Don’t cry over the unplanned lesson

We all know how overwhelming a lesson (especially the first one) can be. We have all stepped into the students’ shoes, so why don’t we make their, and consequently our lives easier?

In order to do so, I always follow some specific steps when planning a lesson, and I will share them with you.

To start with, I need to know what the lesson’s objective(s) will be. Here, I use the cliché sentence: “By the end of this lesson students will be better able to …”. At this point, I have to be very thorough about what students are supposed to achieve, otherwise, anything that is taught may get lost. I compare this “choosing of a topic” to a title of an essay, which is supposed to be written once you have finished your story.

In order to accomplish that, I go through the following checklist:

  • What language am I going to teach? (Vocabulary? Grammar?)
  • What skills (speaking, listening, reading, and writing) are going to be used in order to teach #1?
  • Am I going to use a video? An article? A listening file? A sample writing?
  • Where am I going to find the material #3?

Once I have decided on all of the above, I start the planning, per se. For this, I have to have the steps clearly set in my mind:

  1. Presenting the topic of the lesson to the students, and remembering to revisit it at the end of the lesson.
  2. Introducing the topic – asking questions related to it.
  3. Setting the scene – asking meaningful questions towards the topic, linking it to the next stage.
  4. Working with the skill chosen and the stages it entails.


  1. Pre-teaching vocabulary (if necessary)
  2. Pre-reading/listening (gist task)
  3. Reading or listening
  4. Feedback
  5. While reading/listening (detailed task)
  6. Second reading or listening
  7. Feedback
  8. Post-reading/listening (follow-up)
  9. Recycle vocabulary acquired (extension task)


  1. It is important to have a variety of real transactional and interactional tasks
  2. Pre-teaching vocabulary/ expressions or discourse features (if necessary)
  3. Preparation and rehearsal
  4. The first communicative task can be focused on fluency.
  5. The second communicative task can focus on language/skills/strategies
  6. Students can examine or assess their own or their peer’s performances or even transcripts of how the task can be carried out.
  7. Repeat the speaking task
  8. The teacher provides feedback on their performance.


  1. Discussing what is genre and what genre is going to be used
  2. Generating ideas – brainstorming
  3. Focus on a sample text
  4. Organising ideas generated
  5. Writing
  6. Peer Evaluation (1)
  7. Reviewing/cleaning (1)
  8. Writing the second draft (if necessary)
  9. Peer Evaluation (2) (if necessary)
  10. Reviewing/cleaning (2) (if necessary)
  11. Writing the third draft (if necessary)


  1. (This is my favourite) Students reflect on what they have learned and difficulties they may have encountered.
  2. Revisit the topic of the lesson

As mentioned before, planning a lesson may not only help the students but also ourselves. And as the title suggests, it’s better planning a lesson, than being sorry.





Reading Suggestion:

Brown, G and G.Yule. 1983. Teaching the Spoken Language. Cambridge University Press

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Beatriz Solino de Francisco

Beatriz holds the Cambridge Train the Trainer and the DELTA Mods II and III(Teaching Exam Lessons). She has a Licentiate’s degree in English Language from PUC SP (2007). CPE level of proficiency and she has been teaching for 15 years. She is an Academic and Pedagogic Coordinator. She is currently doing a Company Management MBA at FGV.

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