BTR-TESOL Unit 2C - Designing Lessons



questions and reactions

objectives of this unit

the least you should know

the value of lesson planning

lesson plan formats and elements

putting it all together

comprehensive questions

reflection and responses

lesson plan examples

lesson plan #1

lesson plan #2

lesson plan #3

reflection and responses

where to go to learn more

connections to other units in this program

online and other electronic resources

print and paper based resources

additional references



Many English speakers who try to teach English as a second language find that there is much more to successful ESL teaching than just knowing the language. They struggle to become effective teachers who can successfully help their students overcome the many, difficult challenges of learning to use a second language. Effective ESL teachers and classes typically demonstrate a variety of key characteristics. It is the successful combination of these characteristics that makes a teacher or class effective. In this unit we will focus on one invisible but essential characteristic of effective ESL teaching—lesson planning.

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Scenarios: Three perspectives on ESL/EFL lessons

The following “scripts” represent the words and thoughts of (a) some adult English language learners speaking in their own native language (although their words here appear in English) after their English class, (b) a teacher in front of an ESL/EFL class, and (c) another teacher in front of a similar ESL/EFL class.

  1. “Could you understand what we were supposed to be learning in our English class today? I didn’t. I just couldn’t figure out where the lesson was going or what we were supposed to be learning. The teacher kept jumping from one thing to another. Then, he spent so much time on that one pointless activity. Maybe he forgot what else we were supposed to be doing. Worst of all, just after we started that other activity, the one that was interesting and helpful, we had to stop because (1) we were almost out of time and (2) the teacher had forgotten some of the materials. I sure hope things are better next time. If not, I think I’ll “vote with my feet,” skip class, and do something more worthwhile with my time.
  2. "And now, the next point I think, is that you need to be able to use English well, I mean, I want you to have a good life here in the United States, not like my poor grandmother’s life. By the way, did I ever tell you about how my grandmother came to the United States? That's quite a story, but you probably wouldn't understand it anyway, so let's get back to learning the names of the colors in English. Isn't that what we were doing last time? Or was it parts of the body? Oh no, it was food, wasn't it? Well, maybe we won’t talk about food after all. We going to have to do something else because I seem to have forgotten the cards with the pictures of different foods on them."
  3. "Okay, today we're going to continue talking about foods. Everybody get with a partner, OK? Now, take a set of these cards. One of you will pull a card out of the pack, like this, and show it to your partner. The partner will say the name of the food. You check it by reading the word on the back of the card. Can you see it? If your partner is wrong you say "uh, uh," and give him or her a second chance. If your partner is right then go on. Ready? Begin!"

Scenario: Questions and Reactions

Scenario A. How would you feel if you heard your students saying these things about you and your class? What could you do to overcome the problems they mention?

Scenario B. What were some of the problems you noticed that this teacher had (or might have) as a result of not using lesson plans? (Here are some problems and potential problems that others have noticed: aimless wandering, failure to achieve objective, needed teaching materials or equipment not available, and poor connection with the preceding or following lessons.)

Scenario C. In what ways was this teacher’s lesson presentation better than the previous one? What did this teacher do right? (Her lesson connected with the previous one. She stayed on task and on target. She had the materials she needed for the instructional activity.)

If you don't plan your lessons properly you may fall into several traps: Your teaching may wander aimlessly without ever achieving its objective, and you and your students may never achieve the goals of the course. You may show up to teach and find that you didn't bring the necessary materials or equipment. Also, what you teach one day may not relate to what you taught earlier and it may not lead to what you will teach later. In sum, lack of planning can lead to the following consequences: poor or reduced learning, frustration (for both the teacher and the students), and wasted time, effort, and money. Can you see why lesson planning is an essential part of good teaching?

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Objectives of this unit

The three objectives of this unit are to help you…

  1. Realize the value of planning lessons
  2. Gain an awareness of ten elements common to good lesson plans
  3. Create your own lesson plan "skeleton" or framework to use when you teach.

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The least you should know

The Value of Lesson Planning

Lessons that are well planned are more likely to help students and teachers avoid frustrations, prevent unpleasant surprises, stay on track, and achieve their objectives.

Lesson planning also allows the teacher to visualize (and, therefore, better prepare for) every step of the teaching process in advance. This visualization typically increases teacher success. A well done lesson plan can also save your class if for some reason you can't be there to teach. The lesson plan will provide invaluable guidance for the substitute teacher. Further, lesson plans also provide a record that allows good, reflective teachers to go back, analyze their own teaching (what went well, what didn't), and then improve on it in the future. In addition, this record will save you time in the future. When you teach similar lessons you can refer back to your old lesson plan (kept on file) and "recycle" the successful elements instead of starting "from scratch."

Here are some experienced teachers’ comments about lesson planning:

  • "Lesson planning is vital no matter what kind of teacher you are.
  • "It makes my lesson go a lot smoother.
  • "When you plan your lessons, students learn more quickly and you can cover more.
  • "A written lesson plan keeps me on task, so I accomplish what I set out to do."
  • "It gives me confidence in myself as a teacher to have a solid lesson plan."

In sum, although it requires an investment of time and energy, lesson planning produces many valuable benefits. Don't you think it's worth it?

