Master Teaching

a blog for teachers who follow the Master Teacher

It’s all in the (right kind of) details

Detailsby Bridget Watson

You’re about to teach a lesson. You know the topic and have selected an appropriate text about the topic. You jot down some activities that will engage the students. You spend about three hours designing a PowerPoint. You spend another three hours sourcing, downloading, and transcribing a video clip that will really jazz up your lesson. As you teach this lesson you labored on, things do not work out so well. What happened??

Dare I suggest that you spent too much time on the wrong things? As a teacher trainer who also remembers her misspent hours of lesson prep of yesteryear, I beseech you to get more sleep and have smoother lessons: spend your minutes on the right sort of details.

Detailed Outcomes

Always design a lesson with assessment in mind. How will I know if my students have learned something as a result of this lesson? The answer to this question will lead to your lesson objectives (learning outcomes) and will help you stay focused as you select or omit activities. It will also build towards quizzes or exams.

A few of my favorite Bloom’s Taxonomy sites are virtually dog-eared from much use. Many of the Bloom’s websites you can find online have helpful suggestions about activities and outcome verbs. You can analyze your activities to see if they are using Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) or Lower Order Thinking Skills (LOTS). There should be a general progression through the lesson of building from LOTS to HOTS. Unchecked, teachers often hover at the LOTS level.

Detailed Lead-Ins

Making the lesson’s content relevant and building your students’ schema is a huge part of preparing your students to learn. Always start a lesson with a few exercises or activities to find out what the learners already know about the topic. This could be as simple as a few true-false questions or using a visual prompt. If students do not know anything about a certain topic, you will need to choose some activities that build their schema. Use your time to consult a local colleague or other cultural informant to learn more about your students’ understanding of a concept.

Detailed Instructions

Write out activity instructions and then pare them down. Take a minute to say your instructions aloud. What gestures can enhance your instructions? How will you demonstrate them? What Instructional Comprehension Question (ICQ) can you ask to ensure your learners are able to follow the instructions? For example: How many questions will you ask your partner? Sadly, many teachers do not plan any ICQs and spend a few moments flustered at the front of the classroom when students don’t understand.

Detailed Dependence

Above all else, follow the Master. He certainly cares about your students and your lessons. Moreover, He cares if you look to Him for guidance and inspiration. Lift up your planning time and allow Him to order your steps as you plan each lesson.

Further exploration

  • Psalm 31:14-15a.
  • Learn all the ins and outs of Bloom’s Taxonomy (original and revised versions).
  • Chia Suan Chong of English Teaching Professional wrote an interesting post about language learning and schema.
  • Chia Suan Chong also discusses the important difference between a “filler” and a “lead-in.”
  • Damian Williams provides a brief explanation of ICQs.

What’s your perspective?

We welcome your comments on any of the ideas in this post or in answer to the questions below.

  • Which of the above lesson planning aspects do you believe is the most important?
  • How do you frame your lesson planning time in such a way that the Master Teacher can inspire and guide the process?

Post Author


Since 2001, Bridget Watson has been living and teaching in China— the place where she met her husband and had both of her children. She has an MA in TESOL from Azusa Pacific University and completed a certificate in TESOL Teacher Mentoring in cooperation with Wheaton College. Her teaching experience continues to broaden as she branches out to teacher mentoring, TESOL teacher training, and homeschooling.

Photo by Nick Morrison on Unsplash

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This entry was posted on April 25, 2018 by in Bridget Watson, group work, learning activities.



Photo Credit: Eric Fischer via Compfight cc
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