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Planning a series of lessons

Updated: Jan 18


Planning a series of lessons
Planning a whole course is different from planning a single lesson!

By the end of a CELTA course, you should be very good at planning an individual lesson, but you might feel intimidated at the idea of planning a whole course. The good news is, a lot of course planning is common sense. Let's look at some of the main considerations now.


  1. A set book or a given syllabus: You could be working in a school where you're assigned a set textbook. The mission of course planning is fairly straightforward in this case. You can take the book and look at the number of lessons you have with the class over a term or a year or however long you're expected to take with the textbook. Then you can divide the coursebook out over that period. You'll probably need to make some decisions as it's unlikely that there will be exactly a page per lessons, and so you'll need to think about what to supplement and/or what to leave out from the book. You might even be lucky enough to have a job in a school where you're provided with a syllabus and this should make things even easier.

  2. The students' needs: One essential point to be borne in mind when planning a course is why the students are studying English. Are they preparing for an exam? If so, you'll need to get to know the format of the exam and the content of what will be assessed to help you plan. Do the students need to learn English for work or travel? If the syllabus is completely up to you, then the starting point for planning a course can be a needs analysis questionnaire, which you can do with your students at the beginning of the course, finding out what they need to learn and why they're coming to classes. Students' needs shouldn't just be gauged at the start of a course - you can conduct the feedback as the course goes on to find out what's working and what isn't and you can adapt your plan as you continue in light of this.

  3. The students' interests: As well as finding out what students need to learn at the beginning of your course, you can find out what they like, what they want to talk about and what they're interested in. Hopefully, students will participate in a language class no matter what the subject matter, because they'll want to learn English, but students are only human and if the topic interests them, they'll be so much more engaged.

  4. Balance: As you choose topics and areas to cover on lessons, whether you're using a needs analysis or a coursebook as your base, you need to consider balance. Think about which activities and areas will lift energy and which could be a bit less engaging. Think about how much reading, writing, listening or speaking you expect students to do in one lesson. Think about more difficult language areas and topics and how they can be spread out so as not to become discouraging. A good course will have an even balance of oral and written activities, of very challenging and less challenging, or very active activities and more passive tasks.

  5. Reenforcement: A good course plan never just covers a language item once. Students need to use new words and structures multiple times before they internalise them. A course will include things that you don't necessarily see much of on a training course like CELTA, where every lesson is treated as an individual event. You'll need a plan that includes revision sessions, tests and homework.


Course planning doesn't need to be any more difficult than planning a single lesson, but you may need to learn about tools like needs analysis. Planning a series of lessons will get easier in time, especially after you have taught the same level a few times and once your more familiar with the books and resources available.


Dr Connor O'Donoghue hails from Ireland and he started teaching English as a foreign language in Poland in 2003 and he became a CELTA trainer in 2008. He has taught and trained in Ireland, the UK, France, Italy, Slovenia, Macedonia, Poland, Russia, Kazakhstan and Vietnam. Connor also holds a Masters and a PhD in Education from Trinity College in Dublin. He has previously managed large teacher training centres in Vietnam and in London before founding DC Teacher Training.

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