9 steps to a better lesson-planning

9 steps to a better lesson-planning

Lesson planning is at the heart of being an effective teacher. Lesson-planning basics have already been touched upon here and in this article, we’re going to look at more issues to see the picture at full. If you are a novice at teaching you might keep this checklist at hand and fill in your plan with some essential ideas.

Step 1 – Set lesson aims

The first thing to start with while getting down to your lesson plan is to ponder on a few questions:

  • What will your students have learnt by the end of the class?
  • What skills will they have developed?
  • What situations will they be tackling easier after your class?
  • What practical skills will they have acquired?

Once you know the outcomes you can set your lesson aims which meet your student’s needs. It might be not that easy to put into practice in a big size class with a variety of purposes. However, that might be easier to implement in one-to-one or small classes.

So, just imagine (or better ask and lead ‘a needs analysis’):  What are your students’ needs in everyday life? Do they need to get a coffee? Or make an order? Write to a supplier?

Once you know what they need and want to learn, it makes it clearer what skills and target language they need most.

Step 2 – Decide on language and skills 

When it comes to developing language abilities, it’s essential to consider that you make use of Target Language as well as practise four core skills – receptive ones (namely, reading and listening) and productive ones (speaking and writing). Basically, we have at least two twenty-minute time slots during the lesson, one of which can be used for practising a skill, while the second one can be used for presenting and practising Target Language.

If a lesson is longer than 40 minutes, we have the opportunity to practise more skills and it’s typical to combine a receptive and a productive skill, e.g. reading + writing, listening + speaking (all 8 options are common). Don’t forget target language in-between! What I mean is: students listen to an audio, do tasks to practise understanding for gist and for detail, after that they pay attention to new lexis, functional language or grammar, we practice it and after that, we develop speaking skills, for example.

Step 3 – Choose appropriate materials

Even if you use a coursebook and have to follow the syllabus, you still can add extra materials throughout the lesson. As for the materials to be used in the classroom, in most cases, I go for authentic ones even low-level students (the difficulty might be in the task and the instruction – not the material itself).

Step 4 – Manage your time appropriately

Both students and teachers need to have time limits to work efficiently. Students have to hear how much time they have to do the task to stay focused and teachers have to plan their time, so they keep the balance of presenting and producing the language in the class. Don’t spend more than 5 minutes on warm-up and always leave 5-7 on feedback and delayed error-correction at the end of the lesson. A speaking task often takes more time, if you think that the final speaking task (practising speaking for fluency) is going to take 15 minutes, plan about 20 minutes. That’ll give you time for proper feedback on content and form. Alternatively, plan a ‘flexi-stage‘ into your lesson plan

Step 5 – Use a variety of activities and interaction patterns

To maintain students engagement make sure the activities you provide vary in terms of interaction pattern and students have plenty of opportunities to work alone, in pairs and in groups, to role-play, to debate, to solve a problem and so on.

It’s great if you include at least one stand-up activity in order to get your students to move around more as well.

Step 6 – Set your aims as a teacher

Another issue is the thing that you might struggle with your own weak points, e.g. balance in terms of TTT and STT. Focusing on it during your lesson will bring you halfway through to solving the problem.

Step 7 –  Come up with solutions to anticipated problems

Is there something that might go wrong? And what should I do in case it does? Have I finished all of the activities? How to work with fast-finishers in the class (some tips are here)

Just think over all of these questions before your lesson and bear plan B in mind. Stay calm, confident and positive in any situation. It might be a good idea to admit that you hadn’t expected the question or situation to arise and you need time to deal with it (remember to get back to it though), it just letting yourself be a human.

Step 8 – Have time to work on error-correction (Upgrade your students’ language)

Language is about getting your message across and some ‘inaccuracies’ might prevent students from making their thoughts clear. Teachers’ role thus: “Students are there to brush-up their language, enhance it”. Always plan time for error-correction. 

Step 9 – Praising, feedback and reflection

Make sure you praise your students a lot. English teachers are kind of psychologists and one of their aims is to bring changes into the way students think, get them to ‘absorb’ new language and skills, so noticing and praising every little improvement is a must. It’s commonplace that people devalue their feats once they face difficulties or failures. A teacher is there in the class to help students notice, encourage them and value their achievements.

If students are given a task this task has to be checked, discussed or somehow reflected on. Feedback on the work students do help them value that.

By the end of the lesson make sure you’ve elicited from your students and reflected on what skills you have practised, lexis you have revised or learnt, etc. (Some ideas on reflection and self-assessment are here).

Here’s the checklist for you to keep at hand!

Step 1 – Set lesson aims

Step 2 – Decide on language and skills 

Step 3 – Choose appropriate materials

Step 4 – Manage your time appropriately

Step 5 – Use a variety of activities and interaction patterns

Step 6 – Set your aims as a teacher

Step 7 –  Come up with solutions to anticipated problems

Step 8 – Upgrade your students’ language (work on error-correction)

Step 9 – Praising, feedback and reflection

So, hope you feel more confident now entering the classroom threshold or window.


Мария Нифонтова

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