There are as many ways to plan a lesson as there are lessons. Here are some types of lesson planning from a teacher who has prepared and taught her fair share of classes.

Lesson planning is one of the most fundamental skills of teaching. Whether you’ve taken a CELTA course, TEFL course, or have only your hard-earned experience under your belt, newbies and seasoned teachers alike know it’s necessary to have some type of plan before entering the classroom.

For some, this “plan” might mean knowing which pages you intend to cover, and that’s the end of it- you’re ready to go. For others, you’ll have spent all night thinking of the activities, timing, and even scripting exactly what you want to say. Which way is right and which way is wrong? Is there even a “correct” way to lesson plan?

Before we explore the different options of lesson planning, let’s take a look at some of the typical elements you might find in a complete plan-

  • Objectives and aims
  • Stages
  • Exercises
  • Timing
  • Student interactions
  • Extra activities
  • Follow-up questions
  • Feedback strategies

As you can see, complete lesson plans are a lot of work and include a lot of different aspects. You won’t usually include all of these in your personal plans, and even if you do, the end result may look something like notes rather than extended details. The only time teachers usually choose to use all these elements and their coinciding details is when there is a formal observation to take place, or for a professional development course.

So, what are your options? Every teacher plans slightly differently, and it’s okay to try out a new approach every once in a while to see what works best for you. When you are teaching full time, or even part time with other obligations, you’ll want to ultimately get into a routine of planning to maximise your effectiveness in the classroom without spending a tonne of time outside preparing. This may not always be possible depending on your comfort level and personal style, but hopefully the following suggestions will have you headed in the right direction.

New to teaching? This might be helpful, too: Top Teaching Tips for First-Time Teachers

The Complete Plan

There is absolutely nothing wrong with writing out a complete plan for every class. This would be something like was mentioned above that is normally used for formal observations. This method is especially recommended for teachers who are just starting out, but in reality can be created by anyone who prefers to be very structured, organised, and prepared. Using a template is probably the best way to go about making a complete plan. Many of these templates can be found through a simple Google search.

This is the type of plan our Shane English School teachers are taught to use, but it’s mostly used for training and observation purposes.


  • You know exactly what you want to achieve and how you are going to do it.
  • You always have your plan to fall back on if you get sidetracked in class or can’t remember what’s next.
  • Lot’s of premeditating and preparation can easily lead to successful lessons.


  • It’s very time-consuming.
  • Very structured plans usually don’t allow for flexibility or “going with the flow” in the moment a curiosity arises from a student or the class.
  • It can lead to burnout.

The Essentials

Having only the essentials may differ from teacher to teacher depending on what “essentials” mean to them. Often times, these types of plans have all the elements of a complete plan, but in place of writing everything out, there may simply be a note or two next to each stage or activity, instead of the whole procedure.


  • You have still put much thought into how the class will flow.
  • You have many of the components needed for a comprehensive plan.


  • Depending on your given materials, a lot of time is still spent here.

Most of the time, Shane English School teachers will use a method similar to this one for everyday lesson planning, though individual teacher styles differ, and so does their planning method.

The Timeline

Using a timeline to dictate your classes is a good way of ensuring that everything that needs to get done will. Here’s a quick example of what a timeline plan would look like.

  1. 1-1:10 Warm Up- Greetings. Play a vocabulary game using the words from the last lesson.
  2. 1:10-1:25 Present Topic- Lead in. Discuss the past simple. Go through examples and ask concept checking questions.
  3. 1:25-1:35 Guided practice activities- Do exercises in the textbook in pairs. Review answers together.
  4. Etc…


  • You know what should be happening at all times.
  • There is good structure to the class.
  • It’s not too time-consuming to create.


  • New teachers may have difficulty gauging time.
  • Possible flexibility issues.

The To-Do List

Making a “to-do” list is one of the simpler ways to plan, and it’s up to the teacher as to how effective it will be. It’s just like it sounds: make a lists of the things you want/need to do in class in the order that you’ll be doing them. You can put as much or as little detail as you desire.


  • Quick and easy.
  • Serves as a checklist.


  • There’s not much thought into procedure.
  • It could lead to a feeling of being unprepared.

On the Fly

Winging it in the classroom is a method that some teachers do use. Whether it’s because there was no time to plan or they prefer to let the students dictate the class the entire time, teaching a class on the fly can easily and quickly go both ways. It could be wildly successful or an utter disaster, and chances are if you choose this way on a consistent basis, you will experience both.

Ultimately, you need to find a way of planning that fits your style. What would make you feel most comfortable and secure before walking into the classroom? Having a plan and being flexible with that plan is a great way to start. Planning is vital to the outcome of a lesson, but teaching and learning are very practical and realistic practices. Striking a balance is the key.

Want some structure for your lesson plan? Check this out: What Is the PPP Method of Teaching English?

 About the Author

Yvette Smith is a teacher based in Vietnam and a freelance writer.

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