Home Forums iTDi TESOL Certificate Writing a lesson plan Writing a lesson plan

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    • #6578


      A new teacher is having trouble planning her classes, and has asked you for some advice. Can you give her some help, outlining the aspects of planning you personally find beneficial and any tips that you have?

      Post your ideas below.

    • #8051

      Start at the end the plan backwards

      1. Think about the lesson aims: What do you want the students to be able to do by the end of class?

      2. Think about how to achieve the aims:

      a) What kind of language do students need in order to achieve the aims?

      i) What kind of language functions do they need to perform?
      ii) What kind of language patterns (grammar and structure) [usually] serve those functions?
      iii) What [common/useful] vocabulary and phrases (lexical items) do they need?

      b) What kind of activities help to (i) introduce/elicit, and (ii) review/practice the language they need?

      c) What kind of correction techniques, language focus, and feedback might you need?

      d) What learning strategies might you include?

      e) What are the interaction patterns for each stage?

      f) What are the timings for each stage?

      g) Which four language skills (LSRW) are being focused on in each stage?

      • #8052

        3. Add notes to your lesson plan during class that can inform a reflective teaching journal.

        4. Review your lesson plan and notes after class to see what worked well, what you might need to adapt, change, or discard.

        “Research your own experience. Absorb what is useful, reject what is useless, add what is essentially your own.”Bruce Lee

        5. Plan your next class whilst your students’ needs are fresh in your mind. This also gives your unconscious mind to ‘work on it’ and for you to notice/pick up possible ideas or make changes more easily ahead of time.

      • #8236

        Rhett Burton

        I like how specific and organized your advice is. It is super pratical and allows for teacher to take immediate action on thier planning.

        2.a – Language – One thing I think teachers should invest their time in understanding, is all the patterns for the entire coures. By doing so, our brain can learn to use the language that is, will be taugh, or has been taught though out the entirety of the course.This aligns to your “backward planning” approach as well.

        2.e – Interation patterns – To me, this is really powerful stuff because it can help you chunk up your process for achieving a task. The better you can get at appying these interaction patterns, the less work it requires to implement. The less work to implement, the more awareness you can. give to your stuednts.

        3 and 4 are also important because our brains are so forgetful. We think and remind ourself to remember, but we so often forwget.

      • #8248

        Thank you, Rhett!

        Excellent point to highlight about learning the language covered in a course. I think this also helps us to make good decisions about which language issues/corrections to address when they arise or at a later time (since they may be covered in another lesson book, etc).

        Generally, I think about individual, pair, small group (3-4), mingling activities, and T-S or T-whole class interactions.

        I also think about roles in teams and whether activities/interactions or ‘performances’ take place privately, semi-privately, or publicly.

    • #8235

      Rhett Burton

      I would interact with a new, young teacher differently than a new, older teacher.

      With the young, I would give the advice more like a mentor/mentee relationship. With the older, I would be more conversational yet direct. 

      I would first like to say that I would try to gauge their personality to try to speak to them the way they want to be spoken too.

      My General Advice:

      1. Learn to write well-defined goals and objectives for reaching them. Refer back your goal and tweak them as you find clarity of your students’ needs. Don’t be afraid to make personalized goals for each student or students who require a slightly different path to their success.

      2. Try to plan one super detailed plan per week. Then try to use the teaching and organizational strategies in other lessons. Reflect on your actions, thoughts to make changes to your techniques as you see fit.

      3. Just because something didn’t work the first or second time, doesn’t mean it doesn’t work. Keep trying but making small little changes as you interact with the students.

      4. Learn to like the process

      • #8249

        That’s a really good point about varying how we interact with different types of new teachers and reminds me of one of your previous tutorial comments highlighting the importance of developing learners emotional intelligence, etc – which is equally true for us as teachers, too, of course.

        All 4 of your points resonate with me well, too!

      • #10067

        scott gray

        I like how you use upaya, ‘right means’, and address that you treat different people differently and I think that is really great for teaching one on one.

        I really agree with number 3 and think you might have read some of John Fanselow’s stuff, as one of the points he teachers that is so true is to make little changes and get away from judging if it’s good or bad but just being more observant and saying I did this and this happened. Also, trying it the other way, and seeing if it has different results or not. Like the study some scientists did, they increased the lighting in a factory a little, and productivity increased for a short bit. Then, they decreased the lighting and again a short increase for a while. They didn’t think but trying both ways it showed them that not what they thought but the change is what got results. I think it is fair to say this can really be true in teaching.



    • #8244

      Barbara Bujtás

      It highly depends on the teacher’s personality and the actual problems they may have.
      But in general:
      1 Never miss the communicative and language aim.
      2 Initially, you can rely on the coursebook and the teacher’s book, revise it and tailor the whole thing to the students.
      3 Always keep in mind WGIFM. What’s good in it for them? Merely attending a language course won’t necessarily switch on their motivation. Sometimes you need to add at least one elemet of fun, compelling content, a chance to feel good about themselves, etc.
      4 Be reflective, after each lesson note down what actually happened, what went wrong, what could have been done more efficiently, what to do about it in the future.

