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Lesson planning: 4 top tips you need to know

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female teacher lesson planningIf you type ‘lesson plan’ into your favorite search engine, you will find literally hundreds of different lesson plan formats. Such a wide range of formats illustrates that there is no fixed or perfect way to plan a lesson.

In our day-to-day teaching, most of us will not produce an extensive and detailed lesson plan. We know that by writing out a full plan we can address problems and inconsistencies that we would not otherwise see. However, in most cases this simply is not practical. Having said this, the lack of a physical plan does not mean that we avoid the process of lesson planning.

Considering the importance of lesson planning and the frequent time constraints which compromise the process, the question is, how can we create effective lessons under these conditions?

1. Generic lesson templates

When I am under pressure to produce a lesson I have a number of generic lesson templates which enable me to create a functioning lesson very quickly. An example of a reading comprehension lesson template is:

  • pre-teach vocabulary
  • predicting answers to comprehension questions
  • read aloud in groups
  • students discuss and check answers – then as whole class
  • students write comprehension questions for others to answer
  • activity on grammar/lexis in text

Such a lesson might not be very original, but from this I can start to adapt and improve.

2. Regular beats

I have so often seen lessons from in-service teacher training courses where there is a good rhythm at the beginning but the rest of the lesson becomes a long string of activities with nothing to hold the students’ attention. The trick is to make sure there are ‘beats’ spaced evenly throughout the lesson every 10 minutes or so where students have to change the mode of working. This could be through moving in some way, interacting differently or a friendly challenge.

3. Plan from the middle or the end

A common approach that teachers take is to plan the lesson in a linear manner starting at the beginning. A more effective way is to start maybe with a text or a speaking activity that might come in the middle or end of the lesson and then build backwards from that. This tends to create a more coherent lesson.

4. Build in flexibility at the end of the lesson

This is something I had to learn the hard way. The fear of running out of activities at the end of class meant that I would spend longer on the earlier activities and then rush through the later ones. One solution to this is to design the last two activities in such a way that they can be expanded out to 20 minutes or squashed down to three or four minutes without any sense of compromise. This means that you can spend the necessary time on the earlier activities without that nagging fear of being left with dead time at the end.

These are just some of the tips and strategies we will be exploring in this webinar. We’ll also be looking at anticipating problems, getting your procedures and instructions right, dealing with fast finishers, among other things.

Watch the recording


Philip Haines moved to Mexico from England in 1995, and currently works as the Senior Academic Consultant for Oxford University Press Mexico. He has spoken internationally in three continents and nationally in every state in Mexico. Philip is the author/co-author of several ELT series published in Mexico.

Author: Oxford University Press ELT

The official global blog for Oxford University Press English Language Teaching. Bringing teachers and other ELT professionals top quality resources, tools, hints and tips, news, ideas, insights and discussions to help further their ELT career. Follow Oxford ELT on Twitter. Find Oxford ELT on Google+.

10 thoughts on “Lesson planning: 4 top tips you need to know

  1. Hello I cannot register fotr this webinar on the essential of lesson planning and I have tried several tiems at different dates. Is there a limit of participants?

  2. It seems the webinar reached capacity a little sooner than we anticipated so we’ve added more spaces. Please register here: https://elt.oup.com/events/global/The_essentials_of_lesson_planning
    Thanks.

  3. Great information! I have watched my teaching and student involvement evolve as my planning has! The more thought and time I put into the plans, the more dynamic my lessons become and the better they land.

  4. I want to know when is the next webinar? I also wish to register for the same.

  5. Kind regards,

    Was this webinar recorded? Can you share the link if possible?

    • Hi there,

      The webinar recording is available via the Oxford Teacher’s Club, simply click on the following link and navigate to the relevant webinar -> https://goo.gl/HoKh6b

      If you’re new to the Oxford Teacher’s Club, registration is free and shouldn’t take long at all. ^Alex

  6. Great Points.

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