, skills, attitudes, values that is meant to be taught to the learners during the lesson must be stated.
This can be done by reverting to the curriculum document for guidance. As the outcomes must be achieved, stating too many outcomes will not be conducive to a successful lesson. Assessment strategies are significant as it will inform the educator as to whether the objectives have been reached. Therefore, it must be aligned to the outcomes and the following assessment tools can be used: observation, checklists, a rubric, marking of tasks, the use of peer assessments and questioning. Straessle (2014:43), elucidates that there is a need for educators to create clear objectives followed by quality assignments, so that learner achievement will follow.
Considering Learners requiring special attention in High-Quality lesson Plans
It is imperative that when teachers are shaping a lesson plan, that learners needing special attention are considered and how they would be accommodated, for that particular lesson. This is a crucial aspect to planning as adjustments would have to be made to teaching or the activities for that specific learner (visual, auditory and depending on the other special needs of your learners).
This then involves the consideration of multiple aspects of the classroom, ranging from methods to involve the learners in the material and resources to the different manners in which learners may respond (Straessle 2014:35). Thus, the selection of teaching strategies is vital as it creates a road map for the lesson and it is pertinent for 21st Century teaching and learning as learners require the life skill of being an active participant in a global community. There is a plethora of information available revolving around teaching strategies and some examples are highlighted below.
Teaching Strategies that promote the learning process
OECD.org (2016:6), highlights the existence of three teaching strategies which are referred to as active learning, cognitive activation and educator-directed instruction. Active learning consists of promoting the engagement of learners in their own learning. Under this strategy, learners’ discussions, group work, co‑operation, reflection and the necessary support to foster these activities play a leading role.
Brame and Biel (2015), concur that an effective strategy is cooperative learning as this strategy has learners working in groups together to learn or solve a problem, with each individual responsible for understanding all aspects. Small groups are essential to this process because there is a dual relationship between the learners and their peers. Hence, they can learn the skill to listen to the views of their peers and in so doing can be heard as well.
This is significant in terms of 21st Century learning as in a traditional classroom setting learners may devote more time listening to the subject content that the educator delivers. This strategy is efficacious as the changing the role of the educator from ‘lecturing’ to facilitating the groups helps foster this social environment for learners to learn through engagement.
Furthermore, OECD.org (2016:6), states that the inclusion and use of information and communication technologies (ICT) in the classroom can help to foster an interactive and individual learning environment. Wegner, Minnaert, and Strehlke (2013:137), further highlight that one strategy that allows for autonomy is when technology is used in the classroom as learners are physically engrossed during the lesson and can instantly research their ideas and subsequently develop self-sufficiency.
Cognitive activation refers to the use of practices capable of challenging learners to motivate them and stimulate higher order skills, such as critical thinking, problem solving and decision making. This strategy not only encourages learners to find creative and alternative ways to solve problems, but enables them to communicate their thinking processes and results with their peers and educators. Lastly, educator-directed instruction which refers to teaching practices that rely, to a great extent, on an educator’s ability to deliver orderly and clear lessons. Making explicit the learning goals, providing a summary of previous lessons, or asking short, fact-based questions are examples of practices that help to structure lessons (OECD.org 2016:6).
Incorporating Learning through play to make Engaging Lessons
Johnson et al (2005), eloquently purports that play is the universal language of childhood and it can be adapted to the classroom by educators employing three major notions; the quality of play in early childhood, play as a means of self-expression, and play as a channel of communication to achieving social sense.
Correspondingly, Claiborne et al (2020), further expounds that children learn through play and are curious by nature and should be provided with learning opportunities where they are exposed to environments that permit investigation and exploration. One constructive teaching strategy is ‘taking learning outside of the classroom’ as it is an active process, wherein learners encounter authentic problems, construct innovative premises, test for real solutions and interact with others to make sense of the world around them. To quote Dianne Ackerman, ‘Play is our brain’s favourite way of learning.’
Although the indoor and outdoor play area should be visually stimulating and aesthetically appealing, it must be considered when developing the lesson plan as it plays a key role in educational benefits. The learners physical, moral, social, emotional, cognitive and language development flourishes here as well. Johnson, Christie and Wardle (2005) in Richard (2019:11), concurs that play, whether indoors or outdoors, has been shown to positively impact children’s cognitive, language and literacy, social, and emotional development.
Final words lesson planning
The lesson introduction should be enjoyable and engaging where the learner’s attention is captured as it is a launching pad into the lesson development. The idea is to encourage learners to build on their own knowledge bank and this is achieved by the educator using exemplary questioning techniques where the learners become the drivers of the lesson and the educator the facilitator. Following the introduction is the lesson development, which should reflect the teaching of the lesson and how core content will be taught which has to be linked to the outcomes as the educator is the architect of the lesson.