      • #8250

        Really good to highlight the importance of personality and context, Barbi, and I agree with your advice regarding reliance on coursebooks. I think many new teachers sometimes miss how much can be found in a good teacher’s book.

        Totally agree with all 4 of your points but love the what’s good it in for them? In addition to considering intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, I also like your practical idea to have certain key elements including fun, compelling content, and a chance to feel good.

      • #8251

        Really good to highlight the importance of personality and context, Barbi, and I agree with your advice regarding reliance on coursebooks. I think many new teachers sometimes miss how much can be found in a good teacher’s book.

        Totally agree with all 4 of your points but love the what’s good it in for them? In addition to considering intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, I also like your practical idea to have certain key elements including fun, compelling content, and a chance to feel good!

      • #8260

        Rhett Burton

        WGIFM – What’s good in it for them?
        I have never heard of this.
        I totally agree. When I started my school, I focused my message too much on what I could do for my students. Afterwards, I thought it would have been easier to realize my vision if i framed it by thinking, “Why do they want to learn with me?”
        Compelling is a word I strive to achieve with my students . If they WANT IT ENOUGH they will interact.

    • #9830

      Rhett Burton

      I like assisting more than give advice.

      I would ask the teacher if they were willing to collaborate on a lesson plan.

      I would ask for them to choose a class that they have planned or would like to plan together.

      First, I would give a blank sheet of paper. I would give the teacher several minutes to write out their typical lesson plan.

      I like blank paper because it allows for total creative control and will allow for full ownership of the finished product afterward.

      I would give them two parameters: a lesson name and class length. A name helps teachers index and reference the materials for a later point and time dictates the amount of time provided.

      I would watch to see how they organize their lesson through grids, lists, stages, diagrams, etc. I would ask the teacher to describe their thought process as they wrote out the lesson plan. I would interpret what they are communicating to understand the reasons for their comments and notes. I would look to verify what I was seeing and hearing to understand their position and knowledge of the lesson. I would evaluate the reactions and responses received during our conversation. Our conversation would hopefully lead to several actionable steps that would lead to clarity, confidence, and a smile.

      • #9860

        I like the coaching approach and the idea of starting with a blank sheet to see where they are at and give them the freedom to be creative. I also like your follow up activity where you ask the teacher to describe the process.

        If a new teacher is completely at a loss, how might you scaffold things at the beginning as well as during the process?

      • #10009

        Rhett Burton

        We, as people, have been communicating with other people since we were babies. We have learned a lot of sense of how to communicate the what, how, when, why, and where. I would work to apply those learned skills into specific language learning situations by having them think about the emergent language. To do this, I would have the teacher write dialogues of what they and their students might stay during such situations. By doing this, the teacher will become more aware of how their interaction leads the lesson and how things can be adjusted.

      • #10025

        It’s an interesting exercise to imagine/predict how conversations will unfold, and then compare them to what happens during the class.

    • #9955

      Masatoshi Shoji

      There are lots of advice I can give.
      However, it really depends on a person who asks and the timing.
      It should not be overwhelming to the teacher who wants advice.

      Basically, the essential points are:
      Main Aim
      Management of students (selection of T-ss, ss-ss(group), ss-ss(pairs), solo, ss-T depending on activity)
      Use of applicable techniques (drill, presentation, dictation, etc.)
      Time management (always have allowance with which a teacher can adjust depending on class proceeding)

      • #9966

        Good tips, Masatoshi, and especially good reminder about not overwhelming the teacher seeking advice!

    • #9956

      Masatoshi Shoji

      In addition to all techniques, timing and feeling the air and what students think about are really important.

    • #9967

      I like your point about ‘feeling the air’ and we develop this with experience, observation, and reflection. In addition, it’s invaluable to regularly get feedback from the students in order to close any perception gaps, for example. Moreover, students then know that they have a voice in their learning and their opinions are valued

      ‘Exit cards’ or ‘Exit slips’ are quite good for this and popular amongst quite a lot of teachers. For me, with uni students in Japan, I like to do an online survey after each 4-5 week project or learning cycle. My students have repeatedly told me they enjoyed doing them as they could answer on their phone, think about what they’d learned, want to change or improve, etc. Seeing their class results is also interesting and eye-opening for them.

    • #9975

      Jessica Sohn

      -Always have an aim. Be prepared enough to know where you are going. Where you are taking the learners.
      -Plans are changeable – so relax if things don’t go as it is planned.
      -Always observe and reflect the class. (note anything that happened with the learners, lessons etc: this can really help you improve)

      • #10001

        3 great pieces of advice, Jessica.

        In addition to general aims, it’s also good to have specific goals for a lesson, and objectives for each lesson stage. Making these explicit to learners can be helpful, too (although sometimes, if not often, they may have their own agenda, too, so it’s good to ask with older kids and adults).

