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The dos and don’ts of TEFL lesson planning

The art of TEFL lesson planning is something that all new teachers will need to get used to. No matter if you’re heading off to Thailand to take classes of smiling children on the edge of the Andaman Sea, or hitting the straight-laced business English schools of Buenos Aires, all your language sessions are going to involve at least a little forward thinking. Here’s a selection of dos and don’ts for when it comes to that important phase…


TEFL lesson planning
Classroom | © joan vila/Flickr


Don’t over-plan


TEFL lesson planning fits the old adage that you should be careful what you wish for. Yes, it would be nice to storm through 14 pages of the English textbook and check off gerunds and nouns and past participles all in the same session, and we’ve no doubt your nifty teaching skills – courtesy of myTEFL, of course – mean you could do it. But overdoing it in a lesson plan leads to all sorts of problems. For one, the things you teach will need to sink in to be effective. And then there’s the added panic it brings to proceedings – you don’t want to be steaming through activities that are proving useful just because you’ve 10 more on the schedule.


Don’t under-plan


One of the most common mistakes that new teachers commit when they enter a TEFL school abroad for the first time is the dastardly under-plan. Even the most improvisational among us couldn’t string together an effective lesson off the hoof, which is why a thought-out set of activities for every class is a must. They don’t need to be tomes like War and Peace – see above. But they should offer a clear skeleton to what’s going to be done during the time period. Which neatly leads us to…


TEFL lesson planning
Study | © Caleb Roenigk/Flickr


Do have learning goals


The importance of setting clear learning goals can’t be overstated. It’s totally up to you how you do it. Some teachers like to write them straight on the whiteboard as soon as they stroll in. Others will prefer to introduce them surreptitiously with a lead-in activity. Others will try to elicit their class aim directly from students – we’re looking at the clever ones. The upshot is that your students get a coherent set of aims for the upcoming session, whether that means a basic understanding of the past simple tense, or an advanced grasp of modal verbs. And it means that you’ll have an outline for your TEFL lesson planning from the outset, allowing you to hone in on the activities and skills that really matter.


Do be careful when recycling plans


This one’s especially important for teachers who are taking younger classes – you know, the ones who could spot a rejigged, rehashed game anywhere and will simply repay you with zero participation, or, worse, bad behaviour to boot! Yep, recycling plans might be one way to save time, and it’s actually an uber-useful tool in a TEFL teacher’s arsenal, but you’ll need to be careful you don’t simply go over the same lessons a particular class has had in the past. Good communication with other colleagues and study planners in your school should help with that.


TEFL lesson planning
Planning | © yoppy/Flickr


Do leave plenty of Student Talk Time


Often hailed as the holy grail of English tutoring, Student Talk Time (or just STT for short) refers to any periods in the lesson when you manage to get your learners chatting in English. Now this doesn’t even need to be related to the target language to be effective, because it helps to reinforce past learning goals, too. That makes it an uber-important addition to any class, so have it right at the forefront of your mind when you come to do that TEFL lesson planning.



If you’re an expert at TEFL lesson planning and have any more dos and don’ts to add to this list, we’d love to hear about them in the comments below. Or, if you think it’s time you finally got TEFL qualified and hit the classroom, be sure to check out myTEFL’s range of courses.





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