7 Steps to Planning A Successful Sample Lesson

Maria Nunez teachesGuest blogger, Maria Nuñez, was born in Argentina and lived in several countries before her family moved to Houston, TX when she was in sixth grade. She graduated from Rice University in 2013 with a major in political science and French and a minor in human justice. She’s now in her fifth year of teaching sixth grade math and serves as the grade level chair at YES Prep Fifth Ward.

Hi there, prospective teacher! So you’ve been asked to teach a sample lesson— congratulations on making it this far in the interview process! I’m here to give you a few tips that should set you up for success. While I’m talking about math below, most of these tips can apply to a sample lesson in any subject. Good luck and happy lesson planning!

  1. Start with backwards planning. This means you’ll make the exit ticket first. An exit ticket is a short 3-5 question quiz that students take at the end of the lesson so you, the teacher, can measure how much they learned. Making the exit ticket at the beginning of your lesson planning process will help you see what students need to be able to do by the end of your lesson.
  1. After making the exit ticket, create your key points. The key points are the things that students need to know. A math lesson usually has 2-3 key points. For example, if your objective is that students will be able to add/subtract fractions with like denominators, your key points could be:
  • Key Point 1: To add fractions with like denominators, I can:
    • Add/subtract the numerators
    • Leave the denominators alone (do not add/ subtract)
  • Key Point 2: After adding/subtracting the fractions, I must:
    • Simplify the fractions, if needed
    • Turn improper fractions into mixed numbers, if needed
  1. After creating the key points, write a few examples (3-5 examples) that you will walk the students through. The first examples should be more of a teacher model, which means you are modeling how the example should be done. As you move through the examples, you should start modeling less, and start calling on the students more.
  1. After you make the examples, create the practice problems. In my math class, we usually do group practice first, so students can work together and help each other. After a few minutes of group practice, you can quickly go over the answers. If answers differ greatly on certain questions, you can model one on the board to clarify misunderstandings. Group practice should be followed by independent practice, so students can practice the skills alone. I usually make the independent practice rather lengthy, so no one runs out of work to do.
  1. You’re almost done! Next, you need to think through and create the engage/explore part to your lesson. This is the part where you engage the students in the lesson of the day, get them excited and invested, perhaps have them try an example problem to see what they know, maybe play a video that relates to the lesson in some way, tell them about a time in your life that you needed this skill they are learning today, have them relate their life/ prior experiences to today’s topic, etc. Sometimes, this is the hardest part of the lesson, but a strong engage/explore can set your entire lesson up for success.
  1. Ok, now you’re actually, almost done. Next is the… the do first! You guessed it, the do first is what students will DO FIRST in your lesson. Usually this is a paper that’s waiting for them at their desk when they sit down. It is a quick task that gives them something to do when they walk in the room. A great idea for a sample lesson would be: on an index card, have the students write down their name, their favorite food, and their favorite animal. You can collect the index cards and use them to call on students throughout the lesson. For example, you could say, “Whoever loves pizza and dogs, can you tell me what I do first to solve example 5?” If students get shy, you can also cold call them using their names on the index card.
  1. At this point, most of the “thinking through the lesson” and planning is done. Now you need to place all these elements (steps 1 through 6) into a lesson planning template (that will be sent to you by the school before the sample lesson). Most math teachers at YES Prep use the 5-E lesson planning template (the five e’s are engage, explore, explain, elaborate, and evaluate), detailed below:
  1. Do first
  1. Engage/ Explore

*Most of the time, the engage and explore are done separately. The engage is like a short hook into the lesson, and the explore is a process by which students get to explore the topic of the day and discover some of the math on their own. However, for a sample lesson, I would try to keep it simple and blend these two elements into one, so you don’t get overwhelmed. Before you become a YES Prep teacher, you will receive TONS more training on the 5-E model so you feel comfortable when the real daily grind of lesson planning begins.

  1. Explain (key points & examples)
  1. Elaborate (group & independent practice)
  1. Evaluate (exit ticket)

I hope my 7 tips helped you navigate the lesson planning process. Please reach out to your schools’ Talent Ambassador (or School Director) if you need help during this process. And YES, teachers at YES Prep do work this hard every day to plan meaningful lessons for their students. Get ready!

See one of Maria Nuñez’s completed lesson plans below.

Learn more about teaching at YES Prep and apply now!

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