Lesson Plan

Whether you want to teach reading, writing, speaking, or listening skills to learners of English as a second language (ESL), you'll want to use a lesson plan, especially if you're a new teacher.

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    Lesson plans are important as they help set the aim and objective of a lesson, provide step-by-step guidance on how the lesson will flow, help with timing, and draw attention to the key skills and/or vocabulary needed for the class.

    Lesson plans can also help you grow as a teacher by providing an opportunity for reflection and possible ideas for future lessons to come.

    Importance of a Lesson Plan

    Ask any English as a second language teacher, and they will tell you the importance of lesson plans. A well-thought-out lesson plan will benefit the students and the teacher and ensure lessons stay aligned with chosen curriculums.

    Some benefits of lesson plans include:

    • Helps students and teachers understand and work towards the main objective of the lesson.

    • Secondary objectives for the lesson can be set, meaning the teacher can encourage students to work on another skill simultaneously without losing focus.

    • Gives the teacher a chance to predict any issues and difficult language concepts that may appear.

    • Preplanning highlights any resources that may be needed for the lesson.

    • Helps the teacher follow an appropriate format for the lesson objective.

    • The teacher can preplan how long they will spend on each section, thus helping with time management.

    • The teacher can look back at their lesson plans to remember what has been covered and reflect on what went well and what didn't.

    • The teacher can plan the communication style of each activity (e.g., will the activity be the teacher talking to students, students talking to each other, or open class feedback?) This can help keep teacher talk time low and ensure that the students are given plenty of time to talk themselves.

    Without a lesson plan, it's easy for lessons to become fun and entertaining but unaligned with the curriculum or learning objectives.

    Lesson Plan Ideas

    Before you begin planning a lesson, you need an idea of exactly what you want to teach. The best language courses will follow some curriculum to ensure students are introduced to the correct language at the best time; therefore, the first place to look for lesson ideas is within the assigned curriculum or textbook.

    Outlining a Lesson Plan

    Before we look at some different formats for lesson plans, let's outline the basic components every lesson plan should include.

    An Objective

    Each lesson should have an objective (aka an aim), i.e., what will the students learn and why? You should consider which of the five skills students will practice and what they will be able to do at the end of the lesson that they couldn't do at the beginning.

    The five skills in language learning are speaking, listening, reading, writing, and grammar.

    The objective should be the starting point for any lesson plan and should be referred back to through the planning process to ensure the lesson is "staying on track."

    Most good lesson plans will have more than one objective, outlining a main communicative aim (what the students will be able to say/do after the lesson) and a sub-aim (what additional skills will be practiced throughout the lesson).

    Teaching Grammar

    When we teach grammar, especially tricky and complex concepts, we typically incorporate another aim to "distract" the student from the grammar and prevent them from becoming overwhelmed or bored by it. For example, the past perfect progressive tense might be taught via a speaking lesson about the students' lives prior to starting the language course.

    Here are some example objectives:

    Main communicative aim: "The students will be able to discuss cooking and give some simple cooking instructions."

    Sub-aim: "The students will improve their receptive listening skills."

    Main communicative aim: "Students will be able to discuss artwork using positive, negative, and neutral adjectives."

    Sub-aim: "Students will build on their vocabulary by learning new adjectives."

    Main communicative aim: "The students will be able to discuss what they were doing in life before starting this class."

    Sub-aim: "Students will practice using the past perfect progressive tense."

    It's important to ensure that the lesson's objective is attainable and suitable for the level of your students. A lesson that is too easy will easily bore students, whereas a lesson that is too difficult can scare and demotivate students.

    Lesson Plan, woman writing in a notebook, StudySmarterFig 1. Creating a plan ensures students are getting a lesson that meets their needs.

    Class Details

    Building upon the last statement about the student's level, there are other critical details that need to be considered when planning a lesson. Some of these include:

    • Class size: This is an important consideration when it comes to classroom management and communication patterns, i.e., is the class big enough to break into groups and pairs?

