Boy scout plan

This is how I felt after my three lessons today;

Okay, nearly 4 weeks in and I had a bad day. I shouldn’t complain really, but I had prepared, I had planned, I had made notes, yet for all three lessons I seemed to be scrambling to keep my head above water, for one reason or another.

I was wondering whether it was how I had planned. Did I give myself enough time? Did I think about their needs? Did I write my lesson plan out in such a way that I could easy snatch a glance and see exactly what was coming next? Should I be more explicit with my timing? The questions are endless. I know more or less what went wrong and what I need to do and I’m sure that some of it comes down to how I plan, but the idea of how we plan and how much time we spend planning has been something I have been thinking about for a while. So, I’m going to throw the question out there; How do you plan? Is there a special place you go to? Is there a set amount of time? Is there a specific set of procedures you work through?

All thoughts welcome.


17 thoughts on “Boy scout plan

  1. Hi Adam,

    These days, I plan what will be covered for the next week in an afternoon with my colleagues (we all teach the same material, more or less). Then I spend two or three hours sourcing material and creating a handout with a teacher’s version for everyone. I plan nothing about the timing of an activity beyond the fact that it needs to be covered in the classes I have that week. I go with the flow in the class itself, because I can never truly know how long one lesson or another will take until I do it and see where the trouble lies. I could, likely, reflect on the timing of my presentation of a particular skill, but that’s about it.

    As I do enjoy creating materials, I don’t pay much attention to how long that takes me. It depends on the material, really, and how much time I have available to create it. Still, I only create a handout and/or PPT, with an answer key. No timings written down. No groupings. No detailed lesson plan. Usually, I do this in my den at home.


    • Hi Tyson,
      Sorry for the late reply.
      Its great that you have an afternoon dedicated to planning with your colleagues. In the school I teach at, the staff is so large and the variety of levels is so wide that it can be difficult to get together with someone and talk about a particular lesson or topic.
      I also don’t worry too much about timing and worrying about how long each activity will take, although recently I have noticed that I am not getting through as much in some of my classes due to spending more time on making sure the sts are happy and confident in using what we have been speaking about.
      I spend a lot of time taking tasks and activities out of the book and making sometimes dry topics and coursebooks more lively and engaging.
      I love the fact that you have your own den to plan in. I need one of those.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment.


  2. Hi Adam,

    Good question. I think I try and have whatever stimuli I’m going to take into class more or less sorted about a week before the class. I like using open ended stuff, if I can, as this doesn’t limit me to preconceived targets for any lesson, and I can go from wherever the students are in that particular lesson at that particular moment. So really, I don’t produce lots of worksheets, etc. for my lessons. This may be something I lack though, as I am thinking more and more that some students want ‘something’ to take away from a lesson, and if they’re not getting handouts, then it’s not a proper lesson. I know that is slightly flawed on their part, but perhaps I should support a bit more, as they might lack the necessary noticing or note-taking skills to make the most of my lessons. Anyway, getting side-tracked.

    I’d say that planning a session in my head takes anywhere between 15 minutes to 2 hours. However, whatever amount of time I’ve spent planning, it doesn’t actually crystallise in my head until just before a lesson (perhaps the day before). Recently, I haven’t dwelt much on the possible quality of my lessons, or whether I’m actually giving the students what they need (frank admission) as I’m just about keeping my head above all the other rubbish that college and FE is throwing at me at the moment! =(

    • Hi Mike,

      Interesting point about the note taking. I have been hammering my Proficiency sts about noting down collocations and vocab recently, as well as my teenage FCE group. It seems as though the large vocab lists that end up on the WB at the end of the board sometimes go to waste and I have tried, but not fully implemented, taking photos of each board and going back to the vocab but it doesn’t always happen.
      Yes, quality is always at the forefront of my mind. I hate having to meet targets, reach a certain point in the book and make sure sts have covered everything to be ready for the exam, but it seems that it is more important and ultimately expected here in my new school. With this at the back of my mind, I have a tendency to push on even when i know we should wait that little bit longer and solidify the knowledge.

      Thanks for the comment as always. Might be tapping you up for DELTA tips soon.


  3. I don’t really have a set place or length of time but I like to get an idea of what I will do in every lessons that week on Sunday afternoon/night and then change as the week goes on depending on how quickly they deal with the problems.
    I don’t really know how long I spend on each lesson now I’ll have to observe myself!

    • Hi Chris,

      Did you manage to observe?
      What has been worrying me is the amount of time I spend planning and getting everything ready. I enjoy planning and seeing where the lesson is possibly going to go and what might happen, I just wish it would get easier and quicker.


