English Teaching Lesson Plans
Introduction

Designing your own English teaching lesson plans can be easy and fun. It doesn't have to take a lot of time and can be a great way to express your creativity in the ESL classroom.
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I've been lucky...

Because I have worked for companies and schools that allowed me to form my own curriculum I have been lucky enough over the years to be able to create my own lesson plans for my adult ESL students.

There are good things and not so good things about this:

  • The good thing is that, well, because I design the English lesson plans myself I can be very flexible.
  • The bad thing about it is that the weight of the course rests completely on my shoulders. Some people feel safer not being given this much leeway. But for me, I like it.

The advantage of not being responsible for developing your own English teaching lesson plans is, of course, the curriculum is all laid out for you by someone else.

Hence... no guess work.

You just follow along and hope that you can deliver the material in a clear, concise and enthusiastic way.

The down side, of course, of not being able to design your own English teaching lesson plans is that it restricts your creativity and can make the class very boring.


Design with freedom in mind...

We have had many students come to our school that have been at the grand universities here in the New Orleans (and if you are familiar with the city you know which schools I'm talking about).

We ESL teachers are given a lot of freedom around designing our own English teaching lesson plans and we develop these lesson plans to instigate conversation.

We encourage our students to speak English as much as possible in class. We have a friendly, family-like atmosphere and people like coming to the school because of that.

I usually start my classes by going around the room and asking how each student is, what's happened in their lives since the last class.

At the bigger more "professional" ESL schools the teachers may be more restricted to how they design their English teaching lesson plans:

  • The teacher may come in to class, give a lesson, the students do some kind of assignment.
  • The class ends with very little conversational interaction between the students and teacher and everyone goes their separate ways.

Is this any way to run an ESL classroom??!!

I say, no.


To Speak or Not to Speak...That is the Question

Really, the purpose of someone taking ESL is not to learn all the rules and to fill their brains with a bunch of English.

Rather, it's for them to have some kind of working knowledge of the English language.

They are there to SPEAK ENGLISH! for God's sake, not to learn perfect grammar. Gosh, 99.9% of native speakers don't know perfect grammar. I don't even know perfect grammar!

(But one thing that all English teachers do learn is to speak English better. Almost everyday I come across something about English in which I say to myself-- sometimes I say it out loud in class-- "Hm, I didn't know that.")

So every opportunity I can get to have them speaking English in some way, shape or form is primo. I think your English lesson plans should be designed around getting the students to converse as much as possible.

To my way of thinking ESL books and materials can sometimes be crutches for a teacher who is afraid to engage his students in conversation.

That said, materials can be a great support for the students and the teacher. But the best way to use them are as jumping off points for conversation.


Bookish English...what's the point?

People can learn a heck of a lot of "bookish" English and not be able to talk worth a dang. The speech center of the brain has to be exercised just like a muscle, and it has to be exercised regularly or it atrophies.

So learning vocabulary is great.

As is learning grammar and idioms and so on.

Writing composition and doing dictation is great, too.

But it is all for naught if the student can't put it all together into correct, comprehensible, spoken, clear sentences.

I come across some students who have taken several academic courses of English in their native land then come to the school. And we have to put them in beginner level.

I can always tell if they've studied ESL before because they know a lot of vocabulary and verbs and such but couldn't string a sentence together if their life depended on it.

That's because they were taking classes that were more for academic rather than practical knowledge. (We hear stories of many Asian students who pass the TOEFL with high scores but cannot speak simple conversational English.)

And I say to that "what's the dang point?"

I have knowledge of this first hand. I took eight years of Spanish in high school and college. Got A's and B's. Do you know what happen when I got to Spain? Not only could I not speak the language, I couldn't even understand a word of it!

Oy vay! I felt like an idiot.


"Dying is easy, English is harder." --ESL Student

Is it really necessary to sweat and strain over putting together detailed English lesson plans?

No, it's not.

I think what is important is to have an arsenal of resources at your fingertips, a wide variety of things to choose from that you can access at a moment's notice.

I oftentimes don't really know exactly what I am going to do minutes before going into class. I have lots of things I CAN do so I just choose one...or maybe two...or perhaps three.

This might drive some teacher's crazy but I thrive on being spontaneous.

  • It's important to feel the class out. What you might want to do on one day might not be appropriate for the mood of the classroom.
  • Sometimes you might have to switch to something else midstream if you see the classroom's interest waning.
  • Frequently, my English lesson plans involve bringing in two or three possibilities for one day's class and choosing one on the spur of the moment after I've gotten a feel for the class.
  • At times I go in with a lesson already planned and we get into a conversation in class that's so interesting that my lesson plans goes out the window.
  • You have to be prepared to be flexible.


The importance of being current...

It's also important to bone up on current events... have some knowledge about many areas such as history, music, culture, other countries.

Your English lesson plans could include material from magazines:

  • National Geographic is a perfect resource for keeping up with culture and science and new discoveries. You can even use some of its articles in your upper intermediate and advanced classes.
  • Reader's Digest is a great resource for short stories, quotes, vocabulary, and jokes.
  • Time Magazine has a lot of one-pagers that you can use to keep up on current events and can spark interesting conversations.

Sometimes my English lesson plans might include articles from a business magazine just to give things more variety and for the students to get exposed to business English terms. (I use Fortune Small Business which comes free with an American Express business card.)

So let's get into some English lesson plans for the different levels of classes. This is mainly about what I do and what has worked for me in the past. Some schools may have as much as five or six levels of learning. At our school we have four.

ESL Lesson Plans for Beginner Students -- Level One

ESL Lesson Plans for Intermediate Students -- Level Two

ESL Lesson Plans for Upper Intermediate Students -- Level Three

ESL Lesson Plans for Advanced Students -- Level Four

Here are some ideas for things the student can do at home on an ongoing basis.

  • Read out loud 15 minutes a day but read pronouncing every sound of the word in an exaggerated way
  • Copy something while saying the words 15 minutes a day
  • Keep a journal and write at least one page a day of spontaneous writing without stopping.
  • Tongue Twisters


As I said before there are sites all over the Internet where you can find other ideas for easy ESL lesson plans. There are games to play, things to read, compositions to write. You are only limited by your imagination and willingness to experiment and try new things.

Take a look at this great resource I subscribe to for fun, engaging, up-to-date english teaching lesson plans based on ReutersŪ news articles for:

  • No stress lesson preparation
  • Complementing your ESL teaching with topical content
  • Motivating and inspiring your students
  • 9 exercises per lesson - reading, writing, grammar and listening.
  • Over 1,300 resources at 5 ability levels
  • Ease of preparation. Simply print and teach!

So in designing your English teaching lesson plans don't sweat it. Have fun. Look for ways you can be creative and engaging. Your students will love you for it.