Student doing assignments outside.


Have you ever experienced a class where there was no apparent plan? Perhaps the lack of a plan was obvious because your instructor was nervous or unsure of how to proceed. Or perhaps, while possessing a natural ability to speak at length to whatever happens to be on their mind, they lacked any clear focus or unity in what they had to say. The great John Hannibal Smith once remarked, “I love it when a plan comes together.” Of course, without a plan nothing can ever come together. Another familiar gem that comes to mind, ‘If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail,’ (-Benjamin Franklin) speaks to the importance of preparation. Perhaps you can think of a time when you found yourself in front of a class of students wishing you had spent more time in preparation. How do those situations usually play out? In my experience, at the end of such a session I walk away feeling deflated with the sense that I have short-changed my students. If we believe that preparation is key to a successful lesson, how do we go about structuring our plans?  The following section provides a few suggestions on how best to prepare your lessons.

As you may know, a lesson plan includes a description of the sequence of activities the instructor and learners engage in to achieve the desired learning outcomes. It also outlines a time schedule of the activities and a list of the resources to be used in the lesson.

There are several benefits to developing lesson plans:

  • By focusing on a lesson plan, your teaching has a clear purpose
  • Events in your lesson can be sequenced in a logical way to support learning
  • Helps you to organize your time and keeps you on track
  • Provides you an opportunity to select effective teaching strategies (more than just providing a straight lecture)
  • A plan helps you to focus on essential content to avoid repetition
  • Past and future classes can be intentionally linked, as well as opportunity to explicitly link your content to practice or real-world events (these details may be difficult to remember without a plan)
  • A plan also provides opportunities to reflect on and inform future teaching practices
  • Finally, you may include one of your lesson plans in a teaching dossier to demonstrate your teaching skills

It is important to keep in mind that a lesson plan is merely a plan, and as such, it is subject to revision and improvisation both during the lesson and after the lesson when reviewing it for changes for next time.

Components of a lesson plan

The Instructional Skills Workshop (ISW) Program has developed a useful framework for the post-secondary teacher.

Basic Lesson Plan Phases BOPPPS Model
1. Introduction
  • Bridge-In
  • Objectives
  • Pre-assessment
2. Body
  • Participatory learning
3. Conclusion
  • Post-assessment
  • Summary

Bridge-In: “Hook”

  • Gain attention
  • Establish relevance
Bridge-In Strategies:
  • Tell a story
  • Pose a provocative question
  • Offer a startling statement or unusual fact
  • Link to previous topic or to future learning
  • Provide reasons for the lesson


  • Statement that specifies what the learners will know or do by the end of a lesson.
  • By the end of the lesson, you will be able to…


  • What does the learner already know about the subject of the lesson?

Pre-Assessment Strategies:

  • Open-ended questions
  • Brainstorming
  • Surveys (paper based or iClickers)
  • Thumbs up / down / sideways
  • Demonstrations

Participatory Learning – Active Learning

  • Over many decades now, the scientific literature has replicated the finding that student attention drops off dramatically after about 10 minutes of lecture (Bligh, 2001; Gibbs, 1992; Thomas, 1972) – see, for example, a typical Attention Curve during a lecture (Bligh, 2001).
  • Participatory learning allows for a healthy balance between an instructor providing foundational knowledge (readings/lecture) and opportunities for the learners to engage in and practice the subject material (active learning).


  • What did the learners learn?
  • Did students achieve the learning objectives?

Cognitive: Low Level forms of Assessment

  • Multiple Choice Questions
  • True / false
  • Matching
  • Short answer (written or verbal)

Psychomotor Forms of Assessment

  • Checklist
  • Rating scale
  • Demonstration

Cognitive: High Level Forms of Assessment

  • Problem solving
  • Case studies
  • Essay, critique

Affective Forms of Assessment

  • Attitude scales
  • Role play
  • Reflective journal

Summary: Closure

Summary Strategies:

  • Learning objectives review
  • Content review
  • Gather feedback from students: one-minute paper, muddiest point
  • Future applications: next class, real-world, how does this theory connect to practice?
  • Questions

For more on the BOPPPS model see the BOPPPS Model for Planning Lessons wiki page (University of British Columbia).

Additional lesson plan frameworks

Lesson plan templates

There are numerous templates to use to plan your lessons. There is no one right template to use when creating lesson plans. Some instructors may find one particular template that works for them. Some may take bits and pieces from different templates to come up with one of their own. It is best to test out each template to figure out what works for you.

Evaluating your lesson plan

The following model is a suggested model for reflecting on the effectiveness of your lesson.

Description: Describe your lesson plan.
Feelings: What are your feelings about the lesson?
Evaluation: What worked well? What did not work well?
Analysis: What are potential reasons why those items worked well (did not work well)?
Conclusion: What did you learn from teaching the lesson plan?
Action Plan: If you teach the lesson again, what will you keep the same? Change?


Course design: Planning a Class (University of Waterloo)
Lesson Planning: Class by Class (Carleton University)
Lesson Planning: Prof’s Resource Site (Algonquin College)


Bligh, D. (2001). What’s the Use of Lectures? San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Gibbs, G. (1988) Learning by doing: a guide to teaching and learning methods. Oxford: Further Education Unit.

Gibbs, G., Habeshaw, S., & Habeshaw, T. (1992). 53 interesting things to do in your lectures (4th ed.). Bristol, UK: Technical and Educational Services.

Thomas, J. (1972). The variation of memory with time for information appearing during a lecture. Studies in Adult Education, 4. 57-62

Wiggins, G., & McTighe, J. (2005). Understanding by design (2nd ed.). Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.