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Stages of an ESL/EFL lesson plan | How to design an ESL/EFL lesson

A good lesson plan should have a logical sequence of its stages. This avoids creating confusion among the learners. It is also important to design as many activities as possible for learners to practice the target language. This being said, this is how I think a good lesson plan should be structured.

In order to exemplify a lesson plan better, I have chosen a lesson where the learners have to write a story. The purpose of the lesson is to have students practicing past simple and past continuous tenses which for my Vietnamese learners seems to be very difficult. I would say, the lesson is suitable for learners of English at intermediate level.

The idea came out from the fact that I have to tell a story to my five year old daughter every evening. One evening I have to tell the story in Romanian language and the following evening I have to tell the English version of the same story. My wife takes care of the Vietnamese version of the story.

Stages of the lesson

Stage 1 – At the first stage, teacher asks learners about their favorite story. In the fortunate case, students volunteer to tell their favorite stories. Because is just a lead-in (or warm-up) stage, it shouldn’t take more than five minutes (maybe ten minutes if there are many volunteers who want to tell a story). It also depends on how long the lesson is (I usually have only 45 minutes lesson, so I keep the lead-in stage at five minutes). Personally, I don’t do any kind of corrections at this stage.

Stage 2 – The teacher gives out a short story and ask learners to underline examples of the past simple and past continuous. Here you can use different colors for underlining, one color for past simple and another color for past continuous. You can print the story on paper and give a sheet of paper to every student. The classrooms in the school I work for are “gifted” with projectors; this allows me to project the text directly on the board and have the students underlining the past simple and past continuous examples on the board.

Stage 3 – At the third stage, the teacher should clarify the form of past simple and past continuous with examples (for example: he sang/he was singing) on the board. The rules of using past simple and past continuous should be pointed out at this stage. It is a good idea not to point out which rule goes with past simple and which one goes with past continuous (I have seen this practice in many books). Then, have the students matching the rules with the underlined examples.

Stage 4 – A simple practical task is welcome at the fourth stage. This can be a simple task such as filling the blanks with the appropriate verb in the correct form. It is important to have an easy task here to build the students confidence. Here, the teacher can ask students to work in pairs and check their answers in pairs. The feedback has to be provided.

Stage 5 – If the time allows, the teacher can choose one more task, a little bit more difficult than the first one. If the topic is easy for the students then the teacher can skip this second task. We don’t want to have the students doing the same boring tasks over and over again. At this stage, the teacher asks questions to check understanding.

Stage 6 – At the sixth stage, the teacher divides the class into groups (preferably, the number of students in each group to be equal to the number of groups to make the next stage easier). Each group has to make up a story. Working in groups is easier for them, they can help each other and of course they feel more confident talking to a student than talking to the teacher. Teacher’s help and corrections are welcome at this stage.

Stage 7 – Once the students have completed the story, the teacher can form other groups (this time, a student from each group makes up a new group). In each group, the learners tell each other their stories.


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