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Lesson Plan Formats and Elements

What should an effective lesson plan look like? What elements should it contain? Many different formats for lesson plans exist. Some teachers prefer one format; others prefer different ones. That's fine. They reflect different purposes and styles. After you become familiar with various formats and their elements, you can choose (or create) one that best fits your own teaching purposes and style.

Here are several examples of different lesson plan formats (just the "skeletons"). Look them over. See if you can pick out the elements common to many of them. Also, look for elements that may be unique to a particular format. Think why these elements may (or may not) be useful.

Lesson Plan A
Lesson Plan B
  • Objectives
  • Materials needed
  • Class activities
    • Warm-up/review
    • Presentation
    • Practice
    • Application
  • Contingency plan
  • Homework
  • Evaluation
  1. Introduction
  2. Instruction
  3. Practice (with feedback)
  4. Review or Summary
  5. Evaluation/Testing

Lesson Plan C
Lesson Plan D
  • Objectives
    1. Warm-up/Review
    2. Introduction to the New Lesson
    3. Presentation
    4. Practice
    5. Evaluation
    6. Application
  • Content to be covered
  • Objectives
    • language
    • content areas
    • thinking skills
  • Materials
  • Activities
  • Evaluation

Lesson Plan E
Lesson Plan F
  • Background information on class/students
  • Objective(s)
  • Materials
  • Pre-assessment
  • Learning/Teaching activities (list steps and time required for each)
  • Contingency plan
  • Evaluation of students
  • Assignment
    • Self-evaluation (by teacher)
  • Topic of this lesson:
  • Objectives:
  • Materials needed:
  • Time
    • Business items (announcements)
    • Introduction/Review
    • Teaching/Learning activities
      • Instruction
      • Practice
      • Evaluation
  • Summary/Conclusion
  • Next time (preview)
  • Assignment(s)
  • Contingency plan(s)

What were some of the elements common to most of these lesson plans? (Try to come up with at least five.) (Answer: Here are some of the common elements: objectives, pre-assessment, materials, warm-up, presentation, practice, evaluation, application.) Now test yourself. Which of these are NOT normally elements of a lesson plan?

Sharing time

By now you may be wondering, "But what do all these titles mean? What are objectives, and what makes them important? What is pre-assessment, and how do I do it? How are warm-up, presentation, practice, evaluation, and application different?" Those are very important questions. Here are some definitions, descriptions, explanations, and examples that may answer them and help you understand the ten different elements found in most effective lesson plans.

  1. Background/Pre-assessment
  2. Topic & Objectives
  3. Materials Needed
  4. Warm-up/Review
  5. Introduction & Presentation
  6. Practice
  7. Evaluation
  8. Application
  9. Contingency Plan
  10. Self-evaluation

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  1. Background/Pre-assessment
  2. Before you can prepare a lesson you need to know something about the background of the students you will teach. Here are some questions you might want to find the answers to before you plan your lesson:

    • How many students are in the class?
    • How old are they?
    • What country (or " countries?" if you teach a mixed group) are they from?
    • What language(s) do they speak?
    • How well do they comprehend, speak, read, or write English?
    • What do they know about the target culture (the everyday life of the English speakers they will communicate with)?
    • What style of classroom teaching or learning are they used to?

    Learning about students' background (especially their ability level) through testing, observation, etc. is often called pre-assessment.

  3. Topic & Objectives
  4. The topic is what the lesson is about. Possible ESL lesson topics could include greetings, colors, handwriting, etc. That's pretty easy to understand.

    Objectives, however, are a bit more difficult. Good objectives specify the new skills that the students will gain as a result of the lesson. They focus on student (not teacher) behaviors.

    Here is an example of a good objective for ESL teaching (this one is a functional objective): Students will use socially appropriate greeting expressions in role play situations (for example, "Hi!" for friends in a casual setting, and "How do you do?" for first-time acquaintances in a formal setting).

    Here is another example of a well written objective for ESL teaching (this one is a pronunciation objective): Students will distinguish between English /s/ and /z/ sounds when they are used in sentences spoken naturally. They will choose the right picture card from a pair (e.g., ice and eyes) when they hear the spoken sentence "I like blue ice." or "I like blue eyes."

    Here is one more example of a well written objective for ESL teaching (this one is a grammar objective): Students will understand the difference between simple present tense (e.g., "We eat.") and present progressive tense (e.g., "We are eating.") and use these tenses appropriately when they complete the worksheet accompanying this lesson.

  5. Materials Needed
  6. Can you imagine the teaching problems you create for yourself when, in the middle of a lesson, you realize that you don't have the materials or equipment you need? The materials needed section of your lesson plan will prevent such problems from occurring. It functions as a "checklist" that will remind you about things you need to take along with you to class.

    You create this list by writing down needed items as you go through the process of planning or "envisioning" your lesson step by step. Then, when your lesson is planned, the list is complete. Shortly before going to class, you merely consult the "materials needed" list to make certain that you have everything you need. Using this section of your lesson plan properly will ensure that you won't find yourself in the middle of class without the equipment or materials you need.

  7. Warm-up/Review
  8. Some lessons begin with a warm-up. Others start with a review. It is even possible to start with both a warm-up and a review. It all depends on your class situation.

