I taught English for many years.
And many of the classes I did were for students of different levels and ages. Some were young kids and some for teenage kids in middle school and high school.
Others for older students in university and college. And I also did many, many classes for adults working in companies.
One thing I found was that no matter what age or level the students, they often liked the same kind of activities and structure to the class.
I could be teaching a bunch of high-energy 7-year-olds or a group of overworked twenty-somethings in a Fortune 500 company; the class structure could stay the same.
Once I established this, it became very easy to write a lesson plan for any class.
So below is my standard lesson plan.
Feel free to use it in your class!
The Basic Lesson Plan
This is what it looks like:
- Wrap Up
You may notice that I use the PPP method for planning lessons — Presentation, Practice, and Production.
This method receives some criticism I think, but I find it very practical to use in most English and ESL classes. There are other methods you can use — such as ESA (Engage-Study-Activate), TTT (Teach-Test-Teach) and TBA (Task-Based Approach), but I found I liked PPP best.
It works for me, but there are other ways to prepare your English or ESL lesson.
You must start the class with a warm-up exercise.
You can’t just waltz into the classroom and start your lesson.
Remember — the students have come from outside. An environment where they are speaking and engaging in their own language. Now they are in front of this teacher who is speaking English to them.
Start your English Class with a Song
For young kids, I would always start with a song.
I don’t mean me belting out a tune.
Most classrooms these days have a projector or maybe an interactive screen that you can use. Use this to show a video that includes the song.
The song may be directly connected to the content of your lesson — but sometimes not.
You just want the kids to start singing something they all know in English. Get them singing and thinking in English. This is a great start.
Songs also work very well with middle school and high school kids. But they will feel far less inclined to jump around like smaller kids!
But just the familiar words of an English song is a good way to start classes with kids.
You can find hundreds of music videos on YouTube.
Here are some great channels for you to use.
Questions are a great way to start the lesson.
Especially for older students.
These should be related to the content of your lesson.
So, for example, maybe you are doing a speaking lesson on FISH. Your lead-in questions could be:
- What is a fish?
- What kind of fish do you know?
- Where do fish live?
You could write them on the board as the students are coming into the class. Or you could have them displayed on a screen.
But this gets the students thinking about the topic at hand.
A Warmer Activity
This is a great way to start any class.
A good warmer activity will have lots of physical activity. It will also force the students to think and engage in English.
The warmer can be directly related to your lesson plan or not. It depends on the students you are teaching.
You can find some great warmer exercises that I wrote about here:
Revise the Last Lesson
If you are doing a continuation of a previous lesson, then you should start by going over the main points of the last lesson.
This can remind the students of what they have been studying. Plus, it can lead in nicely to the next lesson.
No matter what kind of warm-up you do, it is an essential part of your lesson plan. It helps the students acclimatise to using English in the classroom. Also, it can lead in very well to the main part of your lesson plan.
In terms of timing, if your lesson is between 45 minutes and an hour, your warm-up should be about FIVE minutes.
If your lesson is two hours, then the warm-up should be about TEN minutes.
The transition is where you introduce that main part of your lesson.
This is where you steer the students to the topic you want them to learn.
The transition could be in the form of
- a picture
- a video
- some lead-in questions
You might have a series of pictures that you want to use in the presentation part of your lesson plan. But you can use ONE picture to push the students in the direction of your lesson plan.
For example, you might be doing a lesson on jobs.
So you could show a picture of a policeman and ask the students if they know what this job is. Then you could follow that up by asking them if they know any other jobs in English.
Now they are in the right space for your presentation.
Also, you could show the first minute or so from the video. Then pause the video and ask the students for an explanation.
Maybe you are doing a lesson on pollution as a speaking topic. You watch the video for the first minute and then you can ask the students what they saw.
Then you use the remainder of the video as the presentation part of your lesson plan.
The transition part should be very short. No more than FIVE minutes.
Now we begin the main part of your lesson.
This is the part where you introduce the topic, grammar point or vocabulary that you want the students to learn.
This can take place in the form of
- a lecture
- a video
- a reading (by the students but monitored by you, the teacher)
- some pictures
- a personal anecdote by yourself
- realia — objects that you have brought in to class
If you are teaching some vocabulary, then you might use a series of pictures with the words written beneath each picture. You could then recite the words out loud and ask the students to repeat them.
If you are teaching a grammar point, you might have to spend some time explaining the rules and use of the grammar point. And then show some example sentences to illustrate what you mean.
Then again, if you are just talking about a topic in English with more advanced students, then you might just show a video or do a reading.
You could even tell a personal anecdote as an example of the grammar, vocabulary, or talking topic in your lesson plan.
But in the presentation part, you are doing most — or all — of the talking. The students are probably listening to you and seeing for the first time a series of vocabulary or a grammar point.
Depending on what level of class you are teaching — and what the topic of the class is — the presentation part of your lesson could take between FIFTEEN and TWENTY minutes.
Once you have presented all the information to the students, now you need them to practice.
In this section, you should assist the student. But let them try on their own, too.
You can practice vocabulary using
- vocabulary exercises
- a writing test
In this part, it depends on the age and level of your students.
If they are young, then using flashcards would be ideal. For older students, you may prefer to practice using exercises.
You can also use exercises and questions to practise a grammar point. But also use some structured speech patterns.
For a reading class, you may have a selection of reading comprehension questions. This will show how much the students have understood.
The practice part of your lesson can be FIFTEEN minutes for a one-hour lesson, but up to THIRTY minutes for a two-hour lesson.
I often find that I may bounce between production and practice in one lesson.
Introduce some aspects of vocabulary or grammar, then get the students to practice. Then introduce again or elaborate, then get the students to practice again.
This is where you allow the students to show you they can do it on their own.
In this part, you can see how much they have learned in the production and practice parts.
In the production stage, you can use the following methods:
- role play
- communication tasks
Obviously, for much younger students, you’re not going to have a discussion or debate. But there could be a very simple exchange of dialogue.
- What is this?
- This is a ball
- How are you today?
- I am great
But for older students — and for any student who is capable — you should push them to do more demanding tasks like conversation and role plays.
The production part could be about TEN or FIFTEEN minutes in a one-hour lesson. But it could be up to THIRTY minutes in a two-hour lesson.
So you finish your lesson, but you can’t just say, That’s it, folks! and walk out the door.
You have to give the students something to do when they leave the room.
For younger students, you can sing the Goodbye Song. And maybe show the video too so they can do all the actions.
For older students, you can ask them two or three questions as they leave the room.
For any vocabulary class, you can ask each student to give you examples of the vocabulary learned in the lesson.
With younger students, you might just show the flashcards and ask them to reel off the words.
But for older students, you might say: Give me THREE examples of jobs we talked about today.
And if there is any homework, you absolutely must check that all the students understand what this is. You can do this in the wrap-up part of the lesson.
The wrap up should take no more than FIVE minutes. It might take a little longer for more advanced classes if you are explaining the homework to them in detail.
And there you have it.
My master lesson plan.
I didn’t invent it — and I think it has been around for many years. But for me, I found it was foolproof to create any kind of lesson plan.
To a degree, I didn’t have to think too much about what I have to do for each class. Just think of the goals of the lesson, then fill in all the blanks as I go through each stage.
I hope this is useful to you too.
Please let me know your thoughts in the comments below!