How to make an effective Lesson Plan (Part I)

Many new ESL teachers complain about how their classes are boring or their students seem unmotivated. Even though some teachers may prepare for their classes for hours in advance, their lesson seem to finish early and then they have no idea what to do with their students for the rest of the class time. Many teachers dread this scenario. Don’t worry! It can happen to any of us no matter how well prepared you may be.

This week’s blog post will be divided into two parts. In the first part I will talk about why making a lesson plan is important for an overall productive experience for you and your students. I will also provide some basic outline for a simple lesson plan.

In Part II we will discuss different activities and games you can use to supplement your lesson.

Why should I make a Lesson Plan?

Most Public and private schools in Korea usually have 50-55 minutes classes for younger learners (some public schools may have 40 min. classes for elementary school students) and most adult classes are about 55 minutes. This means that as a teacher you should be able come up with lesson plans that are not only effective, constructive but also long enough to last for 50 to 55 minutes.

Since many ESL jobs in Korea require no previous teaching experience, for many new ESL teachers their first few weeks or months teaching in Korea are stressful at best and outright disastrous at worst. With no educational training, they are expected to teach English to Korean students who may have limited to no English ability.

In Korea ‘Free Talking’ is a commonly used term. Many students want ‘free talking’ and thus many schools especially private institute offer it. This means you teach a class without a book. That is not easy to do. You will be expected to come up with your own lesson and resources for this kind of a class. For many teachers this is not only frustrating but outright daunting. For many new teachers the urge to just ‘wing it’ is irresistible. But trust me without a lesson plan, unless you’re a very experienced teacher and you know the ropes, you’re likely to walk into a nightmare.

Importance of making a lesson plan

As an ESL teacher your lesson plan is your most important tool when you walk into your classroom. Lesson plans can be pretty unnerving at first. There’s so much to include; timings, aims, activities, interactions. But, as you gain more experience it will get easier. The time it takes to make a lesson plan will decrease, and you’ll soon find yourself making plans days, if not weeks, ahead.

Having a lesson plan will give you the confidence you need when you enter the classroom. You are fully aware of what your lesson entails and how you’re going to teach it.

A lesson plan will outline what you want to teach in your lesson and how you intend to teach it. Follow your plan and you will breeze through a 50 minute lesson. Whereas if you fail to make a lesson plan it will not be smooth sailing.

If you are not prepared for your classes your students will know. Korea has changed a lot in recent years. Korean students are more aware of what they want and are more assertive. Gone are the days when students blindly followed the teacher, no questions asked. These days students are more vocal and will complain if you do not prepare for your classes. A nervous teacher really shows, and it can lead to a chaotic classroom. Being prepared will always be your best asset.

How to make a Lesson Plan

A lesson plan should be systematic and should include goals, activities, interactions etc.

Have an objective:

Have a clear goal in mind. This is a very crucial step since this is the foundation the rest of your lesson plan will be based on. What are your objectives? Think about What you want to teach. What do you want Your students to get out of the lesson. When you have a clear objective it is easier to organize your thoughts. Keep your objectives realistic and simple. A simple approach will help you to go into every lesson knowing what you want to achieve and where it will take the learners without it becoming stressful.

Plan according to the allotted time:

Many new teachers in their enthusiasm try to cramp a lot of objectives, goals and activities in one lesson and are often crestfallen when they can’t achieve their goals in the allotted time. Instead of making huge, detailed plans of everything that could happen in the classroom, relax your approach. Have a plan that you can realistically cover during the given time frame.

Focus on a few skills at a time:

Think clearly about what do you want to focus on..listening reading speaking writing or a combination of all four skills. Make your plan accordingly. Oftentimes if you include too much it’s not only cumbersome but can get overwhelming especially for lower level students. The students retain less too since they are being bombarded with all kinds of new information and words. Try focusing on one or maximum two skills in a lesson. That way students can learn in a stress free environment and can retain more.

Check for materials and resources:

Think about how you are going to achieve the objectives you have set for yourself and your students. What materials and resources are you going to use. What do you need for the lesson, in terms of handouts, speakers, projector, etc? Make sure your schools has all the necessary resources and equipment you may require for your lesson especially if you are going to use multimedia. Trust me you do not want to run around looking for materials and equipment right before or during class time. Not only is it stressful but also sets a bad precedent.

Present the Information:

Clearly present your topic. Are you explaining the activities clearly or are you just adding to the confusion? Are the instructions in the book way above the language level of the learners. Know your students level. This can help you avoid words or expressions that maybe too hard for your students to understand. Take notes of the types of activities your students respond positively to. It can help you in the future to come up with a lesson that your students can easily follow and learn the most from.

Include various activities:

Design different activities that encourage students to engage each other and use the newly learned subject matter. It also helps them to get comfortable with using the language and new words and expressions they learned, not to mention it builds their confidence.

Check for understanding:

Always check for understanding. Make sure your students understand the lesson clearly and are learning from it. If they do not understand the concepts or the information presented try to present it differently in a way they can easily follow.

Review and address questions:

At the end of class make sure to briefly review the lesson. This not only reinforces what the students learned in class but also helps them to better retain it. Always leave a few minutes for questions. Encourage your students to ask concepts or words they did not grasp well or have difficulty with.


Sample lesson

  • Start with a ‘warm up ‘ activity. Basically just engage your students. Get their brain juices flowing. Get them ready to dive into the lesson. Starting with a short activity help learners to focus on the main purpose of the lesson.
  • Introduce the main subject matter. Explain any new words, expressions or grammar. Guide the students so they can easily and efficiently complete the various activities and learn from the lesson.
  • Give the students a chance to practice what they learned. Good ideas for this stage are group work, role plays or other interactive activities.
  • Check for understanding. Make sure each student understand the lesson and is learning from it.
  • Review the lesson and make sure to answer any questions your students might have.

Teaching non-English speaking students can be an exciting experience. A lesson plan will not only make your adjustment time in the classroom easier, but it will also make the experience more fulfilling for you and your students.

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