    A review connects the current lesson with previous lessons by going over points that were taught or learned previously. For example, "Last time we learned about introductions…" Good reviews are not teacher dominated. Rather, they allow the students to demonstrate what they learned and what they remember. For example, "Kyoko and Maria, please show us what you remember about introductions by coming up here and pretending you are meeting each other for the first time.” The review often leads into the current lesson. For instance, as a follow up the preceding example review, the teacher might say, “That's great! You did a good job with casual, informal introductions. Now today we are going to learn how to introduce ourselves and others in more formal situations.” Do you see how a review can also serve as a warm-up?

    In some classes, such as those where a different group of students shows up each time, a review is not an appropriate way to begin. A warm-up activity is still needed, however.

    The purpose of a warm-up is to help students get in the mood for class. A warm-up may be necessary to "wake them up," make them happy to be there, or to set the tone for what will follow. A warm-up may take many forms. It can be a question, or a story. It might involve showing the class a picture and drawing them into a discussion. Use your imagination and creativity, but keep the warm-up connected to the lesson that will follow. For example, continuing the example lesson above (on introductions), the teacher might say, “What do you see in this picture?” (Students respond.) “Have you ever been to a really fancy party like this one?” (Students respond.) “How would you introduce yourself to other people in this kind of situation?"

  9. Introduction & Presentation
  10. Introduction and presentation go together because the introduction usually leads right into the presentation phase of the lesson. They are still separate parts, however, because they accomplish different purposes.

    The introduction provides interest and motivation to the students. It focuses students' attention on the lesson and its purposes. It also convinces students that they will benefit from the lesson. There are many ways to present an introduction. Here are a few:

    • Asking questions to get the students thinking about the topic of the lesson.
    • Showing pictures that relate to the lesson topic.
    • Telling a story to show the importance of the topic.
    • Bringing in "realia" (real objects) related to the lesson.

    The presentation phase of the lesson is when the teacher introduces new information. The teacher guides the presentation, but there may be student input or interaction. The presentation may be inductive (where examples are presented and the students draw conclusions based on them), or deductive (where the teacher states a rule or generalization and proceeds to explain or illustrate it), or some combination or variation of inductive and/or deductive. Whichever method is used, during the presentation phase, the teacher…

    • Relates the new material to students' previous knowledge and experiences,
    • Checks students' comprehension, and
    • Models examples of the tasks that will be expected of students during the practice phase of the lesson.

    Above all, when teaching English to people whose English skills are limited, it is essential to ensure that students understand the presentation by making your speech comprehensible (see Unit #10 “Adjusting your spoken English to make it comprehensible”). Perhaps most important of all, when checking students comprehension, it is not enough to ask, "Do you understand?" They will usually nod their heads or say, "Yes," even when they are lost. Rather, have them do something to show that they understand.

    For example, here is what an ESL teacher might say during the presentation stage of a lesson on the pronunciation of /s/ and /z/: “In English, there are two sounds that may sound the same to you, but they are actually quite different. They are "sssss" and "zzzzz." When you make the first one, "sssss," there is no vibration in your throat, but when you make the second one, "zzzzz," it feels like there is a bee in there. Put your fingers on your throats and repeat after me: "sssss" "zzzzz" "sssss" "zzzzz." Can you feel the difference? Jorge, let's hear you make the two different sounds.

  11. Practice
  12. Practice is an absolutely crucial part of almost any ESL/EFL lesson because the purpose of language teaching is almost always to build students' communication skills. When your students are communicating in English, they will need to use English grammar, vocabulary, and pronunciation accurately and fluently, but they will also need to focus on what they are saying, not how to say it. Therefore, if they are to communicate successfully, their language skills must be developed to the point where they can use them naturally and automatically, without even thinking very much about them. That takes plenty of practice! Building skills is very different from teaching content. For example, if you were teaching history, you would probably teach content. You would teach your students about history. You would expect them to understand history, but you wouldn't usually expect them to go out and make history. In contrast, you do expect your ESL/EFL students to use English outside of class sooner or later. That's usually the ultimate purpose of the class. They need to communicate. If they are to do that, you must build their communication skills in class, and that takes practice. To summarize, don't confuse skill teaching and content teaching and merely teach your students about English. Give them plenty of opportunities (in and out of class) to practice their English skills.

    This practice should take many forms. It needs to be varied just to keep students' interest high. Too much of the same kind of practice can be boring and reduce their motivation and enthusiasm. (Other units in this program present many different ways to provide practice that will build your students' language skills.)

    This practice also typically follows some sort of progression. One type of progression goes from guided practice (where the teacher controls the students' responses) to free (where the students choose and create what they want to say). Another type of progression is based on a classification of language learning activities in three categories: mechanical, meaningful, and communicative. (See unit #18 “Creating and using exercises for mechanical, meaningful, and communicative practice” to learn more about this important classification system.)

  13. Evaluation
  14. Evaluation may sound a bit scary, but it doesn't have to be. Evaluation doesn't always correspond to testing. Evaluation can and should be carried out both during and after instruction. It may be both formal and informal. Informal evaluation done during instruction is often the most useful and influential type. (Formal evaluation done after instruction [testing] confirms whether the teacher and students have successfully accomplished the objectives, but its results often come too late to do the students much good.)

