Knowing about the different elements of lesson planning is important, but to become an effective ESL teacher you need to do something else. You must decide which elements are important to your teaching and create a lesson plan format that works for you. Before you do that, here are some guidelines that may help you decide which elements to put in your lesson plans and how to organize them.

Before closing, we need to make one more important point.

You don't always have to stick religiously to your plan (even if it is well made). As we noted earlier in the Contingency Plan section, flexibility is an important characteristic of good teaching. When circumstances warrant it, it is perfectly fine to change or deviate from your plan.

Now, keeping those things in mind, it's time for you to create your own lesson plan "skeleton." Write it on a piece of paper, then show your lesson plan skeleton to your partner. Explain what elements you included, why you included them, and how you arranged them. Ask your partner for feedback (suggestions, criticism, etc.).

As you do this remember two things:

To give you some ideas, here are a few sample ESL lesson plans prepared by experienced teachers:


Background Information
Class: Upper intermediate adults at community college
Size: 15 to 20 students
Ethnolinguistic composition: Mostly Hispanic, some Asians

Objective: Students will learn and practice basic vocabulary used when filling out job application forms

Materials Needed:
Class roll sheet
Name tags for students
Audio tape of listening comprehension dialog
Audio cassette player
20 copies each of two slightly different job application forms
Dry erase markers and eraser
20 copies of Manager information gap activity
20 copies of "requesting a job application" dialog

Warm-up/Review: (estimated time: 5 minutes)
Greet students and introduce myself
Call roll and pass out students' name tags
Ask students what they learned in class last time. (English used in school parent-teacher conferences)

Introduction: (estimated time: 5 minutes)
Explain: "We will listen to a taped dialog. It will give you clues about the topic of our lesson today. Listen carefully.
Try to catch the main ideas."

Play taped dialog about Michelle applying for a job.
Pause tape and discuss the following questions:
"What do you think our lesson is about?"
"Who is looking for the job?"
"How did Michelle hear of the job?"
"What is the job? Where is it?"
"When is Michelle going to fill out an application?"

Continue taped dialog and then pause to ask these questions:
"When will Michelle have an interview with the manager?"
"What should Michelle do if they do not call her in a few days?"

Presentation: (estimated time: 20 minutes)
Discuss these questions:
"Why are job applications important?"
"Which is more important, the job interview or the job application?"
"Have you ever filled out a job application before?"
"Have you had any difficulties filling out applications?"
"What were the difficulties?"

Hand out the job application forms to the students.
Explain: "We will fill them out together as if we were aplying for a job."
Go through each item.
Check comprehension by calling on students to explain vocabulary items.
If most students are unsure of a word, write in on the board and explain its meaning with students' help.
Elicit answers from students as they fill out their forms (e.g., "Mario, what position would you apply for?")

Possible areas of discussion:
Ways of writing dates with numerals only (e.g., 10/16/92 vs. 16/10/92, which is how it is written in Latin America).
"Position desired" (What would you put down if applying at a clothing store? [sales clerk], restaurant [cook, waiter, etc.], continue with other occupations students have applied for.)
"Date available" "Shift available"
"Full-time (FT)," "Part-time (PT)," and "Temporary"
"Previous work experience" "Duties" "Reason for leaving" (Would you put, "I hated my boss and hit him one day"?)
"Personal references" (not related, how acquainted)

Practice: (estimated time: 10 minutes)
Explain: "After you fill out an application, you usually talk to the manager, or bring it to an interview later. The manager reviews the application with you."

Model information gap activity with one of the more advanced students.

Divide students into pairs. One student in each pair takes on role of manager. The other takes on the role of applicant. The "manager" asks basic questions of the "applicant" (using vocabulary and structures learned in this lesson) and fills out application form.

Teacher circulates around room, observing, and helping as needed.

Evaluation: (estimated time: 5 minutes)
Choose two students to demonstrate this activity in front of class. Other class members listen and comment on it later.
Take any remaining time to answer any questions students may have.

Application: (after class)
Students keep job applications they have filled out for reference purposes.
Distribute the other job application form (slightly different) and have students fill it out as homework and bring it next time.
Encourage students who do not currently have jobs to get (and fill out) application forms for a job they would like to have. Bring these next time also.

