Published 18th March 2016

For the majority of us, being in the classroom is the reason we love our jobs. Being with our students, working together on language issues, helping our students learn: we love teaching. Planning, though, is another story. Planning can take a lot of time, it can be frustrating and it can be boring, which brings us to the logical question: is it really necessary?

And we hate to say it, but yes, it is.

There are numerous reasons why we are taught on our TEFL course to plan our lessons and it’s hard to fault the logic behind it. However, planning need not be the painful experience it can turn out to be. Let’s look at a few ways planning for our TEFL lessons is necessary, but possibly not in the way that you thought.

Planning isn’t a piece of paper

Planning in the traditional sense of the word means writing a lesson plan in detail, with aims and procedures and justifications. In the end you have a 3-page document for a 60-minute lesson and it probably took you more time to write the plan than teach the lesson!

Instead, let’s think about the process of planning. Planning makes you identify the aims of the lesson and come up with the best way to get there. What’s important for you to know when you walk into the classroom, is what is going to happen that will result in your students learning. You do not need to think of the justifications or the theories behind what you are doing, because you have already considered that.

So why should your lesson be on a piece of paper? Some teachers find it adequate to scribble an action plan on a piece of scrap paper or on the side of the board or on their hand. Wherever you put it (if anywhere), as long as you know what you need to be doing, it still counts as planning.

Planning identifies problems before they happen

We plan so we know what we are doing in class. But we also plan so that we can think about what is going to happen in the class before it actually does. As teachers we naturally run through our plans in our head, rehearsing the different stages of the lesson. This is another reason we need to plan.

Thinking through our lessons beforehand helps us predict problems. We can anticipate any difficulties our learners may have and so think of solutions or ways to avoid them. This may be in terms of both classroom management and language learning issues.

Plans will never go exactly how you want, but should always end in the same place

Planning should not be set in stone

We all know how often our plans change halfway through the lesson, often for a reason we couldn’t have anticipated. Planning should be flexible and adaptable and by its very nature, then, it cannot be formally conceived before it has taken place.

It is one of our greatest skills as teachers that we can think on our feet and if a desire for or a perceived need to stick to a plan derails us from doing so, then that plan is fatally flawed.

Basically, planning is essential for a successful lesson, but rather focus on the principles of planning and consider why we plan than waste precious time figuring out how to put your ideas into a formal plan.