    Here are some ways to carry out informal evaluation during the presentation and practice phases of instruction:

    • Set up an in-class situation where students will need to use English that is related to the objectives of your lesson, and then simply observe them.
    • Have students recite something (a dialog, poem, etc.) in English that you have taught them (or that they have memorized independently).
    • After students read a short passage, ask them to tell you what the main idea was. You may also ask about important supporting points or details.
    • Assign students to write a few English sentences (or paragraphs) on a topic that is familiar to them. You will learn a lot about their English ability by reading what they have written.
    • Tell them a brief story in English. Then ask them questions about it, or ask them to tell the story back to you.
    • As you talk with your students, make mental notes of words they misuse or pronounce incorrectly. Those observations will tell you how well your students have learned what you have taught them. (By the way, don't be discouraged if you have to teach some things several times before students finally start to use them correctly.) These informal evaluations may also give you ideas for future lesson objectives.
    • Almost any in-class work or homework assignment can serve an informal evaluation purpose, as long as you look at it with the purpose of learning where your students are having trouble with English. Whatever you do, remember that the evaluation should be related to your lesson objectives. It doesn't make much sense to aim at one thing and evaluate another.

    Formal evaluation is a bit beyond the scope of this unit. It typically involves either creating or selecting an appropriate language test and then administering, scoring, and interpreting it. (See units 36 “Choosing and using general proficiency tests” and 37 “Developing valid and reliable measures of student achievement” for some information on this topic.)

    Whether it is informal or formal, evaluation is an essential part of every lesson and should be included in your planning.

  15. Application
  16. The application part of a lesson is also essential to effective language teaching. After you have introduced and presented a new language skill and your students have practiced it, the lesson is far from over. You must evaluate the students to make sure that they are performing the new skill correctly and then provide activities that require students to take what they have practiced in class and try to apply it correctly in "real life" situations. (This is especially important in ESL teaching situations. See unit 2 “The differences between teaching English as a second language (ESL) and English as a foreign language (EFL)” for more information on this distinction.)

    These "real life" situations may be in-class or out-of-class, or both. Here are some examples:

    • After learning about and practicing English numbers during the first phases of a lesson, students might be asked to use these words in the "application" phase of the lesson by giving their own address or telephone number.
    • After learning to read a particular bus schedule during the first phases of a lesson, students might be asked to get information from another bus schedule, or a slightly different type of schedule.
    • After practicing a particularly difficult English sound during the first phases of a lesson, students might "apply" their new pronunciation skill by learning a famous quotation (or even a tongue twister) that uses that sound.
    • After learning the proper form of a job application letter and reading several model letters in English, students could write their own letter of application for a job they would like to have.

    When you plan your lessons, don't forget to bridge the gap between your classroom and the "real world" outside of class by providing appropriate application activities.

  17. Contingency Plan
  18. A contingency plan is not absolutely necessary, but it's always a good idea to have some idea of what you will do if things don't go as planned. In fact, most of the time your lessons will probably not proceed exactly as you have planned them.

    Many things can happen in the course of a lesson that will require you to do something differently than you had planned. In such cases, flexibility (and a well thought out contingency plan) will save your lesson from disaster.

    As you plan your lesson, you ought to think of things that could possibly happen as you teach it that would require some sort of adjustment. For instance, if your lesson's too short, you've got to have something to fill in that extra class time. If it's too long, then you've got to quickly modify things so that you don't give your students homework on something they haven't covered. If it's too hard, then you have to slow down your pace. If a section's too easy, you need to skip through it, and have other activities to fill in the extra time. A common thing that happens is that some students don't do the homework, so you need to have a contingency plan for what you will do when that happens. Write your ideas for those adjustments in the contingency plan section of your lesson plan. Then, if you have to make changes, you will be ready.

    One of Murphy's laws is "If anything can go wrong, it will." However, with some flexibility and a good contingency plan, you can survive almost any unexpected classroom situation.

  19. Self-evaluation
  20. Self-evaluation is a very important part of every lesson even though it typically takes place after the lesson is over. It requires you to think back on the lesson and consider the answers to questions like these:

  • What went well in this lesson? Why?
  • What problems did I experience? Why?
  • What could I have done differently?
  • What did I learn from this experience that will help me in the future?

    Your self-evaluation comments may be written in a space on your lesson plan, or in a separate teaching log. For ideas on what to write, see the self-evaluations in the example lesson plans given below.

    In the rush of teaching, you may be tempted to skip self-evaluation. There are always plenty of other, pressing things that need to be done. But if you don't evaluate yourself, you will be the loser. Self-evaluation is a powerful tool that will help you become a better teacher. Reflecting on and evaluating your teaching after a lesson is over will give you insights that may save you lots of trouble later. Even a few brief evaluative notes on a lesson plan will help you immensely the next time you teach that lesson. You will be surprised how much you forget if you don't write your ideas down, and you may end up making the same mistakes over and over. Also, you will be surprised at how just a few minutes of reflective writing can help you discover things you would have otherwise not noticed. Regularly evaluating your teaching in this way will eventually lead you to develop a solid understanding of the language teaching process. Time spent doing self-evaluation is time well invested in your teaching future.

