The importance of planning in teaching – part 2

This is the second of three blog posts on the importance of lesson planning written by William Power, an Adhyayan Associate. Will is currently an Assistant Headteacher with responsibility for Teaching and Learning at Coppermill Primary School, East London. He is an Associate at Adhyayan and worked with Spokey Wheeler and Kavita Anand developing a low-cost high quality schools model in Jharkhand. He has also worked for the European Commission in Delhi and studied Sanskrit as an undergraduate. His areas of interest include: oral storytelling, outdoor learning, primary science, talk for writing and phonics. 

You can read the first post in the series, here.

To recap, planning can be split into three broad categories:

  1. Long term (the curriculum/ yearly plan)
  2. Medium term (unit plans)
  3. Short term (individual lesson plans)

It is important that teachers engage with the planning process on all of these levels. They must understand how their day to day practice fits into a broader, connected sequence (over, say a 3-week unit) and the year as a whole (across the wider curriculum).

The starting point should therefore be the long-term plan: typically a curriculum document (in the UK we have the National Curriculum) or equivalent, defining the end of year expectations for children at each stage. From this it is possible to see the knowledge and skills that the children in that year group are expected to achieve by the end of the year:

National Curriculum (2014) expectations in Maths at the end of Year 5 (Standard 4), sample:



Using curriculum materials it is then possible to summarise what will be taught over a year in each of the individual subject areas.

Examples of long-term planning documents:

long term 1 long term 2

Breaking it down

Many schools define key topics as ‘blocks’ and these are then taught over 2-4 week periods with details of the skills and knowledge expected defined in ‘medium term’ plans:

The medium term plan is an ‘active’ document that outlines the lesson sequence and should clearly show how children get from the starting point to the expected outcome. Care is taken to ensure that the objectives in each lesson systematically build the skills and knowledge needed to successfully reach this end objective. When building a house you don’t (or can’t) start with the roof first and finish with the foundations!

Gauging the pace of progression through the skills is something that an experienced teacher will know how to plan for, but will be prepared to change or adjust depending on how well their learners cope. As will be made clear later, this kind of responsiveness to children’s learning needs is also a critical aspect of how the planning process links to ‘delivery’ and ongoing assessment.

Example Medium Term Plan (Indian Standard 2)

newspaper article

The lessons included in this sequence would typically take 1-2 weeks, depending on the ability of the group. Teachers might also want to integrate specific grammatical teaching points to reinforce teaching direct speech for example in context. Coming back to this topic with a different (but related) task, such as writing a newspaper article reporting on another ‘incident’ would then assess independent understanding of the skills and knowledge taught. This kind of information – linking the teaching sequence to a form of assessment could also be included in the medium term plan.

The above example shows an approach where discrete skills are taught and then combined as part of a final outcome (in this case a newspaper article). There is a linear progression towards a clearly defined end point.

Display developed as part of the newspaper-writing unit of work.



In the next and final post, Will looks at another approach that can be used for planning.