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This is my lesson plan philosophy, my way of thinking when I am writing learning and development materials. This is not the only such philosophy available, but if you are new to writing learning and development materials this is not a bad philosophy to start from, and if you are experienced this might give you some ideas to make your materials even better.
Presenting a lesson, workshop or seminar is like telling a story.
The participants need to be entertained as much as they are educated. We all learn better and remember more of the skills and knowledge introduced to us when we are engaged and interested.
A lesson plan, and any other learning and development materials created to support the lesson, is therefore the story outline. The guide for the presenter so they know how the story goes.
Take the myth of the creation of the constellation Ursa Major, also known as the great bear, or the big dipper. Many myths exist around its creation but a significant number of them have distinct similarities, these similarities make up the story plan.
There is a bear (normally female).
There are some hunters.
The hunters wound the bear.
The bear flees.
The bear enters the sky and becomes the constellation Ursa Major (sometimes one of the hunters also enters the sky and is turned into another bear, Ursa Minor).
The storyteller then adds their own details to this plan, or fleshes out the story.
Is the bear, black, brown, white, large, small, what is special about this bear?
(In the Roman myth the bear is actually a nymph called Callisto who is turned into a bear by the goddess Juno)
Who are the hunters, what weapons do they have, how do they hunt, is there one special hunter?
(In the Iroquois myth there are three hunters, one carries a bow and arrow, one carries a cooking pot and the third carries a pile of firewood)
What type of wound and by what weapon?
Where does the bear flee to, how injured is it?
Does the bear die or is it still alive when it enters the sky and becomes the constellation?
(In the Finnish myth the bear is killed and lowered into the ground in a golden basket, its head is placed in a tree to allow the bears spirit to return to Ursa Major)
Each story teller adds their own details, each has a different answer to these questions and each will choose to expand the story plan to tell the story they want to.
All of these stories are fundamentally the same as they follow the same plan but each of these stories are different because the storyteller tells the story in their own way.
What Does This Mean for Lesson Plans?
When preparing a lesson you follow a lesson plan and the associated learning and development materials (presentation slides or demonstrations), each lesson taught from the plan will fundamentally be the same but each lesson will be different because the presenter presents the lesson in their own way.
Your lesson plan must provide the lesson structure, the story above would be very confusing if the bear died before the hunters were introduced, lessons will confuse participants if the lesson plan causes the story being told to jump around without any clear structure. The lesson plan must also give room for the presenter to make the lesson their own. I like including terrible jokes and little rhymes to help participants remember key points, these funny additions match my light hearted teaching style, other presenters are more serious so when they try to use a silly rhyme it sounds wrong, it doesn’t match their story.
As you write your lesson plan imagine the story you are trying to tell, if your story is strong and interesting your lesson plan will be as well.
Note: While a number of traditions use this story plan for Ursa Major there are a number of other stories related to Ursa Major. The Hindu, Chinese, and Japanese stories are very different and name each star. The South Korean story is particularly nice in that it tells of a woman who had seven sons. They lived in a house next to a river. The sons placed stepping stones in a river for their mother so she could cross it safely to get home. The mother blessed the stones and when her sons died they became the constellation.