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Putting it all together

Knowing about the different elements of lesson planning is important, but you must still decide which elements are important to your teaching and create a lesson plan that works for you.

Before you do that, here are some additional guidelines that may help you decide which elements to put in your future lesson plans and how to organize them.

A good lesson plan…

  • Usually fits on one sheet of paper so you can see an overview of the lesson at a glance. (Some teachers even put it all on a small card that they can hold in their hand as they teach.) Additional, detailed explanations, exercises, etc. can be provided on separate, supplementary pages.

In addition, a good lesson plan is…

  • Clear and easy to read and follow (so that another teacher could step in and teach the lesson in your absence).
  • Oriented toward a particular, identified audience (based on pre-assessment information)

A good lesson plan may also…

  • Connect the current lesson with previous and subsequent lessons.
  • Fit in an overall curriculum plan A good ESL lesson plan also has…
  • Clear, student-oriented objectives.
  • An interesting, motivating introduction.
  • Plenty of varied practice activities.
  • An application section that leads students from classroom practice to real-world uses of English.
  • Appropriate evaluation (during instruction and/or at the end).
  • A summary and/or review of what has been taught. It should probably also show…
  • A time allotment for each activity as well as a running total of time expended so far. And finally, a good, practical lesson plan usually includes…
  • Contingency plans (for those unplanned "emergencies").
  • A checklist of equipment and materials needed.

Here’s one more important point: You don't always have to stick religiously to your plan (even if it is well made). As we saw earlier, in the “Contingency Plan” section, flexibility is an important characteristic of good teaching. When circumstances warrant deviating from your plan, it is perfectly fine to change it.

Here’s a lesson plan template you can use to get started and modify later as needed.

Lesson Plan Template
Class: ____________

Materials/Equipment Needed
0:00 - 0:00 Business
0:00 - 0:00 Warm-up/Review
0:00 - 0:00 Introduction/Presentation/Practice/Evaluation/Application
0:00 - 0:00 Summary/Conclusion
0:00 - 0:00 Next Time (Preview)
0:00 - 0:00 Assignments
Just in case Contingency Plans
After class Self-Evaluation

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Comprehension (and reflection) questions

  1. Without looking back, name as many of the ten lesson plan elements discussed above as you can remember. Briefly describe the nature and purpose of each one.
  2. Study the following objectives and see if you can distinguish between those that are well written and those that are in some way defective.
    1. “Objective: In this lesson I will teach the students to pronounce /s/ and /z/ correctly.” What do you think? Is this a well written objective, or does it have problems? (Answer: If you think this is a well written objective, you’d better go back and re-read the explanation. Although it has some good points, this objective also has at least one serious problem. It specifies what the teacher will do. Objectives are more effective when they specify what the students will do. Isn't this version much better? “Objective: In this lesson, the students will learn to pronounce /s/ and /z/ correctly.”)
    2. “Objective: Through this lesson, the students will improve their understanding of American culture.”
      (If you think this objective is well written, you probably need to go back and re-read again. Although it's not a complete disaster, this objective does have at least one major problem. It is too general. (American culture is a BIG topic.) Objectives are more effective when they specify what the students will do in detail. To rewrite this objective so that it is more effective, you might try something like this: “Objective: Students will learn the culturally acceptable way to greet a new acquaintance in a formal situation in the United States, and they will demonstrate what they have learned in a role play during the second part of class.")
  3. Write down at least three of the methods, purposes and techniques common to good introductions and presentations in effective ESL lessons.
  4. Think of an application for each of the following. For some examples to get you started, go back to the “Application” section above.
    • “After studying how to ask for an item at the lost and found and then practicing it in a role-play situation in class, students…
    • “After learning several variations of a dialog for reporting an emergency by calling 911, students…
  5. Here are some things that might require you to modify your lesson while you are teaching it. The first one is followed by a possible contingency plan adjustment. Write similar contingency plans for the others.
    • A practice exercise is unexpectedly easy for your students. They find it boring, but you still want to check their ability, just to make sure.
      Contingency plan: Have students do only the even numbered items in the exercise.
    • When your students arrive, they explain that the homework was too difficult. None of them has done it.
      Contingency plan:
    • To your surprise, nearly twice as many students as normal show up to class. You have only 10 handouts for 19 students, and no copy machine nearby.
      Contingency plan:
    • Your students learn quickly, and you come to the end of your planned lesson for the day ten minutes before the end of the class hour. You're not supposed to let the students out of class early.
      Contingency plan:

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Reflection and Responses

If you will be teaching a class soon, think how you might be able to find the answers to pre-assessment questions such as those given in the “Background” section above before you actually meet the class (and before you plan your lessons). Whom could you contact? What questions would you ask?
(Hint: Here are some possible sources of background information that may be useful in pre-assessing your students: the person who asked you to teach the class, previous teachers of the class, scores from placement or screening tests given to the students, members of your students' ethnic or native language group.)

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Lesson Plan Examples

Instead of videos, this unit has three sample ESL or EFL lesson plans prepared by experienced teachers. Of course, your lesson plans will not (and should not) look exactly like these samples. Each teacher has a distinctive lesson plan that reflects his or her particular teaching situation, objectives, and style. You will probably have to experiment to find the format that works best for you.

