Lesson planning is a HUGE challenge for a lot of English teachers. When I taught in Mongolia for 6 weeks, I was always rushing to finish my lesson plan because I simply didn’t have enough time to do everything. It can be frustrating, as a teacher, to feel this much of a time crunch. I knew that I was capable of teaching and planning much more complex or creative lessons, and I knew that my students deserved every ounce of my ability, but I simply couldn’t afford to “get creative.”
Aside from the creativity aspect of lesson planning, it can be difficult to figure out how to sequence a lesson plan. What should students do first? How can you make your lesson plan flow nicely and naturally? A disjointed lesson plan is easy to spot because the teacher is usually left floundering during transitions and the students aren't properly equipped to do the next activity.
So, how do you create a lesson plan that flows naturally with time leftover to get creative? You need a good, solid road map to begin with. There are many tips and tricks on the internet for lesson planning, but putting those ideas into action can be difficult.
I’ve reviewed what I’ve learned in my formal education and what I’ve done in my practical experiences to put together a concise set of steps to creating your own lesson plan. Not only will following these steps help you to build a plan that is logical in sequencing, it will also save you time so that you can be creative with your lesson plans and in the classroom.
Set Objectives for Your Lesson Plan
The first step to creating your lesson road map is setting specific and measurable objectives. Knowing what your goals are and where you're going can be incredibly helpful while planning and teaching.
In formal teacher training, lesson objectives are almost always required and can seem like a burden. If there's anything I've learned in my practical teaching experiences that I didn't realize during my formal education, it's that lesson objectives are vital.
Without set objectives lesson plans can become disjointed, and lesson planning can seem like a mess. On the other hand, objectives can give perspective and clarity within the classroom!
If you’ve been trained in education, you’ve surely put together a formal lesson plan with objectives and a description of how you plan to meet those objectives. If you don’t have formal training, don’t fret! I’ll walk you through the steps.
To begin, lesson objectives require a simple statement of what the student will be able to do by the end of the lesson (or unit). There are a variety of formats for writing lesson objectives, but the most basic is the following: “Students will be able to ___________.” You won’t want to leave your objective in this basic form, but it’s a good place to start. After you identify an action word to put in the blank, you can expand your objective to include a few more details.
Just like a resume, when writing objectives you want to use action words. Most of the time, teachers base their action words on Bloom’s Taxonomy, which organizes action words into a logical sequence including general skills such as, “knowledge,” “comprehension,” “application,” etc.
If you aren’t familiar with Bloom’s Taxonomy, I highly recommend doing a little bit of research, but words like “create,” “sort,” “present,” etc are the kinds of words you’re looking for. You want to be specific.
Lesson objectives such as, “Students will be able to understand the use of idioms,” are way too broad. If you can't prove that your objective was met, it has to be changed. After all, how do you really know if your students "understand" something? Understanding is hard to measure.
A better lesson objective would be the following: “Students will be able to define common idioms.” From this objective you can create a variety of activities that will enable the learner to achieve the goal you’ve set. Most importantly, you can measure whether students have defined common idioms,
If you’re having trouble deciding what your objectives will be without first having a plan in front of you, it can be helpful to ask yourself what you want your students to be able to do by the end of the lesson or what language skills they should learn and practice. Teachers can typically answer this question with minimal details already decided.
Sequence Your Lesson Plan
After you’ve identified 3-5 objectives for your lesson plan, you’ll want to figure out what order they should go in. This will be the "path" of your road map. You've already identified where you want to go, at this step you'll figure out in which path you'll take to each location, and in the final step you'll decide what you'll do at each location.
If I gathered 10 different teachers and gave them the same objectives, asking them to order them for their classroom, I’m sure that I would have 10 different lesson plans. There is no “right” or “wrong” here, only “right” or “wrong” for you and your students.
Let me show you how you could take the same objectives and create a variety of lesson plans. Below you'll find 4 lesson objectives for a lesson plan on how to use "going to" to talk about travel plans, followed by a quick lesson description for both a higher-level class and a lower-level class.To set the context, the lesson plan example will be on using “going to” to talk about travel plans. So, the language objective is “going to” and the topic is “travel.” You can find my four objectives below:
Students will be able to modify travel plans based on peer-feedback.
Students will be able to plan a trip, using the internet.
Students will be able to explain travel plans to their peers, using “going to.”
Students will be able to identify their “travel style.”
Higher-Level Class: This class is going to begin by planning a trip. The parameters are that they can plan the trip to anywhere and with no budget, but it will only be for a week in length. They'll be required to detail how they plan on getting to their location, where they will be staying while they're there, 3 activities that they plan to do, their mode of transportation while there, and what type of food they'll be eating.
After they plan their trip, we'll have a discussion about different travel styles, such as budget, luxury, sight-seeing, food-oriented, etc). They'll be required to identify their travel style and share with a partner. Then we'll have a brief discussion on the grammar point, "going to." They'll practice this grammar by telling their partner about their travel plans. Partners will give one another feedback on how to improve their trip and they'll have time to modify it. Afterwards they will give a mini-presentation on their travel style and the trip that they have planned.
Lower-Level Class: This class will take a different approach, though the objectives are the same. My students in this class will begin by participating in a discussion of travel styles and how to talk about travel plans ("going to"). During this time they'll receive all of the vocabulary, grammar, and other resources they need for the project.
They will have some time to think about and identify their travel style before planning a trip accordingly. All that is required for their trip is an identification of their plan for transportation, where they will be travelling to, and 3 activities to participate in. They will then explain their trip to their peers in a discussion-type format and get some feedback from one another. Then, they will modify the trip accordingly and discuss their new plans with their peers once again.
Though both lesson plans were based on the same objectives, they're incredibly different from one another. Don't assume that your lesson plan has to follow a present-practice format, though that is typical. Some classes may benefit from something more similar to practice-present-practice or an alternative format. What's most important is finding a format that works for you, your students, and your lesson objectives.
Figuring out which sequencing will work for your class will require you to look at how your students learn best. Are they afraid to take chances and be incorrect? They may benefit from receiving information and practicing their use of that information in a safe way before taking those chances. Or if your students are really confident and like to talk a lot, they may benefit from discussing their thoughts and ideas before receiving information and having to modify those ideas.
Building Your Lesson Plan
After your objectives have been set and your sequencing has been figured out, you can begin to fill in the details of your lesson or classroom road map. Which activities will you do and which objectives will they meet? You’ll want to figure out what materials you’ll need, what information students will need, what review they may need, how the activity will be formatted in the class, etc.
The planning of those details can make or break your class. If you don’t have the materials for the activity, you’ll be frazzled and the activity will have to be modified on the spot. If you don’t review or teach the information that the students will need for the activity, they’ll be unable to complete it properly. If students can’t complete the activity, it can result in them getting off topic, refusing to participate, reverting to their first language, or a variety of other classroom management issues. The details are important.
In order to give you the tools that you, as the teacher, need to craft a logical and creative lesson plan, I've created a free guide.
It provides space for brainstorming, identifying objectives, sequencing your lesson plan, and making sure your details are all figured out. You can access it for free by simply signing up for my bi-weekly newsletter below.
Not only will you receive the password to access our resource library, but you'll also receive emails packed full of helpful tips, resources, and printables every other week!
I Want to Hear From You!
How do you overcome time constraints when lesson planning?
Have you found a planning strategy that works for you? Share it with us in the comments below!