Planning Sessions, Avoiding Nightmares

Recently I was asked to plan some coaching sessions for the University of Lincoln Women’s Rugby team. As I had got into the habit of going to coach with a plan in my head and not anything physically written down and to my surprise I found it quite challenging.

However it did made me think about the benefits of having a clear and structured plan before a session. Why do we bother writing plans? What are the benefits?

Well Richards (1998) states that lesson planning helps the teacher or coach think about problems and difficulties that may arise during the session. Thus allowing the coach to think of tactics and strategies to help deal with issues. Therefore avoiding the chaos of an unorganised session that keeps all fledgling coaches and teachers up at night!

In this book Farrell (2001) looks at the work of Purgason (1991) who also supports the effectiveness of lesson planning by stating that a plan helps teachers and coaches have a log of previous sessions, thus allowing them to form progression and a whole scheme of work for the participants to progress through.

Aims and Learning Objectives

The first thing I thought about when planning the session was what was the aim of the session, what did I want to achieve?

We’ve all been there, turning up to a session with little planning or preparation and coming away from it thinking, “what the hell was that!”.

This comes from not having a clear aim, by having aims and objectives in a coaching session, it gives structure and a clear idea of what to look for while the session is taking place.

Learning objectives are vital in helping the coach achieve the aim of the session, whether that’s the ability to pass a rugby ball off both hands or the ability to be able to do quantum physics equations in a class room.

All aims are easier to achieve if broken down into steps using learning objectives.

This interesting blog post by Dr.Nic a statistics teacher looks at the importance and effectiveness of learning objectives and how they benefit the teacher and the learner.

What else did the plan include?

After the aims and learning objectives were set, the foundations of my coaching plan were set. Whilst always keeping the participants in mind I was then able to mould my coaching session to help them reaching the aim of the session through different drills and skill games.

I always like to plan a set of progressions to every drill or activity, this allows for differentiation strategy to be implemented.

Tomlinson (2000) studied differentiation strategies in the classroom and found that learners excelled when advanced and taught at there own speeds within the same environment, this also encouraged peer tutoring and again increased development throughout the lessons.

What plan shall I use?

I sat down and had a look at many different ways of writing my lesson plans however no matter how I wrote them they all consisted of the same things:

  • Selecting my aims and objectives
  • Selecting learning activities
  • Organizing learning activities (times and equipment)
  • Evaluation Methods

These all roughly follow the rational linear framework first brought about by Tyler (1949) and although the method is old, I still find this applies to lesson and session planning today, breaking the planning stage into four easy stages, whilst also allotting time and equipment specifications as to help improve my own poor time management skills!

How did the session go?

Well I went to the session with confidence, knowing that I had a clear plan written down and studied before I got there. It enabled me to get organised with equipment and helped the session flow.

In the end I didn’t stick to my plan 100% as I found the group as a whole needed more time focusing on particular drills and activities, but my clear plans and progressions allowed me to easily see what progressions to drop in order to still advance towards my aim while keeping the session within the time frame allowed.

The plan also helped me relax more and focus purely on coaching rather than timings and quickly thinking of the next activity in my head.

Overall I believe the session planning process as stated by Farrell (2001) helped me accomplish what I set out to achieve in the session by giving me a clear map guiding me through and avoiding the pit falls of a poorly planed session.


Reference List

Farrell,T.S.C (2001) Lesson Planning. Teaching English in a foreign environment.

Purgation, K.B (1991) Planning Lessons and Units. Teaching English as a second or foreign language (pp.419-431).

Richards, J.C (1998) What’s the use of lesson plans? In J.C Richards Beyond Training (pp.103-121).

Tomlinson, C.A (2000) Education Leadership. How to Differentiate Instruction.


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