After you have looked at these three lesson plans, respond to the reflection questions at the end.

Lesson Plan #1

Background Information

  • Class: Upper intermediate adults at community college
  • Size: 15 to 20 students Ethnolinguistic
  • Composition: Mostly Hispanic, some Asians

Objective: Students will learn and practice basic vocabulary used when filling out job application forms

Materials Needed:

  • Class roll sheet
  • Name tags for students
  • Audio recording of listening comprehension dialog
  • Audio player
  • 20 copies each of two slightly different job application forms
  • Dry erase markers and eraser
  • 20 copies of Manager information gap activity
  • 20 copies of "requesting a job application" dialog

Warm-up/Review: (estimated time: 5 minutes)

  • Greet students and introduce myself
  • Call roll and pass out students' name tags
  • Ask students what they learned in class last time. (English used in school parent-teacher conferences)

Introduction: (estimated time: 5 minutes)

  • Explain: "We will listen to a recorded dialog. It will give you clues about the topic of our lesson today.
    • Listen carefully. Try to catch the main ideas."
  • Play recorded dialog about Michelle applying for a job.
  • Pause recording and discuss the following questions:
    • "What do you think our lesson is about?"
    • "Who is looking for the job?"
    • "How did Michelle hear of the job?"
    • "What is the job? Where is it?"
    • "When is Michelle going to fill out an application?"
  • Continue recorded dialog and then pause to ask these questions:
    • "When will Michelle have an interview with the manager?"
    • "What should Michelle do if they do not call her in a few days?"

Presentation: (estimated time: 20 minutes)

  • Discuss these questions:
    • "Why are job applications important?"
    • "Which is more important, the job interview or the job application?"
    • "Have you ever filled out a job application before?"
    • "Have you had any difficulties filling out applications?"
    • "What were the difficulties?"
  • Hand out the job application forms to the students.
  • Explain: "We will fill them out together as if we were applying for a job."
  • Go through each item.
  • Check comprehension by calling on students to explain vocabulary items.
  • If most students are unsure of a word, write in on the board and explain its meaning with students' help.
  • Elicit answers from students as they fill out their forms (e.g., "Mario, what position would you apply for?")
  • Possible areas of discussion:
    • Ways of writing dates with numerals only (e.g., 10/16/92 vs. 16/10/92, which is how it is written in Latin America).
    • "Position desired" (What would you put down if applying at a clothing store? [sales clerk], restaurant [cook, waiter, etc.], continue with other occupations students have applied for.)
    • "Date available"
    • "Shift available"
    • "Full-time (FT)," "Part-time (PT)," and "Temporary"
    • "Previous work experience"
    • "Duties"
    • "Reason for leaving" (Would you put, "I hated my boss and hit him one day"?)
    • "Personal references" (not related, how acquainted)

Practice: (estimated time: 10 minutes)

  • Explain: "After you fill out an application, you usually talk to the manager, or bring it to an interview later. The manager reviews the application with you."
  • Model information gap activity with one of the more advanced students.
  • Divide students into pairs. One student in each pair takes on role of manager. The other takes on the role of applicant. The "manager" asks basic questions of the "applicant" (using vocabulary and structures learned in this lesson) and fills out application form.

Teacher circulates around room, observing, and helping as needed.

Evaluation: (estimated time: 5 minutes)

  • Choose two students to demonstrate this activity in front of class. Other class members listen and comment on it later.
  • Take any remaining time to answer any questions students may have.

Application: (after class)

  • Students keep job applications they have filled out for reference purposes.
  • Distribute the other job application form (slightly different) and have students fill it out as homework and bring it next time.
  • Encourage students who do not currently have jobs to get (and fill out) application forms for a job they would like to have. Bring these next time also.

Contingency plans:

  • If students are not interested in job applications, give alternate lesson on pronunciation of "th" sounds in English.
  • If students finish this lesson early, have more than one evaluation, i.e., have several pairs come to the front and play out roles.
  • If students have trouble, cover only the simplest (or most important) points. Skip the hard parts and save them for a future lesson.
  • If students ask questions that I don't know the answers to, take note of them and find answers for next class meeting.

Self-evaluation (written in teacher's log after lesson)

  • This group of students is great! They remembered a lot from the last lesson. All of them demonstrated eagerness to learn.
  • Overall, the lesson went really well. I called on students by name and used information about them (from the information sheets they filled out during the first class period) in the examples I gave.
  • Unfortunately, I spent so much time on the presentation stage of the lesson that we had to rush through the other activities. I think I had too much vocabulary to cover. Next time, I will start with the specific information on the back of the application.
  • I felt like I talked too much. The more timid students didn't get a chance to practice speaking. I wish I had included more communicative activities involving the students. That way they would get more of the practice they need.

