The five-minute lesson plan and how it changed my life

Acrobat created 5 Minute Lesson Plan

This particular lesson plan was created using Acrobat, the (at the time) easiest way to write on a document. This is an early edition.

One day we had a training day run by an professional development educator and OFSTED expert, Bradley Lightbody. During the course of the day we were informed that OFSTED don’t mind five minutes lesson plans. If you are used to spending 60/70% of your time typing and planning, this is the news you have been waiting for. Gone are the days of fighting cumbersome Word documents, typing thousands of words to describe what we will do in a single hour!

Behold! The five minute lesson plan isn’t a myth!

Since I am a new teacher at my college I’ve decided that I was going to try this new planning method. I felt that I should at least attempt it, as I was bored of typing reams of text just to satisfy someone who may or may not be there at the time. I know what I have in mind for the lesson, the students don’t know if I have a lesson plan or not, so what difference does it make if my occasionally needed prompt is only 1 page instead of 20 or more?

5MLP for assignment catchup

This was a moment in the year where I needed to get students focused on the assignments they may have missed; I showed them how I would be tracking their progress (the little table serving as an example).


In some ways, I was looking for ways to direct my LSA, as this is the bane of their life – having to figure out what is happening in a lesson on the fly, not being privvy to planning and the whims of the upper managements decisions. To bring a meaningful contribution, often with a number of students, LSAs need directing, and they appreciate it. Otherwise they feel superfluous to requirements, and what is more dangerous is that the students can start to think that too. As with most of the work I produce, this is an open source and a free-to-use resource. My Five minute lesson plans are nothing new, however I do feel that my design is more user friendly and approachable. What I found online, having searched Google Images left me nonplussed and frustrated at the laziness that has gone into their design.

There is no relation to the subject matter, there is no consideration for LSAs, there is definitely no way I would be proud of the end result of filling one of these in, pretty much because they look completely pants.

The boxes are no different, what they represent is no different, but the one thing I would say about them is that they are bland and they look unprofessional. This is the reason that nobody feels 100% comfortable using them. There is some subconsious guilt complex attached to using something that looks like a AutoVaz Lada compared to a brand new Bentley. I know which I would rather drive.

I went about creating a new design that contains the same (and more) information than the standard, with out needing an A3 sheet or a magnifying glass. It did evolve; over time it becamse what is actually a comprehensive lesson planning method that certainly doesn’t take just five minutes to fill out. It’s more like the 10-15 minute lesson plan, but that’s ok, because at least it’s not hours like it used to be.

Blank 5MLP

This is a basic, blank lesson plan. I can print this and use it, or fill it out using software. Whichever way I do it, it beats reams of boring text.

Having spent the previous 12 months writing 20 page lesson plans, this was a welcome break.
The time it took for me to create a new, usable version of the ‘five-minute’ lesson plan in Adobe Illustrator was approximately 30 to 40 minutes, and it was time well spent. I suddenly have extra time int he 20 minutes before the lesson to have a cup of tea, and actually maybe use the washroom; something that other teachers view as a luxury. I by no means, by the way, plan my lessons immediately prior to the lesson, I try to keep ahead about 2 weeks.

To be honest most tutors don’t bother with lesson plans because they expect that it has to be 20 pages long, they need one for every lesson which is tedious and something they are not used to creating because of the bad habits they have slipped in to. They therefore end up out of practice, especially when it comes to creating a decent, complete lesson plan when it counts [i.e. when OFSTED appear at the front door, often with little notice if any]. They might be great teachers, but that’s not what OFSTED are looking for all of the time.

Five Minute Lesson Plan

A filled out lesson plan, using Photoshop and a Wacom tablet. If you don’t have Photoshop, just print it and use a pen! This is the most interesting and engaging way to create a lesson plan. This isn’t even the prettiest! Note the LSA directions around the plan in little, subtle boxes.

There was one problem with using the five minute lesson plans — if you haven’t already created a scheme of work that is detailed enough to compensate for the smaller lesson plans, you’re knackered. You still have to produce a decent plan overall, just not every for each moment of each lesson. While you are doing what you’re doing during a session it is easy to forget that you planned something for next week that you are doing now, however the 5MLP’s work in your favour here. You only spent a short while on the plan, and plans are allowed to change. So are the Schemes of Work. In turn this means that you are allowed to annotate your schemes of work, adjust them as you go, but I would add that having the 5MLP’s means that you are revisiting the SoW’s regularly, thereby affording you the benefit of your own planning! It’ll help you link to other lessons before and after too. The massive lesson plans that have crept into mainstream teaching practice are simply duplicating work that has already been undertaken.

There’s a lot to be said for investing your own money (because your department won’t pay for it) in software that will enable you to write your lesson plans digitally. Picking up a pen and creating a five-minute lesson will train you to do it last minute or not at all. A plan is never as detailed as doing it on the computer using Photoshop &  Acrobat, because it actually becomes enjoyable.

If there is any logic in having a day of CPD, it will be the staff actually take on the suggestions that is the college has paid the speakers to divulge. Otherwise, this is just a day when everybody sits about and has a free lunch, claps their hands and leaves thinking ‘oh that was straightforward’.

Excuse the dramatic title, but it’s true, it really did change my life.

Here’s a printable version, at the quality you need to print right now! Click the image to go to download page, right click and ‘Save As’

Print me!

This is a full size image that you can print on A4 without needing to scale.