There are countless articles and resources on the internet for improving your classroom management, learning about educational theories, and preparing complex activities, but the resources on lesson planning seem to be minimal.
In my experience, lesson planning is an entirely personal venture. The way that you lesson plan, the depth of your lesson planning, and the format of your lesson planning will vary greatly depending upon your teaching placement and your own personal preferences.
However, whether you plan out objectives and assessments daily or prefer to jot down a few notes and “wing it,” there are three integral stages of lesson planning: pre-planning, planning, and post-planning.
If you find yourself trying to throw together a plan at the last minute, not knowing where to even begin, or feeling that your planning time is not used as efficiently and effectively as it could be, then keep reading below to learn more about how to prepare lessons from start-to-finish that will be engaging, well-thought-out, and seamless.
Never Have Enough Time?
Pre-Planning: What Will I Teach?
Many times, as busy teachers, we jump right into the planning stage of preparing a lesson, but what if I told you that skipping pre-planning can actually cost you more time in the long run? Pre-planning can be a great time to make decisions about the direction of your lesson and help you to use your actual planning time more efficiently.
I always like to use my pre-planning time to look at or make decisions about the general topic, linguistic focuses, and application for my students. If I’m using a curriculum, some of these things may already be decided for me, but there are always decisions that I can make to turn a random topic into something much more applicable and helpful for my class.
Taking the time to decide what you’ll cover in your lesson can be kind of overwhelming, but it will help you to be aware of where you’re going when it comes to planning out tasks and activities in the planning stage. If you find yourself overwhelmed when it comes to planning or confused about how to pre-plan, be sure to sign up to be the first to know when my brand new workbook launches below!
The Busy Teacher’s Guide to Pre-Planning was created to help guide you through the decisions you have to make when planning a lesson. It’s perfect for those working with a new class, those who find themselves directionless when it comes to putting together a lesson that will meet your students’ needs, and those who just find themselves stressed out when it comes to lesson planning!
Pre-planning answers the question of what you’ll be teaching. It may be helpful to think of it as planning out your learning objectives. Ask yourself what your students should be able to do by the end of the lesson, and then backtrack and ask yourself what your students will need in order to accomplish those goals.
Planning: How Will I Teach It?
Now that you’ve taken the time to make the bigger decisions about what language and topics you’ll cover and how that applies to your students, you’re fully prepared to jump into the planning stage. After all, you already have learning objectives, whether formal or informal, in front of you to work off of.
Planning is when you answer how you will accomplish your learning objectives. This includes deciding on and planning out your activities, lectures, group projects, homework, etc. It may result in a formal lesson plan or simply a to-do list or course of action. How you decide to record your plan is up to you and the expectations you have to meet.
Like I stated at the beginning of this article, how you plan is largely up to your own personal preferences. I like to start out with a basic lesson plan format and work from there. I generally begin every class with a warm-up followed by a presentation, guided practice, independent practice, and conclusion.
If you find that you enjoy following a similar structure, lesson planning can be pretty straight forward. You can begin by figuring out what activities you can use to meet your learning objectives and simply plug them in to the template (though we, as teachers, know that lesson planning is never ‘simple’).
The best way to approach planning is to ask how you can most effectively meet your students’ needs (and your learning objectives). If you are following a curriculum that requires you to teach essay writing, but your class is largely made up of individuals who are not planning on going to college, find a way to make the topic at hand applicable to your students through the way that you approach the topic and the assignments themselves.
Post-Planning: Where Will I Go Next?
Lesson planning should never end with a piece of paper. Not only are there things that you have to prepare for your lesson plan, but there is a lot of planning that should take place after you teach the lesson. Post-planning refers to the time you commit to reflecting on the lesson you taught, strategizing based on that lesson, and thinking about the upcoming class.
How you learn from your mistakes, replicate your victories, and strategize for your next class is up to you. There is no right or wrong answer, but post-planning gives you the space and time learn from both your victories and mistakes, which is an invaluable tool for both you and your students.
Chances are, something didn’t go as planned during your lesson. When that’s the case, I always like to look at my three options: either I make adjustments, try again next time, or forget whatever went badly all together. An activity or subject that your students didn’t receive well can be adjusted to help solve the issue at hand, reused because sometimes students just need another chance, or completely scrapped and replaced with something else. The decision is up to you.
The question I like to ask myself during post-planning is, “where do we go next?” Maybe my students struggled with a certain topic, which means I need to revisit it in the next lesson. Or maybe my students really liked a new game we played, which may mean that I need to find a way to reuse it for a different subject matter. Asking yourself where you plan on going next can help you to acknowledge the topics, activities, classroom management strategies, etc. that went well or that went poorly. After all, there is no growth without reflection.
Lesson planning is a journey! It’s a journey that is heavily influenced by personal growth, growth in the field of ESL, and coming to an understanding of what works for your students. Wherever you’re at on that journey, intentionally engaging in pre-planning, planning, and post-planning can help you to create a more well-thought-out, engaging, and seamless lesson plan and classroom environment.
If you’re interested in improving your lesson planning routine, find yourself overwhelmed by the prospect of lesson planning from scratch, or find your lesson plans to be choppy and not applicable to your students or classroom, be sure to keep an eye out for my new workbook that is launching in November! I know you’re busy, so if you sign up below you can be the first to know when the workbook is released.
I Want to Hear From You!
How do you prefer to lesson plan?
Tell me more about your lesson planning journey!
What have you learned about yourself, ESL, and your students, and how did that influence the way you prepare?