As the man said, preparation is everything. And this applies no greater than to teaching English.
If you are new to teaching English, you should have the words prepare everything tattooed on your forehead. That way you will never go into a class unprepared or with no lesson plan at all.
Just think of this: Any time you enter the classroom, you must have something prepared.
Even if it is only a ten-minute demo class.
After a while, you will find that you will need to prepare less and less as you gain experience. Some lessons will always require a great deal of prep — beginner classes being one such example.
But you can build a ready-made arsenal of teaching plans that you can reel off for many other classes.
This takes some time to gain these skills though so until then — prepare everything.
Before you Prepare…
There are some things you need to think about before preparing your classes.
You could be in a middle school or high school. If that is the case the teachers might expect you to go over what they have been teaching the students.
For example, the teachers have been teaching the students vocabulary about health all week. They may wish for you to do the same. That doesn’t mean that you just use their textbooks and just regurgitate what they did in class.
You will have to conjure up your own lesson plan.
Or you could be in the situation where you have to bring something entirely new to the students.
It is nice to be in the position of having a completely free rein but you have to make sure that there is some cohesion between the lessons you are bringing to class.
For example, you could teach the students about different jobs in one lesson. Then later you could teach them the use of the modal verb ‘would’. Then students can express jobs they would like to do.
You also need to think about their English level.
Is what you plan to teach them within their capabilities? Or is it far too easy for them?
You must think of these questions before preparing the first class.
What skills are you teaching them?
The vast majority of English teachers working abroad are teaching students how to communicate by speaking.
The local teachers will teach them all the other skills. This is the usual system.
Your school may just want you to teach speaking but it could be speaking and any or all of the other skills. Make sure you know what they expect of you before preparing.
Will you have a TA?
If you are teaching abroad, then the school may offer you a teaching assistant. This is usually one of the local teachers there to help you if the students get unruly or cannot understand what you are trying to say.
This can have a big impact on how you prepare.
If you have an activity that you think could help the students in learning a certain aspect of English you might need the TA to explain the rules of the activity. Without the TA it might take up too much time trying to get the students to understand the activity.
What learning styles?
And you must know who your students are.
Who are they? What kind of people are they?
Is the class generally quiet? Or really boisterous and loud?
Do they like high-energy activities? Do they like to work in groups?
It is best to use as many teaching styles as you can but some styles will work better than others in certain classes.
Maybe using visuals like video and lots of colourful ppt’s will work great in one class. While reading works better in another class.
You need to understand how your students learn best when preparing.
Who are the students?
After a while, you will get to know the students as people.
You will understand who they are, their interests, their home lives and many other things about them.
This can also influence how you prepare.
Start with a warm-up
You must start every class with a warm-up activity.
This primes the students for the rest of the class and makes your life much easier.
The warm-up can get the students into the lesson ahead. So, for example, you are teaching the students how to say the names of Cities.
You can do a warm-up activity based on this. A good exercise to do would be a simple quiz with two teams asking for the capital cities for different countries.
You can then determine what they do know about cities and adjust accordingly throughout the lesson.
But start with something high-energy. The students become involved and everything after that is plain sailing. Almost.
Have a clear objective
You must have a clear objective for the lesson. What is the one thing you want the students to take away from the class?
Taking our example from before the objective could be: To make sure the students know the names of capital cities of countries around the world.
Once you start with what you want to achieve at the end, then you can reverse-engineer the rest of your lesson plan.
When thinking about the objective just try to imagine what the students should be able to do after your class.
You could have objectives for each class — and also an over-arching objective for the whole academic year. That means one topic for each class and maybe eight topics for the whole month.
Make a framework that covers the whole year. Paint in broad strokes that get into finer detail for each class.
What is the overview?
Once you have your goal, then you can start outlining the main points of your lesson plan.
Again, this will be broad strokes. Following our example of capital cities it could be:
The names of the cities
The related countries they are in
Famous landmarks of the cities
The language spoken in the city
No need for details here. Just some very clear ideas of the main points.
Presentation Practice Production
One of the best ways you can prepare your lessons is to use the PPP method. Sometimes referred to as 3P, the full name is Presentation Practice Production.
This method has its critics but I have consistently used this method and found the results to be just great.
The PPP method works like this:
This is where the present all the information to the students. You are doing most of the talking — around 75% of the time.
Visual material is very useful in this part so make use of images and videos if you can.
In this part, you are presenting new information to the students and you need to make sure they are picking it all up. As you present the information, ask the students relevant questions. You need to see that they can understand what you are showing them.
In this part, this is where the students try it out.
It is common to put the students in pairs or in groups. This often makes it easier for them to practice.
Another common tactic is to do a guided practise with them so they can see how to do it. They do not understand what they are doing so you need to show them. It then becomes more accessible for them to pick the new skills up.
Finally, we have production. This is where the students show what they can do all by themselves.
Let them do activities on their own and observe.
During this time, teacher talking time is very low. The students should do all the work with you just looking on.
That is essentially it with PPP. It is a tried and tested method that has been used for a long time. As I said, the method has its critics, but it is simple and easy to set up and you can’t go wrong.
Create a timetable
You should know how long the class is, it could be 45 minutes, an hour or maybe two hours.
Once you know how long the class is, you can then map out what happens in each section of your lesson.
Use details in this part. For example:
0 – 5 minutes — students arrive, welcome, begin class
5 – 15 minutes — two team quiz on the English names of famous cities
15 – 35 minutes — ppt presentation of capital cities around the world
I think you get the idea.
The more detail you put into the timetable, the less chance there is for error. You can then follow every single step, confident because you have every single minute of your class accounted for.
Summary and Questions
At the end of your class, you should have a summary and a few minutes for questions.
Depending on the students’ English level you could ask one of them to do a summary at the front of the class.
Create a template to give a summary. Then the students can use this to build their own lesson summary every time. It gives them something to fall back on.
But let the students create whatever summary they choose to use.
Also, have a short time for some Q and A. Ask questions and get the students to answer you. Make sure you use follow-up questions after each answer and ask a different student each time.
I hope this gives you an idea of how to create a lesson plan for your English class. The PPP method I talked about is just one way to plan a lesson — there are other ways to do it. But I think using the PPP method makes for less margin of error and is relatively foolproof.
Please tell me how you make your lesson plans in the comments below. I am always open to hearing new ideas.