An important part of lesson planning is assigning times to each learning activity. This will help you determine how much you can do in a class session and help keep you on track while teaching.
A lot of research has been done on learning, information retention and student attention spans as it relates to class time. A broad finding that has come out of this is that students tend to lose focus during long learning episodes. Organizing class time into smaller chunks (like mini-lectures followed by practice activities) reduces the amount of down-time. Sousa (2016) suggests episodes of approximately 20 minutes are most effective for students. This pacing of activities will also be beneficial in keeping the group energy sustained throughout the lesson.
Images Source: SOUSA
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Therefore, if you are planning to lecture, consider where you might have natural breaks in your content and where you can pause and engage students in a short discussion or activity. If you will not be lecturing, try and keep each activity to about 20 minutes when possible. Based on this research, Lenz et. Al (2015) suggest the following Lesson structures for a 60-minute period:
Image Source: Lenz et. Al (2015)
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Depending on the length of your lectures and the activities you have planned for the lesson, it won’t always be possible to follow such a rigid lesson flow. However, organizing your lesson into smaller teaching and learning segments as much as possible is best for optimizing learning.
For more information on planning active learning activities and related research, see the on Active Learning Module.