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Lesson Plan Format


Student with a teacher in a classroom

Teaching English, like teaching any subject, requires lesson plans. Many books and curricula provide advice on teaching English learning materials presented. However, most ESL teachers like to mix up there lesson plans by including their own lesson plans. Sometimes, teachers are required to create their own lesson plans when teaching ESL or EFL at international institutions that are scattered throughout the world. In order to help teachers starting out, I've created a simple template to ESL lesson plans which can you can start with as you begin to write your own ESL lesson plans for your classes.

There are many different approaches to teaching English. However, most of these plans tend to follow this standard lesson plan format.


  1. Warm-up
  2. Presentation
  3. Controlled practice
  4. Free practice
  5. Feedback

This lesson plan format is popular for many reasons including:

  • Students have a number of chances to learn a concept through various means
  • Students have plenty of time to practice
  • Teachers can give detailed instruction, or students can deduce structures and learning points through practice
  • The standard lesson plan format provides structure
  • It provides for variation over the course of 60 - 90 minutes
  • This lesson plan format moves from teacher centered to student centered learning

Variations on the Lesson Plan Format Theme

In order to keep this standard lesson plan format from becoming boring, it is important to remember that there are a number of variations that can be applied within the various segments of the lesson plan format.


Students might arrive late, tired, stressed or otherwise distracted to class. In order to get their attention, it's best to open with a warm-up activity. The warm-up can be as simple as telling a short story or asking students questions. The warm-up can also be a more thought-out activity such as playing a song in the background, or drawing an elaborate picture on the board. While it's fine to start a lesson with a simple "How are you", it's much better to tie your warm-up into the theme of the lesson.


The presentation can take a variety of forms:


  • Reading selection
  • Soliciting students' knowledge about a specific point
  • Teacher centered explanation
  • Listening selection
  • Short video
  • Student presentation

The presentation should include the main "meat" of the lesson. For example: If you are working on phrasal verbs, make the presentation by providing a short reading extract peppered with phrasal verbs.

Controlled practice

The controlled practice section of the lesson provides students direct feedback on their comprehension of the task at hand. Generally, controlled practice involves some type of exercise. Remember that an exercise doesn't necessarily mean dry, rote exercises, although these can be used as well. Controlled practice should help the student focus on the main task and provide them with feedback - either by the teacher or other students.

Free practice

Free practice integrates the focus structure / vocabulary / functional language into students' overall language use. Free practice exercises often encourage students to use the target language structures in:


  • Small group discussions
  • Written work (paragraphs and essays)
  • Longer listening comprehension practice
  • Games

The most important aspect of free practice is that students should be encouraged to integrate language learned into larger structures. This requires more of a "stand-off" approach to teaching. It's often useful to circulate around the room and take notes on common mistakes. In other words, students should be allowed to make more mistakes during this part of the lesson.


Feedback allows students to check their understanding of the lesson's topic. Feedback can be done quickly at the end of class by asking students questions about the target structures. Another approach is to have students discuss the target structures in small groups, once again giving students the chance to improve their understanding on their own.

Lesson Plan Format: A Final Word

In general, I think it is important to use this lesson plan format to facilitate students' English learning on their own. The more opportunity for student centered learning, the more students acquire language skills for themselves.

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