Having a clear objective is the most important element to consider when developing an ESL lesson plan. Having a clear objective is the first building block to the planning and development process. It’s the thing (or things) that you want your students to learn and take-away from the lesson. Having a clear objective will guide the rest of your planning process. The objective can be expressed in a variety of ways, but, for organizational purposes, it’s easiest to use the same template for most lessons. For example, you could start your lesson plan with the following phrase: “Students will be able to…” and finish with the objective(s) for the day. A good rule of thumb to have is that if an activity doesn’t bring your students to (or closer to) your end goal, modify it or nix it altogether.
2) Lesson plan structure
While a lot of things in life can be “winged”, an ESL class shouldn’t be one of them. Having both a lesson and classroom structure aids you tremendously with classroom management. Your structure doesn’t necessarily have to be the same every day, but it is helpful if the students know what your expectations are before they even walk in the classroom. Read: How to Plan a Lesson Using the P-P-P Format
3) Clarity and continuity
Teaching points need to follow along the lines of the objective. Learning the teaching points is only one step in the acquisition of language. The points and subsequent skills need to be practiced and practically applied in order for the learner to become comfortable and confident with using them in real life situations. Having a clear link between the lesson content and everyday life is crucial for success. I’ve found that role play is a great way to achieve this. Be creative with role play scenarios so that students a) do not get bored and b) can feel that they are truly practicing skills for a situation and not just reciting sentences in a classroom. Read: Planning a Series of Lessons
Don’t underestimate the value of props, sticky balls, different colored paper and whiteboard markers. Visuals and tactile objects keep students engaged and also give them memory cues that they will associate with the concepts they are learning. For example, it is easier to remember a new word that you practiced with animations as opposed to an assortment of letters on the board. I find it effective to teach verbs and certain nouns (like animals) by acting them out with my students. However, you also don’t want to overstimulate your students. Creative chaos or props with new names can actually overwhelm the students and thus hinder the learning process. Everything in moderation, but definitely find a working balance. Read: 5 Strategies to Make the Most Out Of Your TESOL Lesson Plan
If you don’t have energy and a positive attitude, good luck trying to get your students to have any. You don’t want your students to dread coming to your class. Be supportive, pay attention to details and learning styles, and make connections with each one of your students (if you have a manageable class size). Create an atmosphere that encourages active learning, where students are always engaged in the activities that you have planned. Don’t solely lecture- allow students to work in pairs or groups. Hang up great projects or even drawings on the walls of the room so that they are displayed to the group; it shows that you care and pay attention to their hard work. Be conscious of being meaningful and seize any opportunity for a “teaching moment”. Read: Grouping students by proficiency
6) A great closing
Always aim to have your students leaving your class with smiles on their faces instead of sour tastes in their mouths. Sometimes, time constraints or behavioral incidents will not permit you to end the way you planned, but I find that ending with a TESOL game or other sharing activity is a great way for students to let off any steam or frustration and anxiety that they felt during a lesson. Reflection is the key element to consider here, as it is crucial for a student’s language development. Provide students with the opportunity to share and demonstrate what they’ve learned in a creative and fun way. Remove any feelings of pressure – students automatically think “test” in classrooms- and encourage everyone to freely participate without fear of being wrong. These are the moments that students will remember most and, as such, they will play a huge role in the future of their language study and practice.