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How to: Create a successful lesson plan

Lesson planning as a process is much like script writing. You start with a lesson objective in mind and go on to create a “performance” where you decide your own and your students' roles and actions, which will eventually lead you to your end goal.

Why we plan

To make the delivery as smooth as possible

To ensure our lesson will have a legitimate structure

To help with time management

To make sure we don’t leave out important aspects of the teaching point

To experiment with new teaching approaches

To be ready to handle adversities

To be able to review and adapt material

To facilitate self-feedback

To keep a personal record for future use

Before you start

Make sure you have a clear teaching goal. Traditionally, for each lesson, we can have one main aim and a couple of secondary aims if time allows.

  • Consider whether your students are familiar with the topic or not. This is going to help you determine the teaching approach you choose.

  • Bring to mind problems you have encountered in the past while teaching the same topic. Then, the activity selection process will be easier and you will know where to draw your students’ attention.

  • Brainstorm ideas for warm-ups and freer activities that best suit your learners’ needs. Possibly the most important stages of a lesson, they will be the backbone of your lesson plan if you have some ideas before you start the actual planning.

  • Choose a lesson plan template that works for you. Some sites offer standard EFL lesson plans to download (Google docs has some, too), but I would highly recommend that you create your own in a Word file if you’re familiar enough with drawing and customising tables.

While planning

  • Be realistic with your timing and aims. Is the warm-up activity you chose really going to take 5 minutes? Can you have both a main aim and a secondary aim? Will you be able to reach the main activity before you run out of time? These are questions only you can answer because the classroom dynamics change depending on the group of students. The best advice I can give is to keep it simple. Overloading a lesson plan is far worse than having spare time to improvise at the end of the lesson.

  • Make a list of anticipated problems. Then think about remedial strategies. This will save you a lot of time in class and will boost your confidence. Some examples of common anticipated problems and possible solutions:

What if my timing is off? ➞ I can skip Activity 2

What if the video won’t load? ➞ I have a copy on my memory stick

What if I have an odd number of students during a pair work activity? ➞ I’ll have two pairs and a group of three

  • Choose a teaching approach to base your lesson on. If it’s your first time teaching something,

you might want to use the tried and tested Presentation, Practice, Production (PPP) method. Or, if your students are already familiar with the topic from previous years, why not give the Test, Teach, Test (TTT) approach a go? Feeling adventurous? Try Task-Based Learning (TBL) or Game-Based Learning (GBL)!

  • Scaffolding is key. Don’t feel obliged to use every activity a coursebook offers. Use your personal judgment to choose the tasks that will help you achieve your lesson aims or create your own. Ideally, by doing this you will guide your students step-by-step until they’ve reached their learning goal.

  • If you have identified any weaknesses in your teaching, use the plan to help you. For example, too much teacher talking time and complicated questions/instructions are very common problems for beginner and experienced teachers alike. It’s a good idea to prepare some Concept Checking Questions and Instruction Checking Questions in advance.

  • Don’t make the lesson plan too dense. Its purpose is to help you with the stages of your lesson, which will be impossible if there is too much information in it. Use bullet points and bold letters to help you scan the plan while teaching.

After the lesson

Go over your lesson plan, reflect on what worked well and what didn't. It might be time-consuming at first, but it is definitely worth your effort. As time goes by, your experience will help you spend less and less time planning.

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