    • Ages: The average age of the class will impact your planning dramatically. The way we teach adults and children can be very different, and not many adults enjoy learning through singing nursery rhymes!

    • Class level: You should be provided with an approximation of the students' level before planning begins — this level should be used as a guideline when looking for resources for the lesson. Typically, language learner levels are divided into beginner, pre-intermediate, intermediate, and advanced. It's likely there will be differing language levels within a class, so it's a good idea to have some additional activities planned for early finishers.


    Lesson planning can help teachers decide what resources they might need before class begins.

    Some possible considerations include:

    • Will students be using textbooks? What contingencies are in place if a student doesn't have their book?

    • Will students be using worksheets? Are there spare copies?

    • If using technology, are all the necessary cables, etc., in place? What contingencies are in place if the internet or power is down?

    • Is it possible to bring in realia to support students learning?


    The term realia refers to real-life examples of language, such as newspapers, menus, magazines, flyers, etc. Using realia can be hugely beneficial for language learners as it provides an opportunity for them to see how native speakers of the language communicate.


    It's a good idea to plan how long will be spent on each activity; this will ensure students have sufficient time to spend on each activity and can also keep a lesson on track. A good lesson plan will allow enough time at the end of the lesson to review what has been covered, correct mistakes, and congratulate good language use.

    Anticipated Problems

    As you've been reading this explanation, you've hopefully noticed some problems that can arise during a lesson — the same should be done when lesson planning. Some potential problems we've already mentioned and some others include:

    • Missing resources

    • Mismatched language levels among students

    • Fast finishers

    • Technology issues

    • Time management

    Anticipated problems can also refer to potential learning blocks with the language itself; conducting a language analysis can help with this. Language analysis involves identifying difficult language that might arise in the lesson and learning all about it before class begins. The meaning, form (e.g., word class), and pronunciation of the target language should be learned when conducting a language analysis.


    It's a good idea to leave a small space at the end of a lesson plan to leave notes and reflections on what went well and what could be improved and built upon for next time.

    Lesson Plan Steps

    We now have a good idea of everything "extra" that's needed in a lesson plan, but what about the steps in the lesson itself?

    The type of lesson plan to use depends on the type of lesson being taught (we'll cover different formats for teaching different skills next!); however, there is one lesson plan framework that every ESL teacher should know - the PPP format.

    PPP stands for Presentation Practice Production

    The PPP format is perfect for teaching new grammar concepts; however, it's also the basis for other types of lesson plans, so it is the perfect place to start.


    The presentation stage is when the teacher introduces the students to the new concept/language construct they will learn in class. This stage typically happens after a warm-up activity.

    As we mentioned earlier, it's best to "conceal" grammar concepts within something else, such as a written piece of text, a video, a song, etc. In summary, the language should be placed in context to make it more engaging for the students.

    The presentation stage also involves drawing students' attention to the grammar concept being taught and asking them questions to elicit (get the students to provide) the purpose and meaning.

    Imagine you're teaching a lesson on second conditional sentences (e.g., If I won the lottery, I would buy a horse). You could draw a stick man on the board with the above sentence written in a speech bubble and then ask the students what they would do if they won the lottery. You could then write up some more example sentences and draw the students' attention to the sentence format (i.e., the use of if and would). You could then ask concept-checking questions about the language itself (e.g., Have they won the lottery? Are they likely to win the lottery?)


    The practice stage is when students get an opportunity to practice what they've learned in a controlled way, meaning students are given preexisting language to work with, such as sentence frames, provided answers, and true or false questions. This stage often involves textbooks, worksheets, or provided questions on the board. Once the students have completed the activity, it's a good idea to go through the answers together — this way, students can help each other, and the teacher can correct any mistakes and provide more guidance where needed.


    The final stage is the creative stage, where students can use the new language in real-life and meaningful scenarios. One of the most critical aspects of this stage is ensuring all students have an opportunity to talk. Suitable activities for this stage include:

    • Role plays

    • Interviews

    • Debates

    • Group discussions

    • Speaking games

    While the students are talking to each other, the teacher should observe and take notes of any common mistakes - these mistakes can be corrected after the activity.

