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@TeacherToolkit – Do we need lesson plans?

This is the second of five posts featuring Ross Morrison McGill’s mainstage presentation at the SSAT National Conference 2015. Ross is @TeacherToolkit.

This is my lesson plan from 7 or 8 years ago.

When I first started my first job as a deputy headteacher, I sat down with the inspector and opened up the file that I’d been given (as I’d only been there for three weeks). To my horror, there were three-page lesson plans in the file.

Why? Because it may have been the model; it’s how we bring up our NQTs; it’s how we are taught at university and so on. And there lies the issue…

The main issue with lesson plans, I think, is that what happens in the plan is not what happens on the ground.

The need for planning lessons will never go away – and if you look in the plan section of our Learning Policy, we encourage our teachers to have ‘evidence of planning’. It doesn’t mean a one-off lesson plan.

The main issue with lesson plans, I think, is that what happens in the plan is not what happens on the ground.

I don’t want to use lesson plans, but that does not mean we all need to ignore them, or encourage new teachers to ignore the process of planning.

A middle leader observed me the other day and asked ’do you have a lesson plan?’ I smiled and said ’no’.

I favour the 5-minute lesson plan – because it sits somewhere in the middle – on the left you have DKLs – as described by Jude Enright, a deputy head in west London: Door knob lessons. On the right-hand side you have the laborious three-page lesson plan, spelling out every activity by the minute, and in the middle you have The 5-Minute Lesson Plan.

What I believe is great about it is that it focuses on what’s important. Obviously, the cognition process taking place in your head, the thinking process behind lessons gives a lot more detail, but if you’re desperate for some kind of framework to write down (to share with someone if you wish to do so) – it’s a great model. Stickability I’ll come back to later…

If I had Ofsted tomorrow, I’d probably tell my teachers not to give any lesson plans whatsoever. Though, I’d suggest they consider the 5-minute lesson plan as an option. However, I’d tell them, ‘don’t waste your time.’

Why not read the Ofsted inspection guidance: myths about lesson planning.


Read the other articles in the series

What is a good teacher?
Do we need lesson plans?
Marking is broken
How we cut out the marking frenzy
Flying Start


Ross-McGillRoss Morrison McGill is @TeacherToolkit, the ‘most followed teacher on Twitter in the UK’, an award winning deputy headteacher who writes the ‘most influential blog on education in the UK’ and one of the most widely read across the world. Once nominated for ‘500 Most Influential People in the Britain’ by The Sunday Times in 2015 and ranked one of the ‘Top-100 Brands in Education’ worldwide by Onalytica; McGill was nominated for ‘Teaching Award for Teacher of the Year in a Secondary School in London.’ He writes for Schools Week newspaper and for Guardian Education and is also the founder of @SLTchat and co-author of the #5MinPlan.

Download Ross’ SSAT NC15 PowerPoint presentation.

Visit Ross’ website.

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Watch more SSAT National Conference 2015 films.

Download PowerPoint presentations from the SSAT National Conference 2015.

Ross’ school, Quintin Kynaston, is part of the SSAT network. Find out more about membership here.


@TeacherToolkit – What is a good teacher?

15 February 2016

@TeacherToolkit – Marking is broken

17 February 2016