What makes a great lesson?

In today’s busy working environment and with tightened budgets, the ability to attend courses and CPD is lessened and, as a result, more and more professionals have turned to Twitter to offer support.

A few months ago I stumbled upon an excellent resource offered by The Teacher’s Toolkit entitled ‘The 5 minute lesson plan.’ This lesson plan, I assume, was written with the intention of helping teachers reduce their planning time whilst ensuring key learning strategies were considered in order to attain the elusive ‘outstanding’ tag. Teachers, through this page document, are guided in their lesson planning to consider how we engage students; how we ensure the ‘stickability’ of key skills; how we use Afl and differentiate within our lessons; the inclusion of key words and the teacher vs student activity.

Like many others I was drawn to this resource because it offered a time-saving plan while simultaneously ensuring I was considering key teaching and learning strategies that would help improve my practice.

I used this to help me plan my interview lesson on varying sentence structures and was pleased with how quick and thoughtful the process of completing this plan was.


However, the interesting thing about joining a new school is that you quickly learn different schools interpret the criteria for ‘outstanding’ and ‘good’ lessons in slightly different ways. Yes, the progress of students is central but other factors such as responding to feedback and questioning are given more weight in my new school than they had been in my previous school. Having observed a number of colleagues over the past few weeks I have discovered how difficult it is to hit certain criteria when you are seeing only a snapshot of a lesson. This led me to think that we needed a slightly adapted version of the ‘5 minute lesson plan’ to suit the priorities for our school and develop these within our lessons. Where was I to begin?

The first thing I did was read ‘The Essential Guide to Lesson Planning’ by Leila Walker which was recommended to me by a colleague. A useful book for anyone just starting out in teaching, it recapped the basic expectations for a lesson and I was able to draw these out quite easily. I then had the pleasure of attending Tom Sherrington’s session at The Festival of Education where he outlined, what he believed, are the ten qualities of a great lesson:

1) Probing
2) Rigour
3) Challenge
4) Differentiation
5) Journeys
6) Explaining
7) Agility
8) Awe
9) Possibilities
10) Joy

Next I approached colleagues about what they felt constituted a ‘great’ lesson and asked them to feed this back onto a padlet. The responses I got included high levels of challenge, clear progression, peer assessment, differentiation and a clear knowledge of the students in front of you.

Finally, in producing a planning pro-forma that would suit the needs of our school, I had to reflect upon our observation documentation and the key areas identified. These included
 Differentiation
 Revisiting learning
 Students knowing how to improve in English
 Assessment of / for learning
 Questioning (differentiated questioning)

Bearing this in mind, the following document is what I have come up with.


This has also been uploaded onto tes and is available at the following link http://www.tes.co.uk/teaching-resource/My-adaptation-of-the-5-minute-lesson-plan-6341680/requestAction/add/

As yet, it is not a finished document but a work in progress. Nor is it a document that will become a requirement. Instead I see this as a valuable training document which helps to outline the expectations of what deserves/needs consideration when planning a ‘good’ to ‘outstanding’ lesson. I envisage using this in faculty meetings initially to guide us in our planning when considering the schemes of work for next year. I even think I might laminate some of these so that teachers can use them as a reference tool. The possibilities are endless but I feel confident that this will become a useful document for myself / the faculty / other colleagues when planning lessons because it will act as a reminder of all the key teaching and learning strategies I/we need to display within my/our lessons.

Your feedback would be most welcome.


2 thoughts on “What makes a great lesson?

  1. It’s great to see how a range of resources, presentations and personal research and experience, can report together.

    Really interested to see how the lesson planner could be used with dept to discuss lesson planning and supporting individual teachers.

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