    Lesson Plan, image of girls in a classroom, StudySmarterFig 2. It's important that the students get an opportunity to properly practice language.

    Lesson Plan Format

    As we mentioned previously, the format of a lesson plan depends on the objective of the lesson. For example, the stages of a listening lesson will be slightly different from a writing lesson. We've already covered the format for a grammar lesson (PPP), so let's look at the other four skills now.

    Listening and Reading

    Here is a basic lesson plan format that can be followed for both listening and reading lessons:

    Lesson StageStage Aims
    Warm-upTo set the context.
    Pre-reading/listening To get students thinking about the topic and to activate preexisting knowledge.
    Reading/listening for gist To encourage students to skim and scan, looking for key details and the overall point of the text/audio.
    Reading/listening for detailTo get students to look for specific details within the text/audio.
    Post-reading/listening talkTo give the students an opportunity to discuss what they've learned, ask any questions, and practice any new language.
    FeedbackAn opportunity for the teacher to provide feedback on good work and correct any mistakes.


    Here is a basic speaking lesson plan format:

    Lesson StageStage Aims
    Warm-upTo set the context and engage the students.
    Introduce the speaking activity Model the activity for the students and give them an opportunity to practice and ask questions.
    Speaking activity Students conduct a speaking task in pairs or groups.
    FeedbackThe teacher gives feedback and corrects vital mistakes.
    Speaking activity repeated Students have the opportunity to practice the speaking task again, taking feedback onboard.
    Feedback The teacher provides more feedback.


    Here is a basic listening lesson plan format:

    Lesson Stage Stage Aims
    Warm-upTo set the context and engage the students.
    Text analysis To provide students with a model text and help them analyze the target language within.
    Controlled practice To give students a chance to practice writing the target language using sentence frameworks.
    Writing preparationTo give the students a chance to create a draft or plan and to brainstorm ideas.
    Writing To give students time to write.
    FeedbackTo give students an opportunity to read each other's work and receive feedback.

    Lesson Plan - Key takeaways

    • Lesson plans are a vital part of any lesson, especially for new teachers.
    • Lesson plans can help ensure that lessons achieve the target objective, run smoothly, are well-managed in terms of time and resources, and are in line with the curriculum.
    • Each lesson plan should include: the objective, lesson stages, resources needed, anticipated problems, timings, class details (e.g., size, age, and level), and a space for reflection.
    • A common ESL lesson plan format is PPP (presentation, practice, production).
    • Lesson plan formats will change slightly depending on which skill is being taught.
    Frequently Asked Questions about Lesson Plan

    What is the importance of a lesson plan?

    Lesson plans are important as they can help set and maintain the objective of a lesson, help with time management, help identify and mitigate potential problems, and provide an opportunity for reflection.

    What are the steps of a lesson plan?

    The steps of a lesson plan will depend on which skills are being taught in the lesson. A common format that can be followed is PPP - presentation, production, practice.

    What are the principles of a lesson plan?

    When creating a lesson plan, you should consider the following:

    • The main objective
    • The sub-aim
    • The communicative skill (listening, reading, etc.)
    • The class details
    • Resources needed
    • Potential issues
    • Timings

    What is meant by lesson plan?

    A lesson plan is a guide for a lesson. It should include the plan for the lesson as well as key details, such as the class size, the resources needed, and anticipated problems.

    What are the 4 key components of a lesson plan?

    Each lesson plan will differ slightly depending on the lesson. However, four key stages include:

    • A warm-up
    • An introduction to the new language 
    • A chance for students to practice the language in a controlled and free way
    • Feedback

    Test your knowledge with multiple choice flashcards

    True or false, the format of a grammar lesson should be the same as a writing lesson? 

    Which activity could be used in the presentation stage of a PPP lesson? 

    Which activity could be used in the practice stage of a PPP lesson? 


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    Team English Teachers

    • 12 minutes reading time
    • Checked by StudySmarter Editorial Team
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