Sayujya Sankar and Sangeeta Menon
Ms. Ruchi Arora, a mentor teacher for English at Sancta Maria International School, believes that lesson planning is essential for a class to go on smoothly. Using the information in the curriculum as her point of reference, she plans what she is going to be doing in class for the entire week. The lesson plan, while theoretical, is based heavily on the students she is working with. She notes that it is essential to understand the learner’s ability in order to prepare for his or her class. She introduces a general worksheet or questions the students orally, thereby finding out where each student stands in relation to the rest of the class with regard to a given topic. After this introductory activity, she groups the students according to their learning capability. While the introductory activity is the same for the whole class, the lessons planned based on these activities are different, so that they cater to different levels within the classroom. At the end of every week, she believes that it is necessary to evaluate what has been done in class. This gives her a clear understanding of whether and to what extent the student has managed to understand the concept. Thus, according to her, the lesson plan is fixed, while the way it is executed differs from student to student.
The lesson plan, however, is not only the information that is taken from the curriculum, but also involves research material used for the class. This material can come from anywhere. For instance, Ms. Arora uses resources as varied as the Internet, books, and ideas incorporated from prior experiences as well as her own innovative techniques.
Mrs. Ratnalekha Shetty, teacher and principal of Sancta Maria International School, believes that “Only if you plan, you deliver well.” She also says that it is necessary to break down a forty-minute class into slots of 10 or 20 minutes each, so that the student does not get bored during the session. This helps maintain the concentration level in the classroom. Finally, she also says that every lesson plan ought to have room for reflection. It is this, in fact, that will help the teacher even more than the actual planning, as knowing which ideas failed and which worked will help teachers evolve their teaching methodology. It gives a good idea about what one can take up in the lesson plans that they would create later as well.
Ms. Meghana Musunri, teacher and president of Fountainhead – The Global School, a school for kids aged six and below, notes that the lesson plan has to involve a lot of practical work because, especially for younger children, seeing indeed is believing. She states that if the child’s curiosity as to why he/she should learn is satisfied, one can go on to the next aspect – how one can learn. On a weekly basis, topics are introduced using projects and other fun methods, where not much information is provided (since children need more activities to learn a given concept). She speaks about the four different types of learners: those who learn “through speech, the audio-visual, through exploring, and other traditional methodologies (from books, etc.)”. Their schedule is divided so that all kids participate and eventually understand the given concepts.
Along with her colleague, Dr. Ranganayaki Srinivas (who helped plan the syllabus for the NCERT board), Meghana Musunri plans the lessons for the syllabus in their school. Both of them design their own material acquiring resources from various authors and using their own unique ideas and approaches. They take help from child psychiatrists who speak about how a child’s potential can be improved so that, as Meghana states, the child can “face the future without depending on others.”
Plotting a lesson plan can vary from teacher to teacher. Some teachers like to keep it fairly broad-based for flexibility while others like to plan down to the minutest detail. Kavita Safi, a senior High School teacher of English at Chaitanya Vidyalaya School in Hyderabad, maintains that lesson plans are extremely important. It is not just an “onerous and tedious pedagogic requisite” that a teacher is compelled to fulfill. On the other hand, she takes this task very seriously. Planning for each of her classes is rigorous work which she does with meticulous care. She begins by charting out the syllabus for the classes that she handles for the entire academic year, followed by a term-wise distribution of her work based on the number of periods that she is allotted with each class. Then, she breaks this down further into fortnightly capsules, finally ending up with a daily plan of the work that she intends to cover each day, fitting it into the overall scheme of her lesson plan.
According to Ms. Safi, lesson plans are absolutely vital in preparing a teacher for her class. They not only help in structuring and organizing her work at a macro level but also allow her to keep tabs on it at the micro level. It enables her to set a steady pace with her work ensuring sufficient time for all that she wishes to get done and invests her with the confidence of knowing exactly where she is with her work at any given point of time. She can keep track of whether she is falling behind or is ahead of schedule. More significantly, a lesson plan “adds to the effectiveness of each lesson.” Following a structure ensures that the teacher can make the best creative and productive use of the time at her/his disposal and can provide the satisfaction of progress well made in the class.
Ms. Safi states emphatically that nothing can be done without organizing oneself. “A lesson plan is like a having a remote in your hands,” she says. “ It gives you that degree of control. There are so many variables in each class. But the plan allows you to know when to pause, when to go on, when to rewind or fast-forward.” Although teaching for her is largely “instinctive and subjective”, a knowledge and formal study of lesson plans that a course in Education provides is desirable as there are tried and tested underlying concepts that a teacher ought to internalize. They delineate the basic rules and framework that the teacher can then customize to his/her specifications.
Drawing up a lesson plan need not be a repetitive exercise year after year even if the teacher takes the same class in successive academic years. As long as the syllabus remains the same, a good lesson plan can, therefore, be used repeatedly without much change. Even if Ms. Safi does not like to deviate too much from her lesson plan, she is not rigid about it and does “juggle it around” if there is need. She revamps an existing lesson plan in her lower classes (seven and eight) depending on what she gets to learn and ascertain of her students’ interests and abilities even midway during an academic year. In the case of higher classes (nine and ten) she avers there is little scope of experimenting with the plan each successive year. However, her class determines the order of the lessons in her plan which she reworks based on the general working style and capacity of the students in that class.
Ms. Santhi Sathiapalan, a secondary school teacher of Biotechnology at Vidya Mandir, Chennai, concurs that lesson plans are both necessary and important. However, if the syllabus remains constant year after year, it need not be prepared anew. No doubt her school requires an annual/yearly lesson plan to be submitted at the commencement of each new academic year. Ms. Sathiapalan then checks to see where her plan from the previous year can be improved. If a topic had not gone well in that particular year in her classes, she would then try to adjust it by approaching it differently and introduce it in the plan for the upcoming year. She says, “We must learn from our mistakes.” While she may not “jot down” a daily plan for her class, she does have a mental plan in place before she enters the class.
In schools where there is more than one section to a class and more than one teacher handling the same subject in different sections as in her school, Ms. Sathiapalan feels a common lesson plan would serve the purpose. The teachers could jointly refer to that plan and co-ordinate their efforts accordingly. Only their individual styles of teaching might differ. But the topics covered and the duration would remain the same. This would ensure uniformity amongst the different sections and not cause anxiety to the students or parents. Ms. Sathiapalan adds that if two teachers were splitting a text into two halves to be taken up by them for the same class, it would be a good idea to plan their lessons in such a way that each teacher take up that part of the text which is their strength. That way they would support and complement each other.
Lesson plans bring a certain clarity to a teacher’s work against which she can conduct a process of self-evaluation, gauging her own output and the response of the students vis a vis the objective initially outlined by her for each lesson. Also it serves as a record of what each teacher had proposed to do in class and what was actually achieved and therefore, is also a reference point for other teachers who might wish to consult the plans of their colleagues to formulate their own. While there are plenty of sources now available for a teacher to research from and prepare a creative and interesting lesson plan for a whole range of topics, a good lesson plan must ultimately reflect each teacher’s own individual style of teaching and her understanding of the capabilities of her class.
Sayujya Sankar teaches English at Sancta Maria International School, Serilingampally. She has completed her Masters in English from the University of Hyderabad. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sangeeta Menon has been a high school English teacher and is someone who is passionately involved in the process of education in the country. She can be reached at email@example.com.