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Final Observation of the Year: Planning an Outstanding Lesson

In his second blog for Nexus Education, Daniel Robertson has advice for planning an outstanding lesson, regardless of the time of year.

With final observations for the year being locked into the calendar this December, many trainees and NQTs will be aiming to end the year on a high. In the seemingly long run-up to the Christmas break presenting its very own unique challenges, this can be a cause for concern, especially when your classes are getting ready for the holidays. I remember this performance anxiety well, but remember, you are not on your own, and it is crucial now that you turn to the expert advice of your peers and ask for support where necessary.

Here we take a look at the things you need to consider when planning an outstanding lesson that is sure to maximise progress and learning outcomes, regardless of the time of year.

Firstly, it is important that you meet with your mentor, and focus specifically on your developmental areas, so you can be sure to obtain the evidence you need to effectively meet the teacher standards. It might feel as though you are spinning a lot of plates at the moment, but by constructing your lesson plan around the areas identified in your previous observations you are sure to get these ticked off prior to your final observation of the year taking place.

Once this meeting has occurred, we can start the process of meeting all teacher standards that are sure to benefit your children’s learning and knowledge ahead of the new year.

  1. Before putting a range of activities together, we must first decide on what we want our children to learn. Using the scheme of work provided by your department, put together clear and achievable learning objectives that are easy to understand and attainable for all students in your group, regardless of the range of abilities. You can also differentiate these, to make sure all students in your class make progress. In addition to this, you could even provide a series of keywords for the lesson, that your students should be able to comprehend and use later in the lesson.
  2. Make sure to have an engaging and impactful starter activity relating to prior learning that is sure to get your students thinking and drawing upon what they have learned previously. A great way to maximise engagement here is to greet your students at the door, and provide them with a handout that they can get working with straight away. Top Tip: Provide your students with a series of questions that are quickly assessed.
  3. Now that your starter activity is completed, you have a range of options on how to quickly obtain how each student has retained knowledge from their previous learning. This is a great opportunity to bring in self or peer assessment feedback. Simply provide answers on the board, and ask students to quickly mark themselves out of four.
  4. It is extremely important now that we make sure to involve everyone in the learning process. Create a task that enables you to take the lead and transfer knowledge to your students and demonstrate your subject knowledge. This could be a reading task or focused specifically on information that your students will need to meet the learning objective for the lesson. Break reading up into chunks and create targeted questions that enable students to discuss what they are learning, or convey their understanding. You know your group, consider who would benefit most from questioning. It is paramount you have this planned prior to the lesson taking place. In addition, it is important to remember, if you are providing whole class reading tasks, not every child will have the same level of comprehension and therefore this is a great opportunity to evidence differentiation, by providing a range of reading challenges to go through with your students. Top Tip: Provide a glossary for weaker students, so they are able to expand their vocabularies and as a result, you can make the activity all the more accessible for all students.
  5. Now is the time to make this activity all the more effective. Introduce your independent task, and take this time to work through examples together. By modelling what you expect your students to do, you are sure to get the most of their understanding, and as a result, enhance engagement and keep all students on task.
  6. Transition now into an independent learning task that encourages students to silently demonstrate their learning. Have a prior plan to hand regarding who will need targeting during your circulation. You should have a range of questions to go, so you can tackle misconceptions quickly and efficiently. Top Tip: Give students roughly twenty minutes to complete.
  7. By the time you reach the plenary stage of your lesson, you will have already demonstrated AFL techniques but, by rounding up the lesson with a question focused task that is aligned with the learning objectives, will enable you to measure progress effectively. This could be a thinking hard task that involves students ranking pieces of information, transforming their written work into drawings, or provide an abstract question that relates to the content they have learned. By using higher-order thinking strategies, you are sure to maximise outcomes and progress even further.

One key thing to remember is, that no outstanding lesson looks the same. Consider your subject focus and try to weave personalised ideas and content into your plans which effectively showcases the great job that you are doing.

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The author

Daniel Robertson is a Digital Journey Lead for Spurgeons Children's Charity. Prior to this role, he has worked as a Teacher of English in a wide variety of school settings.

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