Be the Teacher with a Plan

Lesson Plans for ESL EFL

Preparing lesson plans can scare rookies teaching English abroad, but once you know what goes into a good plan, writing them is no problem at all.

Getting past the mystery and mystique, a lesson plan is simply a step-by-step guide to what to do in the classroom on a given day.

Put it in Black and White

Write down in an orderly way what you’re going to do do in the classroom. The more detailed these directions are, the better. It needs to be clear enough that, if for some reason you couldn’t go to class, in an emergency another teacher could read your lesson plan and know exactly how to teach the class in your stead.

And, anyone substituting you would need minimum preparation because you would have already attached handouts and activity sheets, and even planned out the board work you were going to use to illustrate the lesson.

A superlative lesson plan might even include specific hand gestures and cues used in various parts of the lesson—Yes, that’s how detailed your plan should be.

What Kind of Plan Should My Plan Be?

Now, there are literally hundreds of types of lesson plans and no one format is used by all schools. When you start at a new school you should ask format they like to see teachers’ plans in. Many schools have their own set format for plans, while others will let you use whatever style you like.

There is, however, some general agreement about what should be included in a good lesson plan and we will look at that here.

Nine Important Parts of a Good Lesson Plan

Generally agreed components of a lesson plan include:

1. Day/Date: So you can refer back to it again easily.

2. Lesson Name: What will you call the lesson?

3. Class/Level: Age, topic, skill level, class name

4. Materials: List everything you need to teach this lesson. List every possible thing you will need to take to the classroom and/or obtain from the school to complete the lesson.

This list can help you make sure you don’t forget to copy any handouts or collect special materials that you need to take to the class. I can’t tell you how many times I have had to walk all the way back across a university campus to get a critical part of a lesson. Bad teacher!

5. Textbook/Coursebook Name: From what book are you working or drawing the lesson from? This seems simple now, but having the name of your old resources on hand may help you in the future.

6. Unit, Title and Page Number: Specifically where are you teaching from in that book?

7. Goal/Aim: What are we working toward today?

Here, you should describe the final result of the lesson. Write it in this format – “The students will be able to (do what?)________.”
Example: “The students will be able to ask and answer questions about their hobbies and interests.”

8. Grammar Structures Employed, and How They Are Formed: Show the structures, using a structure chart if needed.

9. Questions and Answers Relevant to Your Lesson: These will be asked during the warm-up part of the lesson, to elicit from students what they may or may not know about the topic you’ll be covering that day.

For more advice on eliciting, read the post about English Teaching Methods.

Structuring: How to Build the Lesson

Now we need to put all of that together, hung on the structure of your teaching method. First, you need a warm-up: This includes a review (revision) of the previous lesson and how it links to this new lesson. Use the questions and answers you have written above to elicit conversation using the new structures and function. Also, you may want to show examples of what your students will learn in this lesson.

In some countries and with some age groups this part of the lesson may best be pulled off as a specifically designed game.

Next comes Presentation (or you can use the ESA format or Ted’s GRO method):

Note down the target language to be taught, and how you will teach it. Include how you plan to stimulate the students’ interest in the language and how you might elicit the forms or vocabulary you are planning to teach.

It’s important to include specific details here. For example, at what point in the lesson are you going to model structures and dialog and when you will require a repeated response (choral response) from the students. Don’t forget to include a structure chart for the grammar and/or the dialog you intend to teach.

For the Practice section of the lesson, include the specific activities and attach any handouts you might have to the lesson plan. Most practice sessions include up to three practice activities and  sequence them from the most to the least structured, slowly giving the students more freedom and creativity.

The third part of the lesson is Production. This is where students use the new language skill you’ve just taught them.

Allow, and encourage the students to talk about themselves, their lives, or specific situations using their own information.  While they do this, they should focus on the target language that was taught in the presentation and practiced in the previous activities.

Be sure to include in the plan exactly what you will ask the students to do and how you intend to monitor students throughout the lesson and how you will encourage and correct them as needed in their use of the target language.

Last, you need to plan a Conclusion. In this part, discuss and recap what the students have studied and learned during the lesson. In some countries and for some ages this may also be followed by a game that uses the target language.

See? If you follow these simple steps, the dreaded lesson plan is easy!

TED’s Tips™ #1: Many experienced teachers, once they have methodology set in their mind, write only minimally structured lesson plans as they will have developed a set routine for how they approach each lesson.

New teachers, though, should develop the habit of rigidly following detailed lesson plans which they have written for at least the first six months to a year of teaching. This will require some real discipline, but it will pay off in terms of skill development over time.

TED’s Tips™ #2: After each class, sit down and take a few notes about what went great, what went wrong and how you might have done a better job. This will help you a lot in refining your skills. Even very experienced teachers put serious thought into problems that occurred during class and how they might best be corrected.

TED’s Tips™ #3: Save every lesson plan you write. If you teach a certain book or certain topics repeatedly to students of similar levels (and you will), you’ll find you need only to tweak your old plans a little, drawing from your notes in Ted’s Tips #2.

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The Truth about EFL Lesson Planning

Most Teachers Don’t

That’s right, most experienced EFL teachers do not write a lesson plan for each and every class.

Now, revealing this secret is blasphemy of a major sort because every TEFL training course you might take is heavily based on writing and delivering a lesson plan.  If you don’t do that, what DO you do?

Why Lesson Planning for EFL?

Lesson planning is a major part of a training program primarily so that you can understand how to structure a lesson well.  Once you know how and understand the process involved, you don’t really need to formally develop a lesson plan for each class.  A few notes, and following a few good basic principles will do the job for you – and your students.

A TEFL Training course is a bit like college or high school where you learn the “proper” way to do something – that people in real life almost never do.  But . . . as you come to realize, there is a reason WHY those processes and procedures are heavily emphasized.  Because they reinforce the way things need to be done if you wish to be effective.

What’s it all about?  EFL Lesson Planning

What every teacher trainer is trying to communicate to you is that there is a specific way to effectively teach your students what they need to know.

First, teach them some target language.  This is, hopefully, language that they are either interested in or that is required for their job or success – thus increasing their interest and motivation in the lesson.  Part of this process should include eliciting input from your students to check what they already know and also to rouse their interest in the new material.

Next, give them some structured opportunities to practice the language you are teaching them.  Structured so that their practice is more likely to be successful and they can get things right – the first time.  Again increasing motivation. You might have several of these practices, each time reducing the amount of structure as students become more familiar and practiced with the target language.

The last step is production (if we are following a PPP methodology).  That means that your students take the language you have taught them and apply it to their job or daily circumstances and use the language to talk about themselves and their lives.  That is what keeps it interesting to them and motivates them to study what otherwise could be rather dry and boring.

Now – there is a lot more to this than just that – but realize when you study TEFL methods that the basic idea is how to be effective and if you get a good handle on methodology – you will arrive at that point.

TED’s Tips™ #1: Lesson plans?  Yes, do them until they are stuck in your mind as good method then you can just outline a good lesson from there on out.  But . . . don’t tell anyone that I told you that!

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