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Lesson Plan #2


  • Grammar--Spatial Prepositions (to show location)


  • Student proficiency level: intermediate


  • Three wooden blocks, model house and toy person, handouts (#1 Story, #2 Diagrams and examples), exercise sheet (fill in the blanks with correct preposition)


  • Students will be able to correctly use and distinguish 14 selected English spatial prepositions (at, above, against, around, below, between, by, from, in, on, over, through, toward, under)


  • Ask: "Have you learned any new words (or heard any words or expressions you couldn't understand) since our last class?" (Students respond. Discuss meanings, etc.)


  • Say: "Today we're going to learn how to use some common English prepositions correctly. We'll also learn how to choose the best preposition for a particular situation.


  • Distribute handout #1. Students read paragraph aloud. Ask: "Did you understand all the words?" (If yes, go on. If no, explain words or phrases as needed.) "Let's identify the spatial prepositions in the story." Teacher read. Students stop him at first preposition (at). Underline it. Then have students find others.
  • Distribute handout #2. "On this page there are pictures down one side showing the meaning of each of the prepositions we are learning. On the other side there are sentences describing each picture." Students draw line from each picture to sentence that accurately describes it. Go over student responses and explain meanings as needed. (Special focus: under vs. below, over vs. above)


  • Practice activity #1:
    • Distribute exercise #1. Students read and fill in blanks. Teacher circulate and help as needed.
  • Practice activity #2:
    • Take out three wooden blocks (A, B, C) Move them into different positions. Have students describe spatial relationships between blocks (e.g., Block A is over block B.)
  • Practice activity #3:
    • Take out model house and toy person (name him after one of the students). Place person in various places around the house (in, by, above, beneath, etc.). Call on students to explain where he is, using appropriate prepositions.
  • Practice activity #4:
    • Explain: "Now, I will be your personal robot. (Explain what robot is, if necessary.) You give me a command using one of the prepositions we have studied today. I will then perform an action." "If I perform the action correctly, you praise me." "If I perform the action incorrectly, you tell me that I have made a mistake and explain what I did. OK?"
    • Model a couple of practice runs to make sure students have understood. Then proceed with activity. e.g., T: "Give me a command with a preposition." S: "Stand under the table." T: (Stands by the table) "OK. I'm standing under the table." S: "No, you're not standing under the table. You're standing by the table." Continue practicing as long as class time permits.


  • "Today we've learned how to use fourteen spatial prepositions in English. There are more, but we will talk about them next time.
  • "Practice using these prepositions correctly, and when you are listening, notice how English speakers use them.


  • "Watch a TV show in English. Write down sentences you hear that contain one of the prepositions we talked about today. Bring your list of sentences to class next time. Also, write down any sentences using prepositions that you have trouble with. We will discuss them next time."

Self-Evaluation: (written in teacher's log after lesson was taught)

  • During the first part of the lesson I felt insecure. I temporarily lost my focus because of the new circumstances and because many of the students arrived late. As a result, the lesson did not start well. It was choppy and disjointed.
  • Once I got into the lesson, I felt more comfortable. When we began the exercises and the students started participating, things got better. The laughter and interactions at the end humanized what had started out to be a structured, dry lesson. I could actually sense that learning was taking place and that I was directing that learning.
  • From this experience, I learned that I need to create a more open teaching style. I must also remember to spend less time on explanations and get right into the practice activities. They were more effective than reading the story and underlining the prepositions. I also realized more than ever the importance of being flexible. Changes may be necessary in the best of lesson plans.

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Lesson Plan #3


  • Buying basic building materials


  • Students will learn the names of ten basic tools and materials found in a hardware or building materials store.
  • They will also use these words in grammatically correct spoken sentences typically used in the same setting.

Materials needed:

  • Large picture flash cards showing new vocabulary items (below)
  • Realia (real samples) of most of the same items.

New vocabulary:

  • nail, hammer, screw, screwdriver, lumber, boards, plywood, wallboard, sandpaper, saw

Warm-up: (3 minutes)

  • Show realia. Ask students to name as many of them as they can.
  • Say the name of each remaining one quickly.

Presentation: (12 minutes)

  • Show flashcards with pictures of the same items. For each one, take time to pronounce the name clearly and have students repeat. Make sure their pronunciation is correct.
  • Then flip through flash cards and have students call out names of items. Make sure no one student dominates.
  • Introduce model sentence ("Excuse me, where is/are the ____ ?") and grammar point (use of is/are with singular, plural, or uncountable nouns). Write it on the board.
  • Explain difference between countable (e.g., board(s))and uncountable nouns (lumber). Compare to vocabulary they probably already know (e.g., sandwich(es) vs. food).
  • Present and explain possible responses: "Over there." "On the other side of that display." "Aisle 27." "Next to…," etc.). Write these on the board also.

Practice: (25 minutes)

  • Review names of items by showing flashcards (or holding up realiz items) and calling on students to name them.
  • Use flash cards to cue students to ask questions ("Excuse me, …). Correct their grammar/pronunciation as necessary. Answer them using one of the responses written on the board.
  • Create simulated hardware store by placing realia items in various places around the classroom. Make sure students know where each item is. Practicing describing location of each.
  • Divide class into pairs. Use "tango seating" with one member facing front of classroom; the other facing toward back of room.
    • Go to back of room. Show flashcards one at a time.
    • Partner who can see them (the one facing backward), constructs a question accordingly.
    • Other partner (who can see chalkboard) listens and (1) checks grammar (agreement) and (2) responds by speaking or pointing.
    • Have partners exchange seats (reverse roles) and continue.
  • Let students practice on their own (without showing them flashcards). Circulate to check on them and answer questions

Evaluation: (concurrent with last part of practice)

  • Circulate and check for correct grammar, pronunciation, etc.

