How to Breathe New Life into an Old Lesson Plan

Whether you’re looking to adapt last year’s lessons to make them suitable for this year’s class, or you’ve found a gem of a good idea on a lesson planning website and you want to make it into a great lesson, there are a few simple steps you can take to make sure your lesson is up to scratch before you deliver it. 

Give it an honest appraisal

First things first – you need to be honest with yourself about whether this is a lesson plan that deserves resuscitating. If in your heart of hearts you know you have a ‘do not resuscitate’ on your hands, then walk away and start again. Some lessons just don’t work. That’s okay, we learn something from each of them but we certainly shouldn’t look to deliver them again if we feel they’re beyond saving.

If you think there’s life in the old dog yet, then give yourself some honest feedback – if you’ve taught it before, what went well, and more importantly, what went less well? What can you improve on and are there any elements of the lesson that need to be dropped altogether? If it’s someone else’s lesson that you’re assessing, try to imagine which aspects are likely to work well and which are likely to work less well with your particular class. It’s unlikely that any lesson you’ve picked up from a colleague or from the internet will arrive fully formed in your hands immediately ready to be taught.

Set it in context and make it relevant

If you’re working with a lesson that you’ve not taught since last year, think about how things have changed in the last year. How can you make the lesson especially relevant to this year’s cohort? Is there a cultural context into which it is set that needs to be updated or have the needs of the class changed? For example, have curriculum requirements moved on?

Think about the specific needs of your current class

Think about how this lesson can work best for this class. Consider how you can best differentiate for the different requirements of your most and least able students and also think about the class as a whole and whether at this point in the curriculum there are particular skills or knowledge that need a specific focus, they may be at a different point in various aspects of their learning than last year’s class and your lesson planning needs to reflect this.

Start strongly and finish well

If you’re broadly happy with the main body of the lesson, turn your attention to the start and the finish. Starters and plenaries are, in many ways, the easiest elements of a lesson to change and they have the potential to have a huge impact on engagement and learning. Start strongly and your class will be engaged and ready to learn. Finish well and you’ll consolidate learning and ensure that any areas that students were finding more difficult have been addressed appropriately. This can also be a great moment to note feedback (your own and your students’) for how the lesson might be improved if you plan to use it again in future.

Consider the best way to teach the lesson

If you’re teaching a lesson that you’re relatively familiar with, then this can be a great opportunity to try something new – could this lesson be team taught, student-led or flipped for example? Whilst you need to ensure that you’re not simply using gimmicks for the sake of it, some variety in teaching style can be a good way to keep both your students and yourself engaged.

Look for further inspiration

Before declaring your lesson ready to go, take a moment to search for further inspiration. See how others are teaching the same topic –  they might have a fantastic idea, video or worksheet that you can integrate into your own lesson.

There’s no shame in re-using lesson material as long as you take the time to ensure that it’s relevant and engaging for your class, and the time you save can be spent developing resources for other lessons…. Or having a well-earned break.

Creative Education courses can be a great opportunity to exchange ideas for outstanding teaching and learning. Why not book onto one of the following courses:

Outstanding Lessons in Primary

Teaching the New Secondary Curriculum in English with Confidence and Creativity

Teaching the New Secondary Curriculum in Maths with Confidence and Creativity

Teaching the New Secondary Curriculum in Science with Confidence and Creativity

Outstanding Learning in the New Primary Art Curriculum

Outstanding Learning in the New Primary English Curriculum

Outstanding Learning in the New Primary Art Curriculum

Outstanding Lessons in Primary Numeracy – New Curriculum