The Teacher’s Survival Kit for Lesson Planning! Tips & 1000s of Free Lesson Plans

Goal 16: Plan An Engaging Lesson of The 30 Goals Challenge for Educators

 I cannot teach anybody anything, I can only make them think. – Socrates

Lesson planning is stressful and time-consuming, but is important in giving us an action plan for the entire school year. The way we design our curriculums and the activities we use will determine how successful our learners will be in grasping new knowledge. Lesson design and planning is important. We have our often mandated objectives as the seeds of our curriculum. They act as the vision, goals, and foundation. From the objectives, spring forth activities and ideas. They are the roots of our curriculum. Within the garden of learning is the students’ gained knowledge put into use. We can have very colorful and robust gardens of learning if we plan lessons and activities that support creativity, hands-on and real-world learning. At the same time, I realize that many of us have to ensure students pass tests and achieve learning objectives. The design of our lessons can help us achieve both. However, I realize that many of us lack the time in designing lessons to meet every objective. Luckily, I’ve been connected to 1000s of great educators on social media for the last 3 years and have found various free lesson plans. The idea is we can use some of these great ideas then we will also have the time to design other lessons with enthusiasm versus being burnt out trying to design fantastic lessons for each class. I hope you will find the following tips and resources valuable in the forthcoming school year!  The majority of these lesson plans have a focus on teaching language learners because that is my subject area but many of the resources also have lesson plans for various subjects. Tweak to match the needs of your students. Watch the recording of my recent webinar on this topic here!

A Few Tips …

When planning a lesson, I think we need to keep objectives in mind but there are other factors that make up a great lesson. Anthony Gaughin conducted a fantastic webinar on this topic that you can access here. He talks about a GREAT lesson having these elements:

G- group dynamic

R- relevance to learners’ lives and needs

E-emergent language and ideas focus

A- attentiveness

T- thoughtfulness

To this list I would add flexibility. We need to leave room in our lessons for our students to take the learning where it needs to go. Access his slide presentation here to discover more! We can use Anthony’s thoughts as a basis for designing lessons that engage students.


Some of us will need a framework from which to build our lessons. Some of us need more structure, while others can map out our ideas. As an experienced teacher, I prefer less framework and I like to map out my lesson. The problem with relying too much on a structured lesson is that it leaves no room for flexibility. However, I could appreciate learning to structure lessons and design them to a tee in order to build confidence and learn what I should prepare for mentally.

Structured Templates:

Another idea:

Map our your lesson plan in a mindmap

More Lesson Planning Tips:

1000s of Free Lesson Plans

Here are a few places to find free lesson plans to teach English in any subject or to any age level! You can also access these in my PearlTree of Bookmarked Sites. The PearlTree will be updated regularly as I come across more lesson plan databases.

Lesson Plan Sites for Other Subject Areas

Bookmarked Resources

Lesson Plan Resources ELT and Teach Meet International Online 2012 in Shelly Sanchez Terrell (shellyterrell)
Every Friday I conduct a Free Webinar thanks to American TESOL. Please check the Livebinder for times, video archives, and more.

The 30 Goals Challenge for Educators

As part of The 30 Goals Challenge I would like to inspire you to accomplish these goals:

Short-term- Design at least one lesson plan differently than you have in the past. Incorporate Anthony’s ideas and don’t spend tons of time planning. Instead, focus on jotting your ideas down in a mindmap or in a way that leaves room for your students to take the learning where they want to go. Eventually, you’ll get used to not planning every minute of your lesson and you will find you have much more free time!

Long-term- Make it a habit to map out lessons versus spending tons of time on the template and details of the lesson. Reflect on how implementing these changes helps you grow as an educator. Also, note the impact on your students.

Important News

  • Lisa Dabbs and I have decided to change the hashtag to #30GoalsEdu.
  • This year we are focusing on 1 to 2 goals a week in order to have time to really reflect on the tasks and respond to each other’s posts and enhance our support system for each other.
  • Check out my Pinterests for other posts with this goal or ask me to add yours!

Did you reflect on this goal? Please leave a comment that you accomplished this goal by either posting your own video reflection on Youtube, using the hashtag #30GoalsEDU, posting on the 30 Goals Facebook group, adding a post to the GooglePlus page, or adding a comment below!

Be inspired with these Inspirational songs, videos, quotes, and more on my Pinterest board, Inspiration for World Changers!


Try any of these lesson plans this year and tell us how it went.

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Interview: Tyson & Rocco Seburn & the Klingon Scandal

Tyson and Rocco

Tyson Seburn (@seburnt) is an incredibly multi-talented ELT star in our Personal/Passionate Learning Network! In Canada, he stays busy running his own website, CourseTree, managing an industry book distributor, conducting webinars, and teaching in the International Foundation Program at University of Toronto. Avid tweeter and blogger, his current area of interest is purposeful integration of online technology in the classroom. When Brad Patterson challenged us to interview our PLN, I quickly jumped at interviewing Tyson because we share a common bond, parents of doggy kiddos who have their own Facebook page. As the mommy of a social media puggy, Rosco, I understand the challenges Tyson must face as the proud daddy of a mini pincher socialite, Rocco. After our interview, Rosco decided to conduct his own interview with Rocco.

