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Lesson Planning – Aims and Staging

Have you just finished your CELTA / TEFL / other pre-service qualification? Have you been teaching a while and you now have to produce a plan for an observation? Chances are this is quite irritating.

Anybody can write down what they are going to do. But does it make sense? Is the order logical? Are the students learning? What the hell are my aims anyway?!


What will the students be better able to do by the end of the lesson? How will this be achieved?

At this stage, think about what is achievable and what is not. For example, “Students will be able to use passives” is not an achievable aim if you are introducing it for the first time. “Students will be better able to recognise present passive forms” IS. Tailor the aim to the level of the class and don’t bite off more than you can chew. Here’s an example:

By the end of the lesson, the students will be better able to hear the difference between /ɪ/ and /i:/

This will be achieved through:

  • A listening activity in which students discriminate between the sounds
  • A systems focus that looks at sound length and use of the diaphragm
  • A controlled practice activity in which students are drilled using display sentences
  • A free practice activity in which students create their own sentences using the sounds

It is no more complicated than that. You are looking for students to be more aware to start with. Production comes with a lot of repetition, at a level you can not provide in a single lesson.


What have I missed? What should come next? Broadly speaking, I have found that keeping it simple helps. Don’t overload on activities, don’t teach the same language twice, don’t lead in to the language focus twice. A brief outline could be:

Speaking / Listening / Reading / Writing – lead-in, activity that helps students notice what they can’t do, skills focus, repeat or expand on skill, feedback

Lexis / Grammar / Discourse / Phonology – lead-in, activity that helps students notice what they can’t do, systems focus, controlled practice, freer practice, feedback

That IS over-simplifying it a bit, but the idea is true: Don’t overload. Don’t be afraid to talk or to teach. Make sure everything is covered in the correct amount of depth. This can take time.

Below are some suggested structures for an hour-long lesson. If the lesson is longer, either the timings can be adjusted, an extra stage can be added in (do students need two controlled practice activities) or the cycle can be used twice for two separate language points that then join together. For example, if you are doing PPP, you might do PPP1, PPP2 and then combined activity 3.

Lesson Planning Suggestions for Teachers

Hope this helps somebody!


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