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Lazy Teaching

Lazy teaching is not about you literally being "lazy", more it is about fostering a student-led classroom. Teaching, of course, plays a central role in education. However, in contemporary education there is little doubt that the focus has shifted from teaching to learning. Adopting an educational approach that places students at the centre of the process has gained in popularity not only because it offers students the choice of what and how they learn, but because its independent approach also equips them with the key skills they will later rely on in life. This is achieved by providing students with greater responsibility for their learning, encouraging more collaboration within the classroom, while ensuring that active and meaningful learning occurs.

Student-led learning encourages greater autonomy and helps ease student transition from the classroom to life after school. Student- or peer-led learning is where students themselves facilitate their learning, often by students in the year above guiding students in group activities to discuss materials with their peers and solve problems. This helps them to think through what they have previously been taught and encourages collaborative learning.

In his book "The Lazy Teacher's Handbook", Jim Smith explains how the lazy lesson structure is based around a basic "improvement concept" model designed solely to improve learning in the classroom. It is built on the principle that students will learn much more when you teach less - or creating a student-led classroom. It has some great strategies for "lazy" teaching.

In its simplest form, the students should experience it as a straightforward process consisting of an ongoing (not predetermined) series of "learning loops" that take on board three simple elements: prepare, do and review. You can read more about lazy teaching at

The Lazy Lesson Structure

Prepare, do, review

This simple principle does not mean it is the three part lesson in disguise. For rather than having a fixed number of parts to a lesson structure, the learning loops in this model are a series of stages that can be repeated as many times as necessary in the lesson. A lesson is never constrained by a preordained number of parts.

Phase 1: Prepare

The main purpose of the prepare phase is to create the conditions needed for the students to work on their own without lots of teacher intervention

Learner-led starters

The purpose of any starter has to be to get the class ready for the lesson. Lazy starters engage the students and give an opportunity for the teacher to make sure everyone is ready for learning.

Clear Outcomes

Setting expectations for the learning and behaviour are crucial for both measuring progress towards a goal but also affirming high expectations with individuals. The Lazy Teacher may choose to have students setting their own outcomes for a lesson, especially if they relate to an extended learning project.

Lazy Task Introduction

This is when the learning activity is introduced and the task is explained.

Discussion questions for the prepare phase

Having a discussion about the process of learning is often as valuable as the thing they are learning itself. This is especially true when you are trying to train students into being more aware of their learning (what has generically been called 'learning to learn'). You may wish to use one of the following:

  • What do you want to learn today?

  • What skills do you have that could be useful in this lesson?

  • What might hinder your thinking?

  • When have you had to think like this before?

  • What have you learnt that is similar?

  • What do you know that might be useful?

  • What are the signposts to your learning? (must, should, could)

Phase 2: Do

This is the part where the students DO the work (not the teacher). Here you take a step back and let the learning take place. If you need to do something then circulate the room and observe the learning taking place.

Students should be encouraged to find solutions to problems on their own before coming to you. One example of this is brain, book, buddy, boss where students first independently think of solutions, refer to their book or as a partner first before coming to you. Another example is FAQS where you dedicate a white board in your classroom for students to write their questions on. Other students can then also write up the answer on the same board. You could also set up a "Help Desk" with a variety of resources on including help cards, expert students, laptop for student use or text books etc. This encourages students to find the answer for themselves, fostering independence.

Where they do seek teacher assistance, consider asking the following questions to continue to foster independence and facilitate students finding the answers for themselves:

  • What are you currently thinking about?

  • What connections have you made?

  • What should you do to further your thinking?

  • What breakthroughs have you made?

Phase 3: Review

This is not necessarily the end of the lesson, more the end of a "learning loop". You may want to review with individual learners or with the whole class.

Lazy Plenary

This may be done at the end of the lesson or at other points within the lesson itself. Use the plenary to review the learning (content and skills) that has taken place. You may also wish to use this when students are part way through a task and you want them to reflect on their learning.

Discussion questions

The review phase consolidates the learning in terms of the content (what was learned) and the process (how it was learned). Questions you may consider are:

  • How are you going to remember this learning?

  • What is the key aspect you will remember from this lesson?

  • What has this lesson reminded you of?

  • What did you learn that you didn't know before?

  • What have you learnt that could be useful elsewhere?

  • How will you apply what you have learnt?

Lazy End

This is all about marking the end of your lesson as opposed to a learning loop. Here you will need to hook the students into the next lesson. A sense of anticipation using a teaser for the next lesson builds curiosity and ensures the students come to your next lesson excited about learning.

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