If you plan your lesson carefully, you’re already off on the right foot in achieving a great lesson. A lesson plan is a clear working document for the teacher. It should be a document that a teacher can work from in the lesson, so it should be neat, clear, well-organized with clear and appropriate as well as achievable aims. “A lesson plan is a teacher’s detailed description of the course of instruction or “learning trajectory” for a lesson. A daily lesson plan is developed by a teacher to guide class learning” (Wikipedia). Although the contents of a lesson plan vary from one teacher to another, there are some universal components that guarantee the effectiveness of the plan. The following lines outline some of the vital qualities of an effective lesson plan.
- Level of Class: an effective lesson plan must feature the class of learners for which the lesson is being designed. This will serve as the background to every other thing that will go into planning the lesson. The language of the lesson, especially, depends so much on the class of learners.
- Length of the Lesson: a good lesson must have a clearly stated time span. This will help the teacher determine the amount of content the lesson can take. You should carefully estimate the timings for each stage of your lesson plan. But be flexible: if something actually takes longer than you anticipated, take time to finish your main lesson aim and drop secondary aims.
- Aims: the aim is the overall idea of what you set to achieve in the lesson. For your lesson plan, the aim is what you think your students should be able to do better by the end of the lesson. Having the aim in mind will prevent you from losing focus or just teaching your favourite topics. Some lessons may require more than one aim. For instance, a grammar-oriented lesson may culminate in a speaking activity. In this case, the target language (grammar) will be the main aim while the language skill (speaking) will be the secondary aim of the lesson. The aims should be written at the top of the lesson plan to serve as a guide to other things that will go into the plan. Clear and realistic aims are essential if a lesson is going to be successful. Aims are better phrased from the students’ perspective. For instance,
By the end of this lesson, students will have developed speaking skills in the context of discussing their future plans using the first conditional and the future time clause.
Apart from the lesson’s aim(s), it is sometimes necessary to include some personal or methodological aims, especially, if you’re just starting out as a teacher. For instance,
- To improve on timing
- To give feedback on content
are examples of what the teacher set to achieve personally in the lesson.
- Assumptions: this is also called presumed student knowledge or previous knowledge. This aspect of the lesson plan deals with what students have already covered in previous lessons or courses and so should be familiar with. This emphasises the point that lessons should be part of an overall syllabus or structure, with links not just within a single lesson, but between different lessons.
- Anticipated difficulties and Solutions: it is necessary that you anticipate some difficulties that students might face with the activities or the target language and be ready with solutions. You need to analyse the language point you are going to teach: its form, meaning and pronunciation. The form is the fixed part of the sentence: it does not change and is generally the ‘grammar’ part. The meaning is what the sentence means in the particular context, while the pronunciation has to do with anticipating every point of confusion students might face in trying to say the structure in the most natural way. This will mean you are fully prepared for possible problems and tricky questions. Most of all, your students will benefit from your preparation.
- Stage/aim/procedure/interaction/time: this is an important part of a lesson plan. When you’ve decided on what your students need to learn, you need a variety of activities to help them grasp the point you’re making. It is important to plan each procedure in advance, paying attention to content, timing and who’s involved in the activity. The stage is effectively a title for a part of a lesson – it states what you intend to do. The aim refers to the aim of that specific stage of the lesson; almost everything that a teacher says or does in a lesson is said or done for a reason. It states why you are doing something, or why the students are doing something. The procedure is a description of how something will be done. The interaction concerns who is working with whom – individual work / pair work / group work / whole class. The time is the very approximate estimate of how long something is likely to take. This part of the plan is often done in a tabular form on a different sheet of paper.
- Board record: you need to include what will go on the board in your lesson plan. Most of the time, what goes on the board is language analysis: meaning, form and pronunciation. However, you must allow some room for spontaneity. Having your board record planned helps put your board to good use such that, you may not need to clean the board throughout the lesson. Any late comer will only need to go through the board record to understand what has been taught.
- Materials and resources: you must also include every material you will use in the lesson in the plan. From course book to realia and every other teaching aid you will use in the lesson.
It is important to have your lesson planned out. However, teaching should be flexible; students must have an influence on what you teach and how you teach it. Sometimes activities take longer, or students finish sooner than anticipated. This is where you need to be flexible with regards to your lesson plan. You will have to make on-the-spot decisions, to either drop an activity or add something new, but without affecting your main lesson aims. A good lesson plan will be one which is a clear working document. In other words, another teacher would be able to teach your lesson by using your plan as a guide.