One of the main activities for teachers when they are not in the classroom is to plan lessons. But what makes lesson planning effective? In this post, we'll talk about how to write a lesson plan and give you some suggestions to plan lessons more effectively. We'll also provide a downloadable lesson plan template.
Download our lesson plan template here
Don't forget to check out our video about lesson aims
Characteristics of a lesson plan
Teachers may have varied approaches to lesson planning. Some use lesson plan templates, others make notes in a coursebook... Regardless of the technique you decide to use, some features need to be present to ensure you plan a lesson that helps learners achieve the lesson aim. Some things to bear in mind:
- Ensure you have a clear goal for your lesson. This goal can be related to skills (reading, writing, listening or speaking), systems (vocabulary, grammar, discourse or phonology) or a communicative goal;
- Analyse and study the language you'll teach. Be ready to clarify the language items and answer students' questions;
- Think about how the lesson stages will help learners achieve the goal, providing them with the necessary amount of support and scaffolding;
- Design activities and tasks that are suitable for each stage and consider which patterns of interaction will enable learners to perform them more successfully. Also, be ready to adapt and change the patterns you have planned in response to learners' needs (number of students present, classroom atmosphere, etc.)
- Allocate timing for each activity appropriately. Be ready to change and adapt in response to students' needs, though;
- Anticipate problems related to classroom management, language, topic and content, and think about possible solutions;
- Write the procedures that you intend to follow. The amount of detail might vary - the important thing is to feel confident and comfortable to teach.
Approaches to lesson planning
There is no right or wrong way to plan lessons. After a little bit of practice, teachers find their own way and approach. However, here are some practices that are important to remember:
- Teach the students, not the plan: this is a trainers' favourite, and although it may sound cheesy, it is true. It might be frustrating to spend hours planning a lesson and realise that it does not work. Should that happen, change your plan and try to respond to your students' needs on the spot. It's best improvise a memorable and relevant lesson than stick to something that nobody is going to remember afterwards...
- Less is more: a very recurrent issue faced by novice (and more experienced teachers) is overplanning - that means, planning much more than the students have time (and energy!) to do in a lesson. Planning too much may lead to learners' and teacher's frustration (as there is always that feeling that everything is being rushed towards the end) and might prevent students to "digest" and practice the content of the lesson;
- Don't forget about the plan after the lesson is over: this is your opportunity to reflect upon your practice and work on your professional development. After the lesson, go back to your plan and assess the effectiveness of the activities and techniques you used. How much have students really learned? How much more do they need to revisit in the following lesson? Is there anything you would have done differently?
We hope this post and video were helpful! Remember to leave a comment and give us feedback and suggestions for future posts!
Andreia Zakime is a teacher and teacher trainer based in Barcelona. She is a Cambridge CELTA tutor and one of the co-founders of What is ELT?