How to write an effective digital lesson plan for K-12 students
Preparing digital lesson plans for virtual and hybrid learning can be an overwhelming task. In fact, 18% of the elementary, middle, and high school teachers we surveyed for our Distance Learning in Review said that creating new lesson plans was the biggest challenge of teaching remotely. For one thing, teaching from home makes it more difficult to interact with other teachers and plan lessons collaboratively. Even the most experienced teachers are still learning to optimize their distance learning strategies, meaning they may need help and advice from their colleagues on best practices and effective pedagogical teaching methods.
Understand why you’re building a digital lesson plan in the first place
Lesson plans are vital for teachers, especially when teaching remotely. There are a few reasons lessons plans are important. Effective digital lesson plans help accomplish the following:
- Build your confidence.
Anyone can lose their place or get off track in the middle of a lesson, so it’s a good idea to map out your teaching in advance. A good lesson plan is highly detailed and will help you stay confidently on track, even if unexpected distractions occur.
- Help you get organized.
With digital lessons, there are often many moving parts to keep up with – from sharing links to dealing with other logistics like how to broadcast your screen or get the attention of your students. Giving advance thought to how the lesson will unfold ensures you will be organized and have all the needed parts in place when you start to teach. Additionally, a detailed lesson plan can help a substitute teacher replace you at a moment’s notice without undue stress.
- Allow you to evaluate and improve your teaching.
Lessons are rarely perfect the first time you give them – there will be moments when students become disengaged, confused, or off track. An effective lesson plan will help you measure and improve your teaching by reminding you to set a clear goal upfront and then assess how closely that goal has been met.
What to include in a digital lesson plan
K-12 digital lesson plans should include any information that helps you achieve the above benefits, but there are a few key items you can start with:
- Learning objective(s)
What takeaway(s) do you want students to have from the lesson? Whether it’s a piece of information, a skill, or a fun experience, setting a goal for each lesson ahead of time will help you determine whether your lesson was successful.
- Materials required
Here is where you should list all the links, media assets, software, and other resources you and your students will need to conduct the lesson. If you find your lessons tend to always use the same materials, consider mixing it up with different types of media or different presentation and teaching styles. For example, consider which lessons you can turn into group projects or student-led opportunities. Perhaps there are YouTube videos that cover certain lessons entirely, giving kids a new way to engage with the material. Additionally, there are many apps that can help you deliver innovative lessons, including the Creativity Apps for Chromebooks, which includes six creativity tools that enable students to create books, podcasts, music, diagrams, videos, and more. Listing out your materials for each lesson will not only help you get organized, but it will also help ensure you’re delivering diverse and engaging lessons.
Written instructions are handy because you can refine them in advance to be as clear as possible when read aloud to students. They should be thorough enough that a substitute teacher could pick up the lesson and easily deliver it in your absence. Even if you know you’ll be giving the lesson yourself, detailed instructions can be an important component in evaluating and teaching it again should you decide to use it the following year.
- Student practice
Lessons should typically include a segment for practice so students can deepen their own understanding of the material. This may include solving a few problems that center on the concept you’re teaching, freewriting about the material following a prompt, discussing in groups, or any other task that gives students a chance to try out their new knowledge.
Following the student practice session, it’s a good idea to recap what has been covered. You can enlist help for this part by calling on students to share a key component of their understanding. Be sure to digest and repeat the main points before moving on to the assessment.
While these assessments might be graded, a key purpose of them is really to gain an understanding of the effectiveness of the lesson. If you find that some students score poorly or are off base in their understanding following the lesson, then the learning objectives may not have been met. Figure out how to adjust that lesson for the following class or school year and apply those learnings to subsequent lessons.
Personalization is key
One great benefit of digital learning is that you can often personalize lessons for your students. For example, if you have a group of students who you know are visual learners, send them resources and information that appeal to that learning style. If you don’t have time to create individualized instruction, it’s still important to take your students’ learning styles into account to ensure you are including enough resources so that everyone’s needs are met. Your digital lesson plan can be a great place to think through these questions and develop solutions.
All lessons require some trial and error to perfect but having a strong digital lesson plan can cut out some of the uncertainties, while also allowing you to take time to analyze what worked and what needs adjusting for future lessons.
For additional information on how to guide more meaningful digital learning experiences, read our article, 5 LanSchool features you can’t miss.