Contingency plans:
If students are not interested in job applications, give alternate lesson on pronunciation of "th" sounds in English.
If students finish this lesson early, have more than one evaluation, i.e., have several pairs come to the front and play out roles.
If students have trouble, cover only the simplest (or most important) points. Skip the hard parts and save them for a future lesson.
If students ask questions that I don't know the answers to, take note of them and find answers for next class meeting.

Self-evaluation (written in teacher's log after lesson)

This group of students is great! They remembered a lot from the last lesson. All of them demonstrated eagerness to learn.

Overall, the lesson went really well. I called on students by name and used information about them (from the information sheets they filled out during the first class period) in the examples I gave.

Unfortunately, I spent so much time on the presentation stage of the lesson that we had to rush through the other activities. I think I had too much vocabulary to cover. Next time, I will start with the specific information on the back of the application.

I felt like I talked too much. The more timid students didn't get a chance to practice speaking. I wish I had included more communicative activities involving the students. That way they would get more of the practice they need.


Topic: Grammar--Spatial Prepositions (to show location)

Student proficiency level: intermediate

Three wooden blocks, model house and toy person, handouts (#1 Story, #2 Diagrams and examples), exercise sheet (fill in the blanks with correct preposition)

Students will be able to correctly use and distinguish 14 selected English spatial prepositions (at, above, against, around, below, between, by, from, in, on, over, through, toward, under)

Ask: "Have you learned any new words (or heard any words or expressions you couldn't understand) since our last class?" (Students respond. Discuss meanings, etc.)

Say: "Today we're going to learn how to use some common English prepositions correctly. We'll also learn how to choose the best preposition for a particular situation.

Distribute handout #1. Students read paragraph aloud.
Ask: "Did you understand all the words?" (If yes, go on. If no, explain words or phrases as needed.)
"Let's identify the spatial prepositions in the story."
Teacher read. Students stop him at first preposition (at). Underline it. Then have students find others.

Distribute handout #2. "On this page there are pictures down one side showing the meaning of each of the prepositions we are learning. On the other side there are sentences describing each picture."
Students draw line from each picture to sentence that accurately describes it.
Go over student responses and explain meanings as needed.(Special focus: under vs. below, over vs. above)

Practice activity #1:
Distribute exercise #1. Students read and fill in blanks.
Teacher circulate and help as needed.

Practice activity #2:
Take out three wooden blocks (A, B, C)
Move them into different positions.
Have students describe spatial relationships between blocks (e.g., Block A is over block B.)

Practice activity #3:
Take out model house and toy person (name him after one of the students).
Place person in various places around the house (in, by, above, beneath, etc.). Call on students to explain where he is, using appropriate prepositions.

Practice activity #4:
Explain: "Now, I will be your personal robot. (Explain what robot is, if necessary.) You give me a command using one of the prepositions we have studied today. I will then perform an action."
"If I perform the action correctly, you praise me."
"If I perform the action incorrectly, you tell me that I have made a mistake and explain what I did. OK?"
Model a couple of practice runs to make sure students have understood. Then proceed with activity.
e.g., T: "Give me a command with a preposition."
S: "Stand under the table."
T: (Stands by the table) "OK. I'm standing under the table."
S: "No, you're not standing under the table. You're standing by the table."
Continue practicing as long as class time permits.

"Today we've learned how to use fourteen spatial prepositions in English. There are more, but we will talk about them next time.
"Practice using these prepositions correctly, and when you are listening, notice how English speakers use them.

"Watch a TV show in English. Write down sentences you hear that contain one of the prepositions we talked about today. Bring your list of sentences to class next time. Also, write down any sentences using prepositions that you have trouble with. We will discuss them next time."

Self-Evaluation: (written in teacher's log after lesson was taught)

During the first part of the lesson I felt insecure. I temporarily lost my focus because of the new circumstances and because many of the students arrived late. As a result, the lesson did not start well. It was choppy and disjointed.

Once I got into the lesson, I felt more comfortable. When we began the exercises and the students started participating, things got better. The laughter and interactionsat the end humanized what had started out to be a structured, dry lesson. I could actually sense that learning was taking place and that I was directing that learning.