The 5 Standard Questions

For this challenge, each of us asks the following questions:

  • If your students were to label you with 3 adjectives, what might they be?
  • What would we find in your refrigerator right now?
  • If you weren’t a teacher, what might your profession be?
  • What do you find most difficult about the teaching profession?
  • What was the last book/movie you read/saw, and what have you seen/read way too many times?

Pt I Video Interview With Tyson

In this interview be warned that Tyson and Rocco have caused a scandal within the Star Trek community! You’ll have to watch to find out how!

Pt II Video: Rosco’s Interview With Rocco

Find out the secrets of being a socialite dog. Rosco, the pug, gets the dirty scoop! No pun intended ;-)

Other entries in this Blog Challenge:


Interview a member of your PLN! Make sure you ask the same 5 questions then put your own spin to it.

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Just Some Good Ol’ ELT Pedagogy & Practice #TESOLFr Highlights

Part 2 of 3 TESOL France Highlights

The TESOL France conference was one of the best conferences I have attended and so full of information that it’s taking 3 posts! A great thanks to TESOL France president, Bethany Cagnol (@bethcagnol) and the other conference organizers for planning such an amazing line-up of speakers! In this post, I focus on pedagogy and classroom activities that don’t involve hi-tech tools. Many of these presentations were given by our  ELT Twitter PLN.

Poster Presentations

Multiple Intelligences in ELT by Vladimira Michalkova- Check out this colorful poster created by Vladka (@vladkaslniecko), a teacher from Slovakia! She was such a joy to talk to on my journey to the airport and she has very interesting ideas on how to engage learners!
Complexity Theory and ELT by Willy C. Cardoso- Check out this amazing document with links and the accompanying handout that really causes deep reflection. Willy is a deep thinker so if you want to discuss this further feel free to tweet him, @willycard.


At Evas Workshop!
At Eva's Workshop!

Warmers, Fillers and improvisations in EFL Classrooms by Eva Büyüksimkeşyan- I really enjoyed Eva’s(@evab2001) hands-on approach to showing us some innovative lessons to get students using English in a creative way. The lessons she shared inspire students to reflect, write, and discuss. In one of her lessons we listened to a jingle. We closed our eyes and imagined what movie scene this would be, the setting, and the characters. We then shared our responses with each other! In another lesson we listened to parts of the Four Seasons and tried to guess which season was playing. We had to provide reasons. Visit her post for the hand-outs and slide show that describe each lesson in detail.

Animating Your Coursebook by Marisa Constantinides- I caught this presentation at ISTEK. Marisa (@Marisa_C) provides great research and ideas for bringing the coursebook to life. Some ideas include improvisation activities, digital storytelling resources, and adding creative captions! She provides so many ideas that really you will have to read the post about it.

Drama: It’s Never Too Much of a Good Thing by Anna Musielak- Although I missed Anna’s (@AnnaMusielak) presentation I heard it was really fun and creative! Thankfully she blogged about some ideas on Ken Wilson’s blog!

10 Things I Think I Know About Teaching, Learning, and Writing by Ken Wilson- Ken’s (@KenWilsonLondon) presentation was filled with many fantastic ideas that transform traditional teaching methods to animated lessons. His ideas were highly motivating for learners of various ages, especially teens. You can read about Ken’s ideas in these posts:

Motivation, Fun, & Building Confidence with Pronunciation by Dede Wilson- Making pronunciation engaging and fun is one of my weakest points as an ELT teacher which is why I attended this great workshop! Dede showed us how to make pronunciation engaging by having us learn Hungarian and do several activities. You can read about most of these activities in these links:

Using Documentaries in the Classroom by Anita Kwiatkowska- Although I missed Anita’s (@l_missbossy) presentation I heard it was really thought-provoking! Thankfully she blogged about some ideas in her blog!

Related Posts:

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Animating Your Lessons with Some Drama: 20+ Resources

Part of the Cool Sites series

Act up

Every Friday I am presenting free webinars thanks to American TESOL! We have an incredible time. Recently, we shared ideas for integrating drama in the classroom. Teachers do not have to be skilled in acting. Instead, the webinar was away to introduce teachers to different games that get students to tap into their creative juices and get them moving! As Ken Wilson said in a recent interview with me, “Animate your classes!”

Classroom activities that include drama skills include:

  • role plays
  • puppets
  • pretend games
  • mime
  • pantomine
  • total physical response
  • dance
  • music
  • dress-up
  • improvisation games
  • puppetry
  • storytelling
  • digital storytelling

Find more activities by watching this webinar, Using Drama in the Classroom!

