Lesson planning is a core task that can take up a lot of a teacher’s time, particularly when it comes to new teachers. As you become more experienced, planning will take less time. However, it is important to get yourself into effective and efficient planning habits early in your teaching career. While good planning takes time, the key is that you make the best use of the time you have.


Are you a first-time teacher looking for some guidance on lesson planning? We’ve got you covered. We’ll cover the basics of lesson planning and provide tips on how to ensure lesson planning success. These tips will help you create engaging, meaningful lessons that your students can relate to and enjoy.

Start with the whole curriculum


It is important to think about how to approach lesson planning. A study highlighted that teachers can often feel lost when planning lessons as they don’t know where to start. The concept of backward design, where teachers begin by examining the entire curriculum, offers direction and structure when planning lessons. Understanding the broader context of the curriculum helps to align individual lessons with overarching goals.


Rather than planning individual lessons, its a good idea to look at the yearly overview for the subject you are teaching first. Ask questions such as ‘what is the key learning?’ and ‘how can this be turned into questions to stimulate thinking and discussion?’.


Viewing the curriculum as a whole provides an opportunity to identify links in learning objectives or any areas that may need refreshing. This strategic approach enables early career educators to set a clear trajectory for the entire academic year, ensuring coherence and continuity in their teaching.

Use existing teaching resources


Lesson planning can be time-consuming, especially for teachers trying to create innovative and engaging plans. Sometimes less is more when planning lessons.


As early career teachers are often pressed for time, it’s a good idea to make the most out of existing teaching materials. Check whether your colleagues have any resources they recommend or check the school system to see what schemes they are signed up to.


There are also a range of teaching resources online. By using existing resources, not only are you able to save time, but it will also allow you to learn from the materials.

Here are a few teaching resources ECTs can use to plan their lessons:


  • Twinkl is one of the most widely recognised and trusted websites for teaching resources. The website has a fantastic range of material that will save ECTs lots of time. With these resources, you will be able to transform lessons so the focus can be on how you deliver the content to the students.


  • Tes is a website for teachers, by teachers. You will be able to find an array of teaching resources including lesson ideas from their popular blog posts. You can register for free and get lots of tips and useful lesson planning insights.


  • Primary Resources  is perfect for ECTs looking for primary teaching resources. The site includes a wide array of subjects including English, art, mathematics, science and many more.


  • Teacher’s Pet is a newer website with a range of teaching resources, apps and services. The site is easy to navigate and includes a useful classroom calendar which can be used to view worldwide events and awareness days, so you can plan your lessons around them.


By using these resources, ECTs can streamline their lesson planning process, allowing more focus on refining instructional delivery.

Make learning interactive


Engaging students can be a challenge for many teachers. For ECTs, incorporating interactive elements into lesson planning is a key strategy to ensure student involvement and sustained focus.


Encourage discussions, experiments, and activities that actively engage students in the learning process. Give your students time to think and respond.


To make lessons more interactive, why not involve students in the lessons by giving them choice over the activities or the order of the tasks? This can be a great way to mix up lessons and get students engaged.

Here are some interactive classroom activity ideas:


  • Quizizz offers a platform for creating and conducting interactive quizzes, promoting healthy competition among students. There are over 30 million teacher-created activities spanning all year levels and subjects. You can build quizzes from scratch, copy entire activities, or mix and match to meet students’ needs.


  • Brainstorming sessions are a great way to bring your students together to engage with what they are learning. Rather than thinking about the topic alone at their desk, get your students to engage with their classmates. This will help them be more engaged and gain a new perspective into the lesson.


  • Student-led lessons. Why not make lessons more interactive by letting your students take charge in leading the lessons? Teaching forces your students to engage with the content in a new way, which can deepen the learning process. It also gives teachers some time to sit back and relax!


These interactive activities not only captivate students but also empower ECTs to gauge understanding and adapt their teaching approach accordingly.

Refer to past learning


Prior knowledge has been considered the most important factor influencing student achievement, so building on previous units and incorporating content from previous years is crucial. To enhance long-term memory retention, refer to past learning and implement activities that require students to recall and apply prior knowledge.


Consider starting new topics with a ‘show what you know‘ activity, allowing students to showcase their understanding. You can also ask your students draw mind maps on everything they remember about a specific unit. By incorporating these activities, ECTs not only reinforce past learning but also create a foundation for continuous academic growth.

Think realistically about time


Time management is a skill that all educators, especially ECTs, need to hone. Realistically assessing the time each activity will take and avoiding overloading a single lesson are essential considerations. It’s crucial to allocate sufficient time for student discussions and reflection as deep learning often occurs when students are thinking and engaging with the content.


It can be a good idea to prepare some back-up activities for situations where the lesson ends quicker than expected. Back-up activities could include showing the class a video relevant to the lesson content or a group discussion about the topic. Check out these five minute lesson tasks from Tes or these creative thinking routes as ideas for easy back-up activities that don’t take much preparation.

Reflect and refine


After each lesson, take a moment to reflect. Continuous reflection and refinement of lesson plans contribute to the professional growth of ECTs. Consider what worked well and what could be improved.


Remember, lesson planning is not a static process but a dynamic one that evolves with experience. Seek support from colleagues, explore educational resources, and connect with your consultant if you’re working with an agency.


At CER, we understand the importance of well-prepared and confident teaching. Use these tips to spark creativity, increase student engagement, and set the stage for a successful teaching career. Happy lesson planning! 


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