A reflection on best practice for lesson planning

As expectations and demands on our time increase at an alarming rate we can get a bit lost in the mountain of tasks and forget some of the basic things we learned during our keen and enthusiastic teacher training period.

Sometimes our students themselves help to motivate us and refresh our fervour for teaching.  Not so long ago one of my students did that for me.  She said to me, ‘You really work hard at planning our lessons don’t you miss?’  I was ridiculously pleased by this comment and it made me reflect on what it was that prompted it.  I spent some time thinking about a quick check list to ensure my lessons are planned as they should be and I came up with ROAPEA (you know how much we all love acronyms). Well, this is what ROAPEA stands for.

R: Requisite knowledge 
What is the requisite knowledge my students need before starting the new topic?

O: Objectives
What are the learning objectives i.e. what new learning do I want them to experience?

A: Activities
What activities will facilitate learning, taking into account different students’ needs?

P:  Presentation
How can I present information and structure explanation?

E:  Extension
How can I extend the work, including providing for the more able?

A: Assessment
How can I assess understanding?


In an interview I was once asked, ‘What is the most disastrous lesson you have taught and what did you learn from it?’

My reply, ‘Simultaneous equations. It was in my first year of teaching and I learned that I had not spent enough time and thought on what prior knowledge was required by students before launching into the lesson.’

So here goes, a basic example of applying ROAPEA to an introduction to simultaneous equations.


R: Requisite knowledge

Students should be able to solve linear equations in one unknown, be able to deal confidently with negative numbers, and be able to construct an equation

O: Objectives

To be able to understand the concept of simultaneous equations and to solve simple simultaneous equations (where no multiplication is required)

A: Activities

Group work – matching equations to written statements, an exercise from the book, and a mathematical jigsaw matching answers to pairs of equations

P: Presentation

Examples on the board, a practical demonstration with 5 oranges, 3 apples and a price tag, similarly with 2 oranges and 3 apples, and a YouTube video

E: Extension

Ask students to come up with their own simultaneous equations problem and to write the associated solution and answers (leaving it open like this allows them to work at a harder level if necessary)

A: Assessment

Assess learning through a quiz and an ‘explain to your neighbour’ activity


It doesn’t need to be an onerous task.  Many of us already do much of this most of the time.  You may well want to produce your own checklist, or add to this one, but I think this covers the basics for me.

Kind regards,
Debbie Barton

Debbie BartonDebbie Barton is a teacher, examiner and maths consultant with over 20 years’ experience. She’s written a number of books including Complete Mathematics for Cambridge Secondary 1. She also worked as a Gifted and Talented trainer and is passionate about ensuring able students are challenged with exciting mathematical stimulus. 

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