Drama Activities & Resources

Check out these resources to help you animate your classes!

Improv Games: Videos

  • Game 1: Yes And (click to watch a video example)
  • Instructions:
    • Put students into pairs
    • One student begins with a sentence and the other student says “Yes and” then adds more information.
    • Use a timer to get students speaking for 1 minute or longer.
  • Game 2: Rumors (click to watch a video example)
  • Instructions:
    • Put students into pairs
    • Student A makes up a rumor to tell student B.
    • Student B adds to the rumor then both students giggle.
    • Student B then makes up the rumor and student A adds to the rumor.
    • Use a timer to get students speaking for 1 minute or longer.
  • Game 3: Pass the Prop (click to watch a video example)
  • Instructions:
    • You will need an everyday object such as an eraser, a chair, a broom, or other object. You can choose to bring in as many as you want. We will use a broom as an example.
    • Place students in a circle.
    • Place 2 students in the center of the circle with the broom.
    • Student A decides what to pretend the broom is either than a broom. For example, student A may decide the broom is a spaceship.
    • Student A then demonstrates the broom is a spaceship through acting and using dialogue until student B figures this out.
    • Student B determines the broom is a spaceship and plays along matching the dialogue.
    • When a student in the circle imagines the object is something else that student taps student A or B and replaces that student in the skit.
  • Game 4: Jibberish to English (click to watch a video example)
  • Instructions:
    • You will need a bell or whistle.
    • Put students into pairs
    • Have the pairs make up a scene or give them one. They are choosing a scene they can easily talk about so they may want something simple like going shopping, playing a sport, etc. Or you could have the scene match your lesson topic.
    • Student A begins by speaking about the topic. Student B rings the bell every 10 seconds or so. When student B rings the bell, student A must speak in Jibberish (a made up language).
    • Use a timer to get students speaking for 1 minute or longer.

Resources for Using Drama With Young Learners

More Drama Resources

Recommended Reading


Try one of these ways to animate your lessons!

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How Do We Animate Lessons? Interview with Ken Wilson

Interview 12 of Twittering for Education

The majority of classrooms have curricula based on coursebooks. Many teachers might feel that teaching from a coursebook kills creativity and makes learning boring especially when coupled with multiple choice tests. However, in many schools teachers are required to teach from a coursebook. A coursebook is just a tool. We can still teach fun lessons that get students applying their learning, but many of us just don’t know how. That is why I was extremely excited to speak with my special guest, Ken Wilson (@KenWilsonLondon), the author of Drama and Improvisation, which is filled with over 70 simple activities that help teachers animate their lessons. In the interview, Ken explains his background working with the English Teaching Theatre then shares some simple activities to help teachers animate their lessons. Ken also talks about the importance of integrating activities that help all students show their talents, creativity, and skills. I first met Ken on Twitter then attended his workshop at TESOL France. During the workshop, Ken had the audience of teachers be the students and become the teachers. His ideas were really helpful and the entire workshop was a lot of fun! He made gapfills become more like games and even animated the Table of Contents of coursebooks. I am super excited to participate in his upcoming workshop this weekend, 10 Things I Think I Know About Teaching.


Ken Wilson is a teacher trainer, an author of ELT materials and until 2002, an artistic director of the English Teaching Theatre. He trained to be an English teacher with John and Brita Haycraft at International House London and taught English in Seville before moving back to IH London, where he worked as a teacher and teacher trainer before going freelance. In the seventies, he wrote and recorded Mister Monday, the first-ever collection of ELT songs. Since then he’s written and recorded about 150 language teaching songs, many which you can read about and even download from his blog. He has worked as a performer, sketch-writer and eventually director with the English Teaching Theatre, a theatre company which used to tour the world performing stage-shows for learners of English. The company made more than 250 tours to 55 countries, in Europe, Latin America, Africa and the Far East. His most recent publications are Smart Choice, Just Right Advanced, Quick Smart English, Matura Masters, and Drama and Improvisation. Find him on Twitter, @KenWilsonLondon.

Previous Interviews

Check out the previous interviews Twittering for Education- Jo and Phil Hart, Twittering for Education- Eric and Melissa Sheninger, Twittering for Education- Will and Elle Deyamport, Connected Principals- George Couros, 1:1 Programs- Rich Kiker, Mobile Learning with Kids- Scott Newcomb, Effective Leadership: Interview with Patrick Larkin, Using Skype for ELT Lessons: Interview with Marisa Pavan, Teachers as Leaders and Continuous Learners: Interview with Dr. Doug Green, Blogging with Students: Interview with Greta Sandler, and What Does the Innovative School Look Like? Interview with Dr. Tom King.


Try one of the ideas suggested by Ken Wilson to animate your lessons!

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