How to write a lesson plan: 6 key points

Lesson planning: in real life, experienced language teachers can probably fit their lesson plans on a post-it note, so for them, it might look something like this…

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​…but when you’re preparing for a teacher exam like the CELTA or the concorso scuola, and you have to fill out a full-fledged lesson plan, it’s more likely to look a lot longer and more detailed!

In this guide, we will give you a structure for your lesson plans and discuss all the sections of a good lesson plan. Finally, we will give you some tips and a downloadable sample lesson plan.

Sections of a lesson plan

Based on the Cambridge Assessment English CELTA syllabus, a good lesson plan should include:

  1. a statement of aims 
  2. a class profile 
  3. anticipation of difficulties and suggested solutions 
  4. description of teacher and learner interactions 
  5. details of resources to be used 
  6. staged description of procedures including anticipated timings

Now let us turn to each of these individually.

1. Statement of aims

The aims of a lesson are generally the most important part of the lesson. You are answering the question: what will your students have learned at the end of the class? Lesson aims are sometimes also called achievement aims (Scrivener 2011) or learning outcomes. There will be different sub-aims for different tasks you do in class, but there should be one or two key aims for the whole class.
Tip: phrase your aims like this: “by the end of the lesson, students will…”
Examples:
By the end of the lesson, learners will be better able to understand speakers spelling words on the phone
By the end of the lesson, students will have gained a more thorough understanding of reported speech

As we will see below, aims are different from procedures, which refer to the actual activities planned for the class.

2. Class profile

Here is where you describe your learners. How many are they? What is their level? This is an especially important section if your class includes mixed levels (as many secondary school classes do): mixed-level classes can present problems and you can discuss these in the following section.

3. Anticipation of difficulties and suggested solutions

In this section of the lesson plan, think about what you know about your (real or hypothetical) learners: what are they likely to encounter difficulties with? Think in terms of systems (grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation), skills (listening, reading, speaking, writing, interaction), topics and types of interaction (e.g. shy students are likely to struggle speaking in front of the whole class).

After identifying their possible difficulties, briefly explain how you would tackle them. Be as specific as possible with your solutions.

Here is an example from a pre-intermediate lower secondary school class about global warming:
Anticipated problem: as this is a new topic for them, students may struggle with the key target vocabulary in this class, including to melt, fossil fuel and greenhouse gases
Solution: I will first test their existing knowledge of this vocabulary through a game; then, I will have them read them in the context of a written text and form sentences with them; at the end of the class, I will review these words again to assess the extent to which the students remember them. I will also ask them to add them to our class word list on Quizlet.

4. Description of teacher and learner interactions

How are the students going to be interacting amongst themselves and with the teacher? For each stage in your lesson, specify if the interaction is from the teacher to the students, among students or from the students to the teacher. You can also include references to group work, pair work, individual work, whole-class discussion, lecture and so on.
Tip: for a highly effective lesson, make sure that you alternate these modes of interaction throughout your class

5. Details of resources to be used

Include details of all the materials you and your students will be using: coursebooks, PowerPoint presentations, websites, videos, handouts and so on. 

6. Staged description of procedures, including anticipated timings

A good lesson plan includes a list of steps: in each numbered step, specify what procedures you will implement. As we explain in our Designing Activities and Lessons preparation course, procedures include all the practices and techniques implemented in the classroom: in other words, what you and your students will be doing. In each stage, describe what you and the learners will be doing and how long each stage will take.

Example:
Stage 1
Procedures: in small groups, students tell each other what their biggest dream is and a representative for each group writes down all the answers on the handout.
Timing: 3 minutes 

Additional sections

These are the six essential sections from the CELTA syllabus, but here are some other aspects that you might also want to add to your lesson plan:
Assumed knowledge
What knowledge do you assume your learners will already have before the class? For example, if you’re teaching the third conditional, students should probably already be familiar with the second conditional.
Type of lesson
Are you planning a reading lesson (i.e. focusing mostly on one skill), practising a specific grammar point, covering a topic or integrating different skills?
Topic
Is there a topic for your class?
New grammar structures
What new grammar structures are you teaching?
New vocabulary
What new vocabulary are you teaching?
Phonology points
Are you focusing on any specific phonological points (e.g. the pronunciation of a certain sound)? 

Final tips

Finally, now that you have a structure in mind, let us give you some final general pointers for a great lesson:

  1. Start the class with a warm-up, such as a game if you’re working with young learners: this will get the learners settled down and more prepared to start learning in English
  2. Don’t forget to briefly review what you did in your previous lesson
  3. Before diving into the class, start with a lead-in stage to activate learners’ existing knowledge (e.g. through brainstorming) and see what they already know
  4. Explain the lesson aims at the beginning of your class: you can quickly write them on the board so the students know what’s going to happen
  5. Ensure there is variety in the types of interaction throughout the class: alternate pair work, group work, individual work and class discussion
  6. Don’t be afraid to deviate from your plan a little: working on students’ questions or difficulties can be a great learning opportunity!

Do you want to learn how to design great lesson plans? Sign up for our self-study course Designing Activities and Lessons and you’ll learn how to write engaging and interactive lesson plans, justify your pedagogical choices based on the research and theory, and much more!

designing activities and lessons

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