Planning lessons is important for any teacher. This can go from the very top of planning pathway programs which lead students from beginner level English right up to University, or be as simple as throwing together a cover class for a sick colleague. Whatever type of class you are teaching, there are 3 key elements which must be present in every lesson you plan. Yet, while lesson plans share this common element, they are unique to every teacher and no two lessons are ever exactly the same.
Identifying the 3 common elements of a lesson plan.
1. Assumptions about the students.
When planning a lesson, every teacher pictures their students. In some cases, they haven’t met them yet, but the assumptions are still there. The things that need to be considered when thinking about your students and planning a lesson are the demographics (male to female ratio, age groups, mixtures of nationalities). Remember that although the target language of the lesson may be dictated by your school, the way of presenting is up to you, so it is important that your lesson be suited for the audience. Also, students’ skill levels will need to be thought about. You must consider the strongest and weakest students in the class and be prepared to work directly with them.
Do not over estimate your students by assuming they will be able to do everything with no trouble. Anticipate problems with vocabulary by preparing clear explanations, and counter problems with understanding instructions by planning simple instructions for tasks.
2. The language target.
This is something that novice teachers can easily overlook. In some cases a teacher can feel as though they are doing a good job if the students are happy, engaged and completing tasks. However, the underlying key to every good lesson is the language target. While focusing heavily on one aspect of grammar may sound tedious, monotonous, or boring, it is still completely possible to engage students and have fun with the class. Just remember to keep tasks revolving around that one type of language.
Most teachers prepare at least three practice activities to get students to look at the language in different ways, so a good way to keep students focused during a language heavy lesson is to throw a game or competition in there somewhere to lighten things up.
The thing that really gives a lesson plan that “lesson plan appearance” is how it is divided up into stages. Almost every TEFL training college will recommend that teachers learn the common staging of ‘Warm-up, presentation, practice, practice, practice, evaluation, homework’. This is a good, tried and tested structure. It gives students a chance to lower their L1 filters, clearly shows them what they are learning that day, provides them with three different ways to connect with the target language, and allows for follow up. While it is a favorite structure among many teachers, it is not the only one. Some teachers prefer to draw the students in with previous language and get them to elicit the target grammar. Other classes are of a high enough level that the warm up and presentation can be much shorter and the class revolve around practice activities.
Whatever style of lesson you create, it is important to think about time limits and how stages will flow from one to the other. You don’t want to have to stop students short while they are in the middle of some good practice, and you don’t want sections to drag on because they have nowhere to go. Each teacher develops their own way of achieving good staging.
Remember that there is no “one right way” to plan a lesson. Quite often your workplace will give you some guidelines, but schools know that teachers plan their lessons in their own way. There is no wrong way to plan a lesson by identifying the key elements and building around them.