Latest researched content must be imparted to the learners and this must be based on the learner’s life experiences so that primary links can be made. For this reason, it is vital that lessons are integrated from or with other subjects and or content areas as is necessary as lessons are not taught in isolation of other subjects. The consolidation of the lesson plan should reveal your summation of the lesson and not just a reviewing of an activity. It must be of additional value where you recapitulate the principal concepts/skills that you taught during the development phase. An extension activity should be built into the lesson for learners that complete the tasks earlier and this should be one that a learner can complete independently and is stimulating.
Lessons plans are used as a vessel to disseminate information to learners for them to gain knowledge, values and skills. To evoke the learner’s natural, instinctive ability to discover, explore and investigate; opportunities for play must reflect in the lesson plan. The classroom is a curated experience and effective lesson planning is a chief component of professional teaching practice.
An educator should be a reflective practitioner as it is important that at the culmination of every lesson, reflection takes place based on the strengths and challenges of the lesson for adjustments to be made for future lessons. Lesson planning allows the educator to provide the learners with the required structure and direction to receive knowledge and skills through engaging methods of instruction. Similarly, it allows educators to meet the diverse learning styles of learners through differentiation of teaching.
Lesson Plan References
Brame, C.J. and Biel, R. 2015. Setting up and facilitating group work: Using cooperative learning groups effectively. Vanderbilt University Center for Teaching. Available at: http://cft.vanderbilt.edu/guides-sub-pages/setting-up-and-facilitating-group-work-using-cooperative-learning-groups-effectively/ [Accessed on 4 July 2022].
Claiborne, L., Morrell, J., Bandy, J., Bruff, D., Smith, G. and Fedesco, H. 2020. Teaching Outside the Classroom. Vanderbilt University Center for Teaching. Available at: https://cft.vanderbilt.edu/guides-sub-pages/teaching-outside-the-classroom/. [Accessed on 4 July 2022].
Danielson, C. 2007. Enhancing professional practice: A framework for teaching (2nd edition). Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.Dictionary.cambridge.org. 2022. Geborgenheit. [online] Available at: <https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/german-english/geborgenheit> [Accessed on 4 July 2022].
Dolati, Z. and Tahriri, A. 2017.EFL Educators’ Multiple Intelligences and Their Classroom Practice. SAGE Journals. Available at: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/2158244017722582 [Accessed on 4 July 2022].
Gary, R. 2018. Bloom’s Taxonomy. In: Bruce B. Frey Editor, 2018. The SAGE Encyclopedia of Educational Research, Measurement, and Evaluation, Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc. pp. 207-210 Available at: <https://dx.doi.org/10.4135/9781506326139.n86> [Accessed on 4 July 2022].
Johnson, J. E., Christie, J. F., & Wardle, F. 2005. Play, Development, and Early Education. Boston, MA: Pearson Education, Inc
Johnson, J. E., Christie, J. F., & Wardle, F. 2005. Play, Development, and Early Education. [online] Pearson.com. Available at: <https://www.pearson.com/us/higher-education/program/Johnson-Play-Development-and-Early-Education/PGM155363.html> [Accessed on 5 July 2022].
OECD.org. 2016. Teaching Strategies for Instructional Quality. [online] Available at: <https://www.oecd.org/education/school/TALIS-PISA-LINK-teaching_strategies_brochure.pdf> [Accessed on 4 July 2022].
Ojose, B., 2008. Applying Piaget's theory of cognitive development to mathematics instruction. The Mathematics Educator, 18(1).
Richard, B. 2019. Exploring the Implementation of Outdoor Play in Nova Scotia’s Pre-primary Program. Master’s Thesis. [online] Dc.msvu.ca. Available at: <http://dc.msvu.ca:8080/xmlui/bitstream/handle/10587/1999/BrennaRichardMACYSThesis2019.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y> [Accessed on 4 July 2022].Salami, I.A. 2016. Towards the Holistic Development of Children in Oyo State: The Scope of the Behavioural Objectives in Preschool Educators' Lesson Plans. 7. 1=7.
Scott, H.K. and Cogburn, M. 2022. Piaget. Natural Library of Medicine. National Center for Biotechnology Information. [Online]. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK448206/ [Accessed on 2 July 2022].
Straessle, Jessica M. W. 2014. "Educators' perspectives of effective lesson planning: A comparative analysis" Dissertations, Theses, and Masters Projects. Paper 1550154173. [online] Available at: https://dx.doi.org/doi:10.25774/w4-8swa-7371 [Accessed on 5 July 2022].
Wegner, C., Minnaert, L. and Strehlke, F., 2013. The Importance of Learning Strategies and How the Project" Kolumbus-Kids" Promotes Them Successfully. European Journal of Science and Mathematics Education, 1(3), pp.137-143.
Yenice, N. and Aktamis, H. (2010). An investigation of multiple intelligence areas of the primary educator education learners. Journal of Turkish Science Education, 7(3), 100-103.