      • I did and I have to say that I vary a lot at the moment. With the kids I find I spend about 30 mins to an hour (following the course books quite closely) for teenagers and adults the higher the group the less time I take and the more willing I am to go “Off plan” and unplug, (having said that I usually have a language point ready in case) with the beginner groups I actually don’t need to prepare as much as the elementary groups as I am more familiar with the language points and have “set lessons” in the back of my mind when I come to them. The elementary ones seem to take the most time as I usually create resources for the different groups. Of course it varies but this is my general rule.
        I think that planning is one of those things that “takes as long as it is given” if you have ten minutes then you can be ready (not brilliantly but still) and if you have 2 days then you can spend the whole time planning if you want. (there’s some term for this that I can’t remember)

  4. Hi Adam,
    First, commiserations, everyone of us has a headbanger of a bad day now and then. On the planning side, I do spend a lot of time thinking about the lesson coming up, but as a task-based language teacher I always have the TBL cycle at the heart of what I do. It really helps me with timing because being a cycle you can, in your mind’s eye, superimpose the stages onto a clock face. So I might (in a 90 minute lesson) start off with a discussion framework or brainstorming activity (15’) which leads into the task (20’) followed by feedback and language work (35’). That leaves me with 20 minutes for a follow-up task. These timings are only approximate, the great thing about a cycle is that it’s dynamic so certain phases can be slowed down or sped up as required.

    Regarding materials, I try to use them lightly because I want as much as possible to use my participants as a resource – nevertheless, because I’ve done that thinking-in-advance, support is always close at hand. This could be physical support in the form of a handout or ‘phrases for’ sheet, or something stored in my head for an on-the-spot language explanation. When I go into a classroom I am like a magician going on stage, primed for any eventuality. My coat is bulging with budgies and rabbits, my cheeks are stuffed with silk scarves. Metaphorically speaking of course!

    My tuppenceworth… Tom

  5. The worst thing about plans is that they depress you when they don’t go accordingly. As much as you may feel you’ve got everything sorted in your own head, you always have to realize that there are those other people in the room with you who didn’t have the same plan in mind when they entered the classroom.

    As the famous Brazilian footballer Garrincha once said, when the manager was talking about how the opposition would play: ‘Coach, has anyone told *them* that this is how they’re going to play?’
    the studemts might not be the opposition, but you should nevertheless allow for the fact that they will also influence how things go as much if not more than you.

    • Hi Adam,

      Good quote from Garrincha and very relevant for learners of any subject. That unpredictability is what makes teaching so great but can also be a teachers downfall and nemesis.
      I am trying hard to react to all the questions and doubts that come up in lessons but at times this tends to slow things down and we never really get through what I planned and this makes me wonder if i should plan less and react more. As an inexperienced teacher this is quite difficult, despite last years experiment which was amazing, but still required a lot of thinking before hand.
      I want my lessons to me more free flowing and dogme-esque but there is so much I don’t know and still need to work on.

      A pleasure, as always Adam


  6. Pingback: How do you plan your classes? |

  7. Great topic, one which is worrying me now as well as you!

    This year’s work represents a big change from last year, with mostly secondary-school kids. That means that I’ve been trying to sort out a sketch overall syllabus which will hopefully do me for the year.

    So I’m trying to find out what the balance will be between fluency/usage/practice (ie what I want to teach them) and grammar/reading/exam technique (ie what their parents want.) I’m, also trying to assess their ability without discouraging them too early.

    Rightly or wrongly, what I find myself doing is underplanning during autumn; I find it makes things harder in terms of having to improvise more, but it does force me to listen more.

    Don’t know if that’s any help. Keep posting!

    • Hi Alan,

      Thanks for the comment and visiting the blog.

      Sorry i made you worry.

      Balance seems to be the key word. Be it for time, materials, fluency, accuracy and so on. Underplanning seems like an interesting tactic. Obviously it keeps you on your toes and allows for a more flexible lesson.
      As with everything in teaching, it is an ongoing development and constantly trying out new things to keep one step ahead.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment.


  8. Oct 24th??? They must have shot me out to space and left me there for 3 months!
    Planning. Lessons. Good planning doesn’t result in good lessons nor are good lessons a result of good planning. I think you know that, old boy. Only thing you can do is, like the scout you are, to be prepared to seize good opportunities.

    I’m surprised to see quite a few planning a week in advance. Boy, I wish I could do that! I go from lesson to lesson, and I don’t have time for much else. I plan at home, on my chaotic desk, on my PC. Not a detailed plan, more like a list of things to do or can be done. I estimate timing so that I don’t fall short. Normally, I have some leftovers. I use PPT a lot. Sometimes I just beam images and instructions, or just instructions, not say much and let the students get along with it.

    Planning is crucial for me in the sense that it’s something for me to fall back on, a guide to my path of the day, but, if I “see” something exciting along the way, I change the route freely. Planning, of course, is more than just writing what you would like to do for the lesson. It means thinking of materials and ideas, among other things, and sometimes, inspiration takes a holiday. Time? I think I spend all my waking hours planning and thinking about the classes 😦

    Have I answered your question, I wonder…

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