For veteran teachers, creating a lesson plan template is second nature. After years of trial and error in the classroom, you can formulate an expert plan that suits your teaching style, students, and lessons. However, in the ESL teaching world, there are several variables that influence how you teach—from short-term contracts to permanent positions, teaching young children to working professionals, and even from country to country.
The unique position of an ESL teacher may mean that you’re the only foreign employee in a school abroad or that your instruction differs drastically from that of your colleagues at a school back home. All this variation makes it difficult to find ready-made lesson plan templates suitable for ESL classrooms across the world. For first time teachers especially, devising daily lesson plans is a challenge and time consuming too if you’re not yet familiar with your students, environment, and curriculum.
If you’re looking for inspiration to make your own custom lesson plan template, here are a few steps to get you started!
Look at the long-term picture, then focus on daily lesson plans
Lesson plan templates don’t just have to be for an individual day. In fact, they shouldn’t be! To stay organized throughout the class term, it’s best to plan out exactly how the year, months, weeks, and days will play out. That way you can factor in a timeframe and plan for how long each lesson will take. Once you have an idea of how many days you have for each lesson, you can take a closer look and plan out each day with a different day-to-day lesson plan template.
A “zoomed out” lesson plan template with the view of a month or week doesn’t need to have too much detail. Teaching requires a great deal of flexibility, and your template should reflect that to allow you to move lessons around as needed. These templates can look like a simple calendar with spaces to write a summary for each day. After that, you’re ready to create a template to zoom into each day.
Decide on a layout that works best for you
Everyone has a different style of planning. Teachers who enjoy structure and a detailed plan for their lessons may benefit more from a highly structured template that outlines exactly how the day will go. Others may enjoy more flexibility and use templates as a brief overview of what they need to accomplish within the class period.
Consider what type of planner you tend to be and find a layout that best suits that. Some options include:
- Checkbox style. Is there a certain set of materials or assessments that you tend to use to teach? Rather than thinking up new information to fit under each section, you can just include pre-written options and check them off as you need them. For example, in a classroom that has a blackboard, television, textbooks, art supplies, and projector, you can include these options in your template with checkboxes next to each to mark what you’ll be using each time.
- Fill-in-the-blanks style. If lessons are more variable or you just like to include more detail in planning, a blank template that only includes section titles is a better alternative. You’re free to write in as much detail as you’d like, and change things up as needed.
Another factor to think about is using a physical copy vs. digital copy of a template. Physical copies have the advantage of being highly portable and easy to edit. Digital copies in the form of a text file or PDF can look more organized and are easier to share via email or on the internet. Before deciding, consider what resources are available to you and your school. Not everyone has technology in the classroom or printing capabilities!
What sections to include in your template
Perhaps the most important part of a lesson plan template is what goes on it! Again, teaching situations can vary greatly in the ESL teaching profession, but there are a few common sections that you should have in mind when planning out any lesson.
- Learning Objectives – First and foremost, reflect on the goals for the lesson. What information do you need to deliver?
- Time Breakdown – Estimating how long activities will take can be difficult until you’ve tried them. Even so, having a goal in mind of how long each part of the lesson will take will help you keep the lesson on track and cover everything you need to.
- Assessment Method – What do you grade? An assessment method can be anything from student participation to a quiz to a group project. This section will help you organize your grade book and grade distribution too.
- Necessary Materials – Think about what materials you need for the lesson. What do students need to bring, what should you request from the school, and what technology will you use during the lesson?
- Homework – To avoid any confusion among your students, always have the assigned homework for the day written down. If they ever have questions about past assignments, you’ll have a go-to place to reference.
- Note Section – Is there anything from the lesson that you can improve after you’ve had a chance to deliver it? Any part of the plan that you changed in the middle of a lesson? Maybe ideas for next time? Make it a habit to write detailed feedback during and after lessons to always keep improving!
- What to review – What information do you need to review from previous lessons? Is there anything from the current lesson that you believe needs to be revisited?
Find existing lesson plan templates and make them your own
Of course, creating a lesson plan template from scratch isn’t easy and it takes years to fine-tune. If you’re short on time or are curious about templates that have been tried and tested by other teachers, the simplest solution is to find an existing template. ESL Authority has tons of free ESL lesson plans to check out. These give an idea of how to structure lessons and what activities to try out. After looking through a few, you may sense a pattern and can start to formulate your own custom template to suit any lesson.
After you find your rhythm teaching ESL, lesson planning gets faster and you’ll formulate a template that suits your teaching style. Remember the internet is always there for reference, and tons of ESL teachers are always happy to share their methods. Happy planning!
This post was written by Raquel from Teach.com, a resource for school counseling master’s degrees and other careers in education. Raquel has taught English in both South Korea and Germany.