Summary (and expansion): (10 minutes)

  • Allow students to ask questions about the language they have been using and any additional terms or expressions they want to learn.
  • Explain "application" to them (below)

Application: (after class)

  • Challenge students to go to a real hardware or building materials store and ask an employee for something (even if they really know where it is). Report back next time.

Contingency plan:

  • If students already know the names of most items, or if they learn the ten target items quickly, teach more advanced (but related) vocabulary (e.g., 2X4 (board), sheet (of plywood), ten penny (nail), etc.). Draw pictures on the chalkboard as needed.
  • Also, teach additional question forms (e.g., "I'm looking for ____, could you please tell me where I could find it/them?") and responses ("Of course, you'll find ____ right over there.") as appropriate for students' level.

Self-evaluation comments:

  • I'm glad that I had a contingency plan. Most of the students knew at least half of the words on the vocabulary list, so we got into more advanced vocabulary faster than I had expected. The distinction between countable/uncountable nouns, however, was hard for everyone. I need to have more examples to help them with that.

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Reflection and Responses

  1. In your opinion what did the teachers who wrote these lesson plans do right?
  2. What similarities and differences did you notice in the way these three lesson plans were organized and the elements they used?
  3. Let's pretend that you are talking with a friend in a casual setting. When you mention that you have just finished a unit on planning effective lessons, this friend gets curious and asks you a few questions. The questions your friend asks appear below. How might you respond to each one?*
    1. “OK. What's so important about lesson planning? Can anything bad happen to you if you don't plan?”
    2. “Is there any payoff if you do plan your lessons well?”
    3. “What does a good lesson plan look like? What parts does it have?”
    4. “What's the difference between ‘practice’ and ‘application’?”
    5. “Have you ever created a lesson plan of your own?” (If so, “Tell me about it.”)

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Where to go to learn more

Here’s where you get additional information on the topics presented in this unit.

Connections to other units in this program

  • Unit 7 “Assessing your students' language proficiency.”
  • Unit 10 “Adjusting your spoken English to make it comprehensible.”
  • Unit 18 “Creating and using exercises for mechanical, meaningful, and communicative practice.”
  • Unit 23 “Developing English language learners' listening skills.”
  • Unit 24 “Developing English language learners' speaking skills.”
  • Unit 25 “Developing English language learners' reading skills.”
  • Unit 26 “Developing English language learners' writing skills.”
  • Unit 36 “Choosing and using general proficiency tests.”
  • Unit 37 “Developing valid and reliable measures of student achievement.”

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Online and other electronic resources

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Print and paper-based resources

Here are some good textbook sources for additional reading on lesson planning in second-language teaching:


"Planning Lessons and Units" by Katherine B. Purgason, pp. 419-431 in Teaching English as a Second or Foreign Language (2nd ed.) edited by Marianne Celce-Murcia (New York: Newbury House, 1991).

Planning Lessons” by Linda Jensen, pp. 403-414 in Teaching English as a Second or Foreign Language (3rd ed.) edited by Marianne Celce-Murcia (Boston: Heinle & Heinle, 2001).

Snow, Don. (2006). More than a native speaker: An introduction to teaching English abroad (rev. ed.). Alexandria, Virginia: Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages, Inc. ISBN 978-193118532-5. Chapter 5 ‘Lesson planning and classroom survival,” (especially pp. 75-80).

Cross, David. (1999). A practical handbook of language teaching. New York: Prentice Hall International. ISBN 0-13-380957-9. Chapter 11, “Planning Lessons.”

Nunan, David (ed.). (2003). Practical English language teaching. New York: McGraw-Hill/Contemporary. ISBN 0-07-282062-4. Chapter ???

"Unit C: Preparing Lessons" in Teaching: No Greater Call (Salt Lake City: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1978).

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*Here's how we might have responded to these questions:

  1. "Sure. You can wander off track and fail to accomplish the purpose of the lesson. Or you may find yourself in the middle of a lesson without the materials you need. Lots of problems are more likely to occur if you don't plan your lessons well."
  2. "Yeah! Your lessons will go more smoothly. You will feel more confident. Your students will probably learn more. And you will have a record of successful teaching activities that you can "recycle" in future classes. Enough? I could go on and on."
  3. "Every teacher has his or her own style, but some of the common elements are objectives, materials needed, warm-up or review, presentation, practice, application, summary, and evaluation. You can also include things like contingency plans (in case of emergencies) or a self-evaluation section (to help you become a better teacher).
  4. Well, "practice" is the part of the lesson when the students get to repeat the new words, or try out a new structure under safe, somewhat controlled, classroom conditions. "Application" is when they take what they have practiced and try to put it to use in a "real-world" situation where conditions are less controlled and more realistic.
  5. "Sure I have. In fact, I did one just recently. Would you like to see it? I'd like to know what you think of it. I can always use some good feedback."

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Additional References

Coming Soon.

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