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Creating lesson plans is something that is always on the minds of teachers, whether they be fresh-faced novices or seasoned veterans of the craft. Lesson plans can be considered the backbone of education: what you prepare is what your students receive. It can be difficult to know what information to include, what sequence to organize everything, and if anything even makes sense to begin with.

Is the information you’re preparing exactly what your students need in order to most effectively learn? Will they be engaged in the material? Will they be able to process the presentation in a way that enables them to truly learn it, instead of merely repeating words back to you during the lesson and then forgetting once the class ends?

Below, I detail a standard lesson plan format for a TEFL classroom, as well as some additional advice and potential resources to help you as you create the best lessons for your students.

Rote style learning is an educational technique that, though it warrants some merit, comes under criticism. Essentially, “rote style learning” is the practice of having your learners repeat information back to you under the pretense that this will help them learn new vocabulary. For example, imagine yourself teaching a classroom of young learners: you display an image of a red car, state, “Red car,” and your students repeat, “Red car.” The end. This is a very ineffective teaching method. However, it does manage to at least scratch the surface of what you ought to be doing in your TEFL classes. There is of course value in getting your students to begin using applicable vocabulary, as in the example with the red car. The key, though, is to get your students to a point where they can authentically use the vocabulary in coherent conversation.

The five stages of a typical TEFL lesson plan: Presentation, Practice, Product, Review, Prize

My company and my school do in fact value a rote style system when it comes to teaching the young students I work with (fourth-graders at 9-10 years old; fifth-graders at 10-11 years old). Working with the issues I know regarding a rote style, I aim to balance the style with a more authentic educational process. The balance allows for a rather typical lesson plan procedural format, which goes as follows: Presentation – Practice – Product – Review – Prize (also known as “Four Ps and an R”).

Presentation

Presentation is the first stage of the process and, as such, ought to be the first component of your lesson plan. (Note, you should certainly include two or three “routine” steps before the Presentation stage – your introduction to each lesson where you greet your students, review the classroom rules, and show the day’s objectives to your students; you should also briefly review the previous class’ information if you feel necessary. This all should only take about three to five minutes.)

During presentation, you will present the new information that you are aiming to have your students learn and master by the end of the day’s lesson. This is the one section of the lesson where I am comfortable applying a rote style learning system. For young learners such as mine, there is value in having them practice the pronunciation of new vocabulary, see the spelling, and see how the terms are used in context. My most recent lesson for my fourth-grade classes focused on sports. As such, I present a number of slides with the names and images of various sports, as well as some brief, informative sentences about the sports in language simple enough for the students to understand.

Practice

Following Presentation, move onto Practice. During this segment, your students should be beginning to put the new vocabulary to use. They do not have to be using it perfectly during this stage. Rather, this is your opportunity to clarify any confusion and correct any mispronunciations. In other words, this is when their learning really begins. Offer a few relevant model sentences as examples of ways that students can employ the vocabulary in real-world context. For example, teaching about sports in China, I’ve used the following to have students practice the language in a context that applies to them: “Yao Ming is a great basketball player from China who played in America. He is very tall.” Simple syntax that allows young learners to employ the language while discussing something they are familiar with is a great step.

Product

Next, students should begin the Product stage of the lesson. Product is the stage during which your students can begin to more authentically and personally utilize the new vocabulary. This section allows for a lot of flexibility in how you aim to present it to students, as well as to how they utilize it. One of my favorite methods with this stage is to have students work in pairs or groups to develop a role play dialogue wherein they use as much of the new vocabulary as they can. Students enjoy this “game” because it puts the reins in their hands. It tends to bring a lot of fun and interesting variety to your classroom, as different groups of students will offer greatly varying role plays!

Review

As you approach the end of your lesson, introduce the Review segment of your lesson plan. During Review, you should reiterate the earlier Presentation and Practice segments while making sure to clarify any lasting confusion. Review should aim to be brief, though also thorough. Do your best to go over all the necessary information in a concise manner (in other words, avoid any extra “fluff” during Review). For many students, this is the most critical portion of a lesson. Some students will have needed more time to process the new vocabulary and information. Review is their opportunity for everything to click; It is their “Aha!” moment.

Prize

Lastly, if appropriate, allow time for a Prize component. Prizes can be offered to classes that demonstrated good behavior and efforts during the lesson. Be careful to not always offer prizes; your students will begin only focusing on getting the prize candy or watching the prize movie clip, rather than focusing on their learning. Further, if you are cramped for time, do not rush to get to the Prize segment, even if your class has been very well behaved. The prior four stages are more valuable than this one. In other words, use your judgment and discretion. Soon enough, you will be very good at balancing who does and does not deserve a prize for their efforts and when it is best to offer the prize.

Resources and Materials

Now that you know how to organize standard TEFL lesson plans, you may be wondering where to go for resources and materials. Early on in your teaching career, do not shy away from searching the internet for relevant lesson plans and materials – there are plenty available! However, do be sure to edit the original materials to apply to your classes and teaching style.

You want to take the materials and resources you find and “make them your own.” Do not simply copy and paste someone else’s lesson and pawn it off as your own. Also, ask the other English teachers at your school for resources and ideas. They will likely be quick to provide you with useful textbooks and materials that you can implement into your lessons. Once you have modeled a few lessons after others’ materials, you will grow familiar with what they ought to look like and soon enough you will be making your own from scratch!

Putting organization, materials, and creativity together in TEFL lesson plans

Implementing relevant materials and resources into a standard “Four Ps and an R” lesson plan will allow you to address your learners’ needs and educate them effectively. While it all may sound a bit formulaic, do not shy away from adding your own flair of creativity to the lessons. Follow a certain structure, but also trust yourself to have fun in creating effective lessons. If you enjoy the planning process, your students will enjoy the learning process!

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SDE International - Shenzhen

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About the Author:

Brendan O'Shea
Brendan O'Shea is an EFL teacher, freelance writer, and wannabe world traveler living in Shenzhen, China. Between exploring new destinations, Brendan enjoys reading, playing chess, and following sports. Follow his teaching and traveling journey on Twitter and Instagram, or read up on his experiences on his personal blog: Teach and Travels!
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