A lesson plan

Elly Setterfield has just written a very useful guide for beginner teachers with tips on how to plan on a daily basis. At the end she asked what her readers’ plans looked like. Here’s one of mine from last year, as I was working out a new style:


My planning has gone through many iterations, but I’ve now been using this style for over a year. I always use scrap paper, and put it straight into my box ready to go to the classroom as soon as it’s done. I rarely have time to plan in advance nowadays, and occasionally have no time to plan at all. As Elly recommended, you’ll see that:

  • I plan by hand
  • I highlight key things: pink is for things I tend to forget, yellow is for language checking/clarification (though I added that after this plan), green is for answers, and blue is for reminders to offer and give points in YL/teen classes
  • I underline in red any materials I’ll need, so I can do a quick check before the lesson to make sure I have everything. I normally write the plan first and produce my materials afterwards.
  • There is a note of approximate timing for each activity, plus a running total for the lesson. This almost never happens in the lesson, even when I add lots of extra time. I normally only skip one or two activities though, which is a lot better than it used to be!
  • It’s not necessarily clear to anyone else, though sometimes I add more detail if I know it’ll be the basis for somebody else’s plan later – we work with a lot of teachers who are fresh off CELTA.
  • There are various abbreviations on there, and I haven’t written out everything for exercises I use all the time.
  • It takes me about an hour to plan each lesson, give or take.

Previous versions of my plans included typing them up in my post-CELTA over-enthusiastic phase, often in way too much detail, and right at the other end of the scale, scrappy bits of paper with four or five words written on them, in my post-Delta I don’t have the energy for this phase 🙂 I feel like I’ve now arrived at a happy medium.

So what do your plans look like?

42 thoughts on “A lesson plan

  1. Amazing, Sandy! 🙂
    Thank you very much.
    I’m not a lesson-plan writer, but I have been trying to develop the habit of writing it little by little and your post is the best one I’ve seen to help people who are like me: in their first steps.


  2. I’m a huge stickler for saving LPs onto Word. I don’t understand why you wouldn’t type it up. It’s saved for ever, you’ll never have to plan that lesson again, but you can use it again and again by pressing print. No bulging folder full of paper, just saved on your laptop.


    1. When I first started teaching I used to type them all up, and I have my first three years’ worth on the computer somewhere, but then I left that school, used a completely different set of books, and realised that the steps for activities were mostly in my head anyway. At that point I started handwriting for two reasons: I didn’t want to carry my laptop around with me all the time, and it also gave me a break from all of the many hours of screen time I have. I find I think better on paper anyway, and tend to write notes on paper before going to the screen if I have to write for longer. I don’t tend to save my plans now, as I also realised that I rarely, if ever, go back to an old plan without making major changes, mostly because I’ve moved around so much and used so many different types of materials. Instead I’ll save materials and activity ideas, most of which are indeed on my computer. Having said that, when planning CELTA input sessions, I always do it on the computer because then they’re with me whichever country I’m doing the course in. Hope that answers your implicit question!

      Liked by 3 people

  3. Your lesson plan is like a work of art! Love it! Reminds me of your DELTA Module 1 posts. I love index cards for lesson plans – they are compact enough for me to hold in my hand throughout the lesson, e.g. when I need to refer to it when I`m writing on the board, and because they are smaller and stiffer then regular paper they are less likely to get mixed in with handouts and other papers. I tend to write down the running order, language to be presented/revised and sometimes instructions and CCQs


  4. Thanks for sharing! I’m always worried my lesson plans (written by hand on scrap paper) are not “esthetically” good enough, not professional enough or not detailed enough. So glad and relieved to read this.


  5. My lesson plans are similar, but not in quite so much detail. I handwrite them on coloured paper, so that I can easily find them amongst the handouts. I highlight what I am giving as a handout, so that next time I know that it exists !
    After the class, I glue the plan in an exercise notebook, along with the other notes for the lesson, so that next time I teach that lesson, it’s all together. I might make notes if something was a disaster…or was brilliant !
    I file the handouts in a lever-arch folder according to the Level and week number. This part is still a work-in-progress ! There seems to be a million ways to file/crossfile !

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Thank you so much for posting this, I found your ccqs really really helpful, It’s an area I’m struggling in (in the middle of doing Celta).


