Lesson planning

9 July 2024

How long does it take to plan a lesson?

Melanie McGhee

School Support Officer

Lesson planning is not an exact science, and therefore, the time it takes can vary hugely, depending on many factors. In this blog, we aim to take a look at these factors and consider how you can save time when planning lessons.

While it’s helpful to try and reduce the time we spend planning lessons, it’s important to acknowledge that the aim is not to minimise planning time to the point where we’re not planning at all - planning is a vital part of teaching.

Instead we’re trying to maximise the effectiveness of our planning while minimising the time it takes us to do - so that we can have the highest impact in the classroom.

1. Experience

The factor that has the most impact on time spent planning lessons is experience. Planning a lesson on adding fractions as a trainee, having never taught this content before, will take much longer than planning the same lesson as a teacher with 10 years of experience under their belt.

It’s a tricky one to overcome because the only way to get experience is to teach a lot. That said, there are a few ways to reduce planning time regardless of our level of experience, which we explore below.

2. Starting point

Reinventing the wheel is unnecessary and takes time. Every lesson we plan, another teacher has already planned. Using a high-quality existing starting point for our planning is possibly the best way to save time.

This might mean sourcing a worksheet that, with minimal adaptation, provides practice for our pupils that closely aligns with our lesson outcomes. It might mean using teaching resources, like the ones we provide, as a more developed starting point and adapting them to fit the needs of our pupils.

40% of teachers who use our resources said that it had decreased their workload, with an average time saved of four hours per week. This is equivalent to four weeks across a school year.

Annual evaluation by ImpactEd, July ‘23, n=849

3. Subject knowledge enhancement

It might be the case that lesson planning takes longer because we have to brush up on our subject knowledge before teaching. For example, if we’ve moved to a different year group in primary that we’ve not taught before or if we’re teaching a subject outside our subject specialism in secondary.

Either way, ensuring we have secure subject knowledge is a time-consuming addition to lesson planning, plus it’s hard to find good sources for it.

One way to check in on subject knowledge is to watch the video on our lesson overview pages to see an experienced teacher deliver a lesson using our teaching resources.

4. Planning tools

Each of us plans lessons slightly differently. Some of us find planning using a template or proforma useful as a way of structuring our thinking, others find making slides useful in the planning process.

Finding a process that works for you will save you time. This may include use of a template or proforma - if so, it’s key that it helps shape your thinking, rather than become an administrative tick-box exercise.

5. Clear outcomes

Finally a critical time saver in the planning process is having clarity about what we want our pupils to learn - what our learning outcomes are. What we want pupils to know and understand by the end of the lesson.

In my early days of teaching, I was certainly guilty of falling into the trap of trying to find an ‘engaging resource’ and planning a lesson around that. Not only did I spend too much time trying to find the elusive ‘perfect’ resource, but my pupils failed to learn much because my planning was resource-led, rather than outcome-focused.

In summary, accurately answering the question ‘how long does it take to plan a lesson?’ is incredibly difficult because it depends on many factors including those outlined above. Instead, it’s useful to focus on how we can optimise the time we spend planning so that we do great teaching without it impacting our work-life balance.

We can help

At Oak National Academy, we’re here to help you navigate the world of teaching. From high-quality primary and secondary teaching resources to expert-led videos to support your subject knowledge across the full range of national curriculum subjects.

Want to get started? Click on the key stage of your choice, select your subject, and access adaptable slide decks, worksheets and quizzes - a high-quality starting point for creating your own lessons.

Key takeaways:

  1. The factor that has the most impact on time spent planning lessons is experience. It takes practice and time, but you will get there!
  2. Using a high-quality starting point as a foundation for your planning can help you save time.
  3. Have clear outcomes in mind before you start planning - be clear about what you want your pupils to learn.

More articles you may like:

Sign up for email updates

Sign up below to be kept updated on our latest curriculum developments and other helpful content by email. Unsubscribe at any time. Read our privacy policy.

Sign up for updates