Miss Britton

10 Step Topic Planning Method

~ 26th January 2017 ~

Have you ever been given a new topic to teach and not known where to start?

Maybe I’ll start by looking at the curriculum… Actually I’ll look online for ideas… No, I’ll see what resources are out there… Perhaps I should start by looking through that pile of books… What should the hook be?… What will the objectives and outcomes be?…

I know I’ve definitely been there. There’s just so much to think about when planning a unit of work you haven’t taught before. Over time, I realised I had begun to approach my planning in the same way every time and I was pretty pleased with the outcomes so I thought I’d share my process.

1. Mind Map

To begin my planning process, I mind map my own thoughts about activities the children could do. I choose to do this before looking at the National Curriculum as I feel this way I am more creative. When my creative juices have run dry, – which for some topics happens sooner than others (The Stone Age!) – I then hit the good ol’ world wide web for a bit of inspiration. Having carried out extra research on the net and using books, I then add any extra ideas to my mind map.

2. National Curriculum

Once I have generated a range of ideas, I then read through the National Curriculum for that subject and year group. I make sure I understand the objectives and sometimes this gives me further ideas about what the children could do. I then adjust my mind map accordingly.

3. Grouping Ideas

When all my initial research is complete, I can start to group my ideas together. Which activities match which objectives? Can I group any of the activities and ideas together into one lesson? Sometimes, I simplify an idea to use it as a starter or a plenary.

4. Final List

List your final choice of lesson objectives and activities for that unit of work. Think carefully about the flow of the lessons. Do they follow on from each other in a logical order?

5. The Hook

When you are content with your final list of lessons, think about how you will ‘hook’ the children. How will you grab their attention at the beginning of the lesson? Perhaps, you can set up a particular scene in your classroom (or in the hall or outdoor area). I often use quick paired or group activities in which the children can work practically (matching or ordering activities work particularly well). Inspiring or funny videos also work well when trying to grab the children’s attention. Children always enjoy activities on the Interactive Whiteboard too. There are many options for ‘hooking’ the children. Whatever you choose, it is essential that you think about the children in your class. You want to engage them from the very beginning of the lesson.

6. Main Teaching

Now you have all your lesson objectives and ideas for activities, you can start to fill out the ‘main teaching’ part of your lesson plans. How will you structure your lesson? What are the key questions you will ask? Consider starting points – do all children need to listen to all parts of the lesson? Don’t be afraid to set groups of children off independently. I often find that as I fill out the main teaching part of my plan, my creative juices begin to flow again.

7. Differentiation

First of all you need to consider the needs of your class. Every class is different. Think about the following questions when differentiating the outcomes for each lesson. How many different ability groups do you have? What activity will each group do in order to meet the learning objective? How will you challenge the higher ability children to deepen their knowledge and understanding? Consider how the children can apply the taught skills or knowledge to a real-life scenario or problem.

8. Plenary

A good quality plenary is necessary for teacher assessment, although I understand that plenaries do not always get completed due to lack of time in the lesson. However, it is important to have one planned. Consider the following ideas for plenaries:

  • Games to consolidate learning
  • Short independent tasks to assess learning
  • Peer/self assessment
  • Reading out work and giving constructive feedback
  • Introduce new learning to prepare for the next lesson.

9. ICT Links

Look through your lesson plans so far. Consider opportunities where the children could use ICT. Find links to videos or online games that you could add to your lesson to make it more exciting and engaging for the children. Add the links to your plan. I know some teachers don’t look for links until they come to create the lesson’s SMART Notebook or PowerPoint Presentation. However, I think it is important to find these web links during the planning process so that you are aware of what is out there. It is also beneficial to have these links on your plan in case for some reason somebody else has to deliver your lesson.

10. Support

Finally, decide which group/s of children will be supported by an adult during each lesson.  If you are fortunate enough to have a TA who can support a group, I’m sure they will be grateful to see this on the planning too as they can fully prepare themselves before the lesson. It is also important to plan which group you yourself will be working with. All children are entitled to have time with the teacher. Do not always leave the TA with the lower ability group. Additionally, for the groups that will be working independently, what support will they have? Will there be prompts or aids on the table to help them?

If you’re about to start planning a brand new topic, I hope this post has been of some use to you. Every teacher develops their own methods and strategies as they gain experience. Please use the button below to share your thoughts and comments.

Thanks again for reading!

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About the Author

Julianne Britton

Julianne Britton is an experienced teacher and author. Having taught across KS1 and KS2 and after just 3 years, she was promoted into leadership and given the responsibility of 'Science and Computing Coordinator'.

Specialising in 11+ entrance exams and SATs preparation, she has also worked as a private tutor, successfully supporting the education of 50+ students and, in addition to writing for CGP Books and Teach Primary magazine, Julianne also publishes educational resources for teachers on TES.

Julianne is also a member of MENSA.

Get in touch via sales@missbritton.co.uk, Twitter or LinkedIn.

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As Featured in The Guardian
Resource Author for TES
Author for CGP books
Regular contributor to Teach Primary magazine