Creating a Learner-Focused TESOL Lesson Plan

learner focused TESOL lessonsAs a language teacher, you have so many things to think about all of the time. We’re constantly under pressure to get through materials in our coursebook and get ready for exams. With all the things we have to think about, it can sometimes be easy to forget the real reason why we are doing this: our learners. For this reason, planning lessons is a necessity, particularly at the start of your TESOL career. Here are three things to keep in mind that will help you create lesson plans that keep the focus on your learners.

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  1. Know the people you are teaching

One of the easiest things to do is to look at a unit in your course book and start making your lesson plan according to what you see. However, before you do this remember the people who are going to be experiencing this lesson with you. Some of the factors that will affect how you plan specifically for your learners are as follows.

  • What’s their reason for studying English? Do they need to pass an exam, or is it merely for personal satisfaction?
  • What age is the class? Are they young learners, teenagers, or adults?
  • What’s their current level of English? These people might all be in the same class, but that doesn’t mean they all have the same degree of proficiency. How would you plan for this?

Remember: there is no ‘one size fits all’ lesson; even if you use the same material with different groups of people, make sure that you always plan according to the class and not to the book.

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  1. Know your reasons for doing the lesson

Your TESOL lesson plan should always be focused around a learning objective. In other words, the plan should be centered on what you hope learners can accomplish by the end of the lesson. So, what exactly is it that you’re doing?

  • Are you teaching specific vocabulary items, or a new grammatical structure?
  • Is the main aim to present this, or will your learners spend time practicing it?
  • Do they have any prior knowledge of this, or is this the first time they will come into contact with this particular language?
  • If you’re doing a skills lesson that focuses on reading, for example, what type of reading skills do you hope to develop?

In addition to knowing your objective, always to imagine how this fits into the bigger picture of their language learning.

  1. Know what is most important about this lesson

Even the best lesson plans can only ever act as a guide to what might happen in the course of that lesson. One of the first things I learned on my TESOL course was that it is better to teach 50% of your plan well than to rush through 100% of your plan and do it poorly. Remember: you’re dealing with human beings and hundreds of things can come up which cause you to have to change your plan. So, what are your priorities?

  • What can you cut out if necessary? Is there an activity that you would like to do, but can skip over if you’re running short of time?
  • How will you fast track through certain parts of the lesson if it becomes obvious that learners have prior knowledge of this language? If the class knows, for example, the grammar structure you plan to teach, think of ways cut out your presentation and stretch the amount of time they spend practicing or producing the language.
  • Do they have prior knowledge of language that is necessary for them to be able to understand today’s lesson? If, say, you plan to contrast present perfect with simple past, what will you do if they need more input on the simple past tense?

These three points may not appear on your TESOL lesson plan, but they are important things to keep in mind to make sure that learners remain the focal point of the lesson. Remember: always teach the person and not the material.

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