From this experience, I learned that I need to create a more open teaching style. I must also remember to spend less time on explanations and get right into the practice activities. They were more effective than reading the story and underlining the prepositions. I also realized more than ever the importance of being flexible. Changes may be necessary in the best of lesson plans.


Topic: Buying basic building materials

Objectives: 1. Students will learn the names of ten basic tools and materials found in a hardware or building materials store.
2. They will also use these words in grammatically correct spoken sentences typically used in the same setting.

Materials needed:
Large picture flash cards showing new vocabulary items (below)Realia (real samples) of most of the same items.

New vocabulary:
nail, hammer, screw, screwdriver, lumber, boards, plywood, wallboard, sandpaper, saw

Warm-up: (3 minutes)
Show realia. Ask students to name as many of them as they can. Say the name of each remaining one quickly.

Presentation: (12 minutes)
Show flashcards with pictures of the same items. For each one, take time to pronounce the name clearly and have students repeat. Make sure their pronunciation is correct.

Then flip through flash cards and have students call out names of items. Make sure no one student dominates.

Introduce model sentence ("Excuse me, where is/are the ____ ?")and grammar point (use of is/are with singular, plural, or uncountable nouns). Write it on the board.
Explain difference between countable (e.g., board(s))and uncountable nouns (lumber). Compare to vocabulary they probably already know (e.g., sandwich(es) vs. food).

Present and explain possible responses: "Over there." "On the other side of that display." "Aisle 27." "Next to…," etc.). Write these on the board also.

Practice: (25 minutes)
Review names of items by showing flashcards (or holding up realia items) and calling on students to name them.

Use flash cards to cue students to ask questions ("Excuse me,...).
Correct their grammar/pronunciation as necessary. Answer them using one of the responses written on the board.

Create simulated hardware store by placing realia items in various places around the classroom. Make sure students know where each item is. Practicing describing location of each.

Divide class into pairs. Use "tango seating" with one member facing front of classroom; the other facing toward back of room.
Go to back of room. Show flashcards one at a time.
Partner who can see them (the one facing backward), constructs a question accordingly.
Other partner (who can see chalkboard) listens and (1) checks grammar (agreement) and (2) responds by speaking or pointing.

Have partners exchange seats (reverse roles) and continue.

Let students practice on their own (without showing them flashcards). Circulate to check on them and answer questions

Evaluation: (concurrent with last part of practice)
Circulate and check for correct grammar, pronunciation, etc.

Summary (and expansion): (10 minutes)
Allow students to ask questions about the language they have been using and any additional terms or expressions they want to learn. Explain "application" to them (below)

Application: (after class)
Challenge students to go to a real hardware or building materials store and ask an employee for something (even if they really know where it is). Report back next time.

Contingency plan:
If students already know the names of most items, or if they learn the ten target items quickly, teach more advanced (but related) vocabulary (e.g., 2X4 (board), sheet (of plywood), ten penny (nail), etc.). Draw pictures on the chalkboard as needed.
Also, teach additional question forms (e.g., "I'm looking for ____, could you please tell me where I could find it/them?") and responses ("Of course, you'll find ____ right over there.") as appropriate for students' level.

Self-evaluation comments:
I'm glad that I had a contingency plan. Most of the students knew at least half of the words on the vocabulary list, so we got into more advanced vocabulary faster than I had expected. The distinction between countable/uncountable nouns, however, was hard for everyone. I need to have more examples to help them with that.

Of course, your lesson plans will not (and should not) look exactly like these samples. Each teacher has a distinctive lesson plan that reflects his or her particular teaching situation, objectives, and style. You will probably have to experiment to find the format that works best for you. In time, however, you will come up with one that meets your needs.

And now, as if everything you have done so far in this module were not enough, here's a "second mile" activity if you're the type that likes a real challenge:

Next time you observe a well planned lesson being taught, try to re-create the teacher's lesson plan. You may do this in your mind, but it is most helpful if you write it out on paper.

Then, after the lesson, ask the teacher to show you his/her lesson plan, so you can compare it to the one you have created.

Tell your partner about what you learned from this experience.