Four Part Strategic Lesson Planning #TMNSL

This is adapted from a presentation given at #TMNSL Thursday, 20th March 2014

Download the medium term plan template

Yes, of course I’m nearly done with the planning, but remind me; what was I meant to be planning for?

Have you ever spent your entire Summer planning for the upcoming year only to have all your detailed planning derailed and made pointless just one term in? Have you ever split the workload between colleagues only to have one of them look with wide-eyed horror at you when you enquire how the year 8 Scheme of Work was progressing? Have you ever tried teaching from a Scheme of Work that was obviously constructed when ambitions were lofty and the nitty-gritty wasn’t well expressed?

Then maybe the four part strategic lesson plan is for you.

It’s designed to allow greater departmental ownership over what and how we’re teaching. It gives flexibility in approach, allows individuality for teachers and most importantly allows the entire department to be part of the reasoning for the ‘why’..

Also, it’s significantly more flexible, freeing for HoD’s to think more strategically and ultimately less stressful.

Four part lesson planning presentation document

1: Strategic Year Overview – End of Previous Year

The key to this process is that instead of trying to do every little bit of planning in the last weeks of term 6; change things up a little bit and spend the time thinking strategically. Rather than trying to get every aspect of the day-to-day teaching of your next year completed spend your time debating, moaning and referencing against national curriculum guidance to construct an outline of what you want to teach and when. Rather than produce myriad work then you end up with something like this.


Not a lot there, certainly, but we’ve now had conversations about what we think we’ll do with each unit, checked against national curriculum guidance, and debated the merits of progression through the units. Strategy has really been the focus of this stage of planning, and your team are right there with you – a core part of the decision making process.

2: Medium Term Lesson Planning – Before Term Starts

Rather than spending your Summer fretting about getting all this planning done simply leave it. Yeah, scary I know, but you won’t be motivated to complete detailed lesson plans worth anything when you’re not teaching this stuff.

The week before you start teaching this topic, allocate members of your department to produce the medium term lesson plan for the next half-term. This is much easier as it is time sensitive, people are engaged with making it good as they are about to teach it allows you to be more collaborative. Design weekly lesson outlines that explain the purpose, assessments and have blooms-based differentiated lesson objectives (previously mentioned site the differentiator works a treat for this) meaning that we have the majority of the planning sorted for each and every lesson coming up.

It’s important that you take the time to review this; it’s certainly an easier sell as, “You’ll be teaching this next week” is a better motivator for staff to spend some time reviewing and making collaborative changes to aid the flow of the lessons rather than be forced to teach something that might have issues. We put all this on Evernote so that we can easily change parts and get updates. The finished product should looks something like this.


Download the medium term plan template


3: Individual Lesson Plans – Before the Lesson

As teachers come closer to having to teach these lessons then they can use the medium term lesson plan to begin constructing their own lesson plan and resources. This means ultimate flexibility because whilst you now have standardised and agreed upon outcomes, and much of the planning is done, we all like to put our own little spin on a lesson and use our data to tailor what we are doing to the situation at hand. Use what you want here, the 5-minute lesson plan works a treat, but the key is to share the resources and materials you are making, Dropbox would be good for this, so that next time you come to teach this you can create a conglomerate über resource.

Then simply go ahead and teach the lesson.

4: Reflect and Make Improvements – The Week Afterwards

Once that’s done it’s really rather important to reflect on how you think that lesson went, especially in terms or planning vs reality, and take the time to have conversations with colleagues about how it went in reality. Nothing should be sacred here, even if one of the areas of learning is your particular hobby horse, you need to identify what went well and how to improve. Diagnose any problems with what was delivered and make the changes now because you will not remember to do it in a fortnight. I’m sure we’ve all got that presentation with that spelling error that we’ve used for three years; this four part planning system is meant to avoid that by having you update and improve your resources as the last step.

So, after dealing with all that you should have a detailed medium term plan, specific lesson plans and resources for that topic that have been refined and perfected. Next time you teach this it’ll go much quicker!

Why this Might be Right for You 

This system is a little scary at first, especially if you’re used to all the complex planning beforehand, but it does work. It has the advantages of less work up front, but spreading that work out over the year means there’s better buy-in and actual use of the planning process. We have more flexibility to chop and change parts of the curriculum, particularly useful for reacting to current events. Blooms is built in to allow real differentiation on a per lesson basis with greater consistency whilst allowing for teachers to individualise their lessons. Importantly this model allows non-specialist teaching staff to engage with the planning and prep for the lesson.

However, you won’t have the copious detail to hand to SLT on day one of a new year. That can be scary or downright unacceptable to some. It also involves a lot of trust between colleagues; but works to build that trust and develop more mature teams.



Why not give it a go? There are strengths and weaknesses to this model, but its great strength is that it models the way in which teachers are thinking about their lessons more closely than the traditional planning model, where we have to try and be as engaged in planning the nitty-gritty of a single lesson almost a year in advance.

If you do give it a go then I’d love to hear how it went!

Download the medium term plan template


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