      • #10005

        Rhett Burton

        Taking Note can change the game.
        We often forget what has happened with our lessons by the time we teach the next lesson because our brains have to manage so many thoughts. Taking descriptive notes can remind us of our thoughts during the previous lesson.

    • #10036

      Beverly Anne Suarez
      • For me, the important thing in lesson planning is the main aim. I have had classes where I did not focus on my main aim, and the class was just chaotic.
      • Have a list of possible activities that students might enjoy. Be precise and clear about instructions of each activity, and for activities that don’t work, don’t be afraid to just change mid-activity. This was something a co-teacher commented on one of my classes. If one activity is not working or students are getting bored, then change it. Feel the room and try to see what students are enjoying or which they’re having problems with.
      • After class, add notes on your file about what happened and what worked and what didn’t so you’ll have a better idea for your next class.
    • #10068

      scott gray

      I think the main point I would try to get across is to make plans but be ready to change or throw them out if they aren’t working or are stifling you. They can be very helpful,  but the plan is not the lesson, don’t let it be like many who try to make the map the reality. It’s a guideline and useful as long as you don’t let it try to be the be-all.

      Have some kindness to yourself and remember that history shows time on task can trump teaching skills. So, keep a good relationship with your kids and the rest will work itself out if you self-reflect and keep working on your teaching skills. You can always get better.



      • #10075

        All your points resonate with me, too.

        So much of learning in a social context rest on the establishment of a positive learning environment and the development of relationships and trust, so I’m glad to see this highlighted here.

        Also, the point about time on task for learners is crucial, too. In the hundreds of teaching observations I’ve conducted, I have seen some excellent teaching but very little learning OR whilst there was (procedural) learning ABOUT how to use language (e.g. with, there was very little skill development: Practice makes progress!

        Similarly, I might ‘teach’ my students many new words but unless they use them, they will lose them. Whilst some teachers say return to the old adage that only learners can learn for themselves (and so it’s up to them), I know from experience that to reach more students, we really need to facilitate the process to go from classroom input and learners intake to learner output in the classroom that will lead to uptake outside of class.

        “Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school.” – Albert Einstein

    • #10578

      Naoko Amano

      I write main aim of the lesson first and then I start to think about the process of the lesson.

      Here is my lesson plan, for example:

      1. Warm up (attendance, calendar, feelings)
      2. Lead in (I talk about myself and news etc related to last lesson or the main idea)
      3. Review
      4. Introduce new language
      5. Practice new language

      It is also important to think about the class: age and favorites.
      They are helpful to choose resources we are going to use in the lesson.

    • #10716

      Steven Herder

      Thanks Naoko,

      In our discussions, I know that you believe both a good lesson plan and thinking a lot about the students are important. Your focus on their ages, likes, and interests make your lessons more meaningful for sure.

      I’ve also noticed how much emphasis that you put on a thorough homework system because you believe that students need some English every day to improve and to keep up their motivation.

    • #15242

      Rhett Burton

      Put your experience under a microscope.

      Playing through what we remember from a class is an important process to planning the next class. I like to simplify this task by reflecting on one set of linked activities from my lesson (a known experience).

      I set up my reflective process by asking four basic questions:

      1. What was I doing before the activity?
      2. What did I do during the activity?
      3. Where did the activity flow next?
      4. Why?

      These breadcrumbs provide me with points to move back and forward through a lesson. The more skillful I get at connecting the dots in my process, the better I get at leading students to the desired results at different points in my curriculum.


      • #15281

        This is good advice for reflection – to focus on a manageable part of a lesson, with helpful guiding questions. I also like how you consider how what we learn in one lesson (as teachers as well as students) can be used to inform planning for the next lesson (which I’ve similarly included in my points 4 & 5 above).

        However, you’ve also mentioned the curriculum, which is another layer to consider, especially in your position. Some lesson activities may not relate to the specific lesson goals, but they do relate to medium- and long-term goals with a syllabus or curriculum. For example, we might include the ABC Song again and again over a number of lessons and months with YLs, and do various related activities, building important language knowledge and skills over time.

    • #16378

      Aiden HANAE

      I think the first thing I want to check would be

      (1)What is your student’s goal?
      Such as why they are studying. Is it to take an exam? Do they want to get a job? Is it a personal interest?

      This could be affected by the students’ current situation or environment, like what age they are.

      (2)What is your aim in that lesson
      Long term aims are obviously going to need consideration, but also short term aims for each class.

      (3)What is your lesson environment like?
      Is it going to be online? What are the tools you can use?

      These three aspects are going to be the foundation of your plans, so these would be the things I would like to make clear.

      • #16379

        Excellent to see you start with student goals, Aiden. Needs analysis is crucial to lesson planning and syllabus design.

        Can you give an example of long-term and short-term aim your students (might) have?

        It’s good to see you highlight the lesson environment and, especially due to the pandemic, think about online vs face-to-face options as well as tools since this has inevitably shaped a lot of what teachers/students have done over the past 18 months. On the positive side, it’s also led to a lot of innovation and changes in many classrooms around the world, as well as professional networking and sharing on an unprecedented global scale.

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