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Why is this important?

Download an editable
Lesson Plan Template
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You’re about to teach your first class at Academy of Art University. Perhaps you share some of these fears:

"Students won’t like the class and they'll revolt!"

"I'm afraid I'll run out of things to do in class."

"I'm an actor without a script, and the play starts right away…"

"I’m drawing a blank. I don’t know where to begin."

Most teaching fears can be calmed, if not entirely eradicated, with an effective lesson plan. A lesson plan can help you organize your content and structure the time so that students are engaged and learning what they need to within a given class session.

The online version of your class

Did you know that if you teach a course on campus, you can view the online version of that course in its entirety? That's right! If an online version of your onsite course exists, you can see the written lectures, demo videos, images, discussion topics, written assignment sheets, and quizzes developed for online students. For instructors who are new to teaching, or new to a particular course, this can be a huge help. It can provide you a more complete and visual sense of the class and offer some concrete ideas for how to approach the content and engage students.

Learn more: The Online Counterpart of Your Onsite Class

How to create a lesson plan?

Successful lesson plans revolve around three things:

1. Clear outcomes: What will the students be able to do by the end of the lesson?

2. Meaningful progression of activities: How do I guide the students to the outcomes?

3. Checking on student learning: How will I know they "got it"?

Learn more: Sample Lesson Plans


Outcomes help us focus on our destination. If you know your destination and you are familiar with the city, you will arrive there eventually, in spite of roadblocks and traffic jams. If you forget where you are going, or if you have only a vague idea of the destination, you will get frustrated (and so will your passengers).

  • The first step in creating a learning outcome is narrowing down the topic enough so that it is of teachable size for one day. You cannot, for example teach all of Photoshop in one three-hour lesson, but you can effectively teach a number of tools in that time slot.
  • Second, clearly visualize what the students will be able to do once they have completed the day’s lessons. Attach a student behavior to the teaching topic. A teacher with clear outcomes can leave the classroom with a good idea of how well the students grasped the material for the day, rather than a vague “I think they got it — they were nodding” feeling.

Learn more: Student Learning Outcomes  |  Action Verbs for Learning Outcomes


The progression of your activities will vary according to what you are teaching.

  • It pays to think about the beginning, middle and end of your lesson.
    • How are you warming students up to your ideas?
    • What kind of atmosphere are you trying to create?
    • What activities will most efficiently help the students progress?
    • How are you building their skills?
    • What do you want them to know how to do once they leave the class that day?
  • Planning how long each activity will take is also important—three hours can go by awfully fast if one has the tendency to go off on tangents. Never plan to lecture for more than 20 minutes at a time.
  • Planning a variety of activities will ensure that all types of learners are going to find something to tune into in your lesson.

Learn more: Lesson Plan Building Blocks  |  Activity Ideas for Lesson Planning  |  Managing the First and Last Five Minutes of Class

Checking on student learning

Build in frequent opportunities to check how students are progressing and to give them feedback. You can use a variety of techniques, including comprehension questions, assignments, quizzes, critiques, etc.

Learn more: Learning Snapshots

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