  7. Thank you for a sharing how you can bring your lessons alive with such focus to help drive instruction beyond the classroom with your method. I will definitely try to write my lessons using yours as a model. I am teaching ESL to international adult students and your ideas for creating lessons are a gift to me. I really appreciate you sharing how this process of creating lesson plans with color coded items such as grammar, reminders, new materials, etc will be a tremendous asset in my practice. I used to teach elementary children in an inclusive setting and I was quite a challenge to continuously write lesson plans.
    I think your method of creating to the point lessons is a great way to stay focused to engage your students in their learning whIle they achieve their goals.
    In addition, your method allows educators to quickly assess what is or not working so you can scaffold your lesson.
    I would love to get additional information about the steps you use for writing your lesson plans and what works best for you.
    Thank you so much. Best!


    1. Thank you for the comment Julia. I’m glad the post is useful. The steps I take vary from lesson to lesson, and are a combination of things I’ve learnt over a number of years, starting with the CELTA and moving on from there. Sorry not to be more helpful here!


      1. Hi Sandy,

        Your post says that each plan takes you 1 hour. Does that include creating/producing your actual resources/materials too?

        Or is that just your actual lesson plan which takes a whole hour to write up?


        1. It depends on where the materials are from. At our school most lessons are based on coursebooks which students have copies of, but I try to adapt them whenever I can, so a more accurate estimate would be 20-90 minutes depending on how many materials I want/need to make/adapt to meet students’ needs, how motivated I’m feeling and how much time I have available.
          Thanks for the comment,


  8. Great lesson plan. It has given me some ideas. Can I ask whether your students had studied the grammar point prior to the lesson?



    1. They were intermediate, so had seen present perfect before, but no equivalent structure exists in Polish, so students often don’t see the point in it, and rarely use it until at least upper intermediate unless it’s in controlled practice exercises. Another important note is that the questions etc in the plan are there for me in case I need them – I don’t necessarily use all of them, but if they’re called for I’m not trying to come up with them on the spot.
      Thanks for the question Steve.


    1. I’m glad it helps. I’m afraid I can’t post a chapter as that would break copyright, and a grammar lesson plan can take many many forms depending on the students and the grammar point students need to learn about. You might find some of the lesson structures on the ELT Planning blog useful, or the links on my Useful Links for CELTA page. Good luck!


  9. Always interesting to see how others do this, thanks!

    A system that worked for me was to have a template to print out, with spaces for the date, topic, materials/realia to bring along, which homework was due, and a big space for the actual presentation/activities etc. For some reason writing the actual plan out by hand helped me to fix it in my mind, so I didn’t need to check the plan as much during the lesson. Each page then went into a binder for use the next time that lesson came around in next year’s course; I could reuse it, adding notes or making changes as needed, or write it out again if there were numerous changes or additions.


  10. very impressive. i personally like many ideas in this lesson plan especially its simplicity to students. im just wondering what will the students write on their copybooks,i mean the lesson as such not the exercises? ss need to have a copy of the lesson otherwise they tend to forget all the nice things that they have learnt so far. do you usually give your ss some time to copy the lesson or do you provide them with some handouts to save time? if so, do they simply stick the paper or do they rewrite it at home? another question if you don’t mind: is this the whole lesson of the present perfect or just a part of it? finally, thank you so much for sharing.


    1. Thank you for your comment Aida. Our students have textbooks, so they have information there to help them remember the lesson. Depending on the lesson, I might ask them to write some extra things in their notebooks, but I don’t remember exactly what I did in this case. This lesson was about the present perfect in the first half, and looked at vocabulary building with prefixes in the second half.


    1. I’m intrigued by what you mean by that. Because the plan is for me to use in the classroom, it was written for me to understand. I shared it as an example of an everyday plan, rather than as something which you might produce for an observation or a training course. The notes on it are designed to make sense to me when I’m in the classroom.


  11. This post made me feel so much better about my lesson planning style. It’s very similar…I always hand write them in my notebook and use highlighters to highlight key steps and transitions. My colleagues think I’m crazy. Some colleagues type them all up and re-use them…and some actually write nothing at all and just wing it from memory each time!
    But I’m not good at winging things and I find writing it down by hand helps me internalise it more and also doing it fresh each time makes you think about problems that occurred last time, and make changes. I now feel a lot happier that I’m not the only one! 😃


    1. When I first started I typed out my plans, then realised that meant I had to carry my computer everywhere and keep looking at my screen. I went through a brief phase of almost winging it – plans were just a couple of lines on a piece of paper – but then settled on this style as the one that most suits me 🙂


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