Want your students to be enthused, energetic learners?
Then I’ve got a secret for you.
It’s all in the lesson plan.
ESL lesson plans are the cornerstone to teaching.
What goes into a well-developed lesson plan is an essential part of the classroom experience.
The material is just as important as your structure, giving your students an optimal learning environment.
So how do you build an awesome lesson plan?
We’re glad you asked! Following the presentation, practice and production (PPP) template will help keep you on track, deliver new material effectively and most importantly, help your students build new English skills and confidence.
What Makes an ESL Lesson Plan Exceptional?
Keeping your ESL lesson plans relevant is the golden rule for lesson plan success. Relevant material is often overlooked by new and veteran teachers alike. The importance you put on getting to know your students is essential in every stage of the lesson plan format.
Taking a few moments to gauge your student’s level, their interests, hobbies, work and home life will make developing your lesson plan easier. Plus, your students will stay engaged in the material if it’s relatable to their lives.
Clear aims and objectives
First things first, what are your aims and objectives? Setting clear aims and objectives is the best way to begin your brainstorming. Having a good understanding of your main goal for the lesson (aims) and how you propose to reach that goal (objectives) will undoubtedly help in your lesson plan development.
Share aims and objectives
It’s also a great idea to share your aims and objectives with your students, letting them know exactly what they will accomplish and the process they will undertake to get there. Communication with your class is very important.
The ESL concept of grading is also an essential part of your lesson plan structure. (Careful, we’re not talking correcting work and giving letter grades here—this is a different “grading”). Grading is the concept of climbing a hill, starting off with something easy or relatable to your students and then climbing higher in the material, making it more challenging as you ascend.
Put yourself in their shoes
Put yourself in your students’ shoes while you are crafting your amazing lesson plan. Ask yourself, how can I start small and build on each topic I present to maximize learning?
Grading is a small piece of the ESL lesson plan formula, but when combined with a solid structure, the formula will be nothing less of spectacular for you and your students.
There are a few different strategies out there in the vast landscape of ESL lesson plan templates, but one tends to apex above all others. Presentation, practice and production (PPP) is one of the the most used lesson plan formats in ESL. PPP allows you to develop a structured, graded and time efficient lesson plan that conveys the material in an understandable way for your students.
PPP time pyramid
Developing PPP structure can also be time sensitive. Think about PPP as a pyramid cut into 3 sections. Presentation (P1) will be the tip of the pyramid, practice (P2) is in the middle and production (P3) is the base. If your class is 1 hour long, then your time breakdown will include 15 minutes of Presentation (P1), 20 minutes of practice (P2) and 25 minutes of production (P3). You can see production has the largest amount of time allocated, since it is at the base.
To speak or not to speak
Within the PPP lesson plan, timing is often a key component: knowing when you should talk and when you should allow your students to engage with you and/or their classmates. One strategy ESL teachers use is marking time limits for each activity in the margins of the lesson plan sheet, giving you an idea of how long each activity should last.
How to Make the Best ESL Lesson Plans with a PPP Template
Presentation: Giving Your Students the Information to Succeed
Presentation is the first step in the PPP lesson plan template, and is the most important. This is your time to shine, to convey the information you worked so hard preparing to your eager students. Presentation is the main part of teaching, where you will begin your grading process: presenting the new English material to your class and noting the time you have delegated for your presentation.
Teacher to student talk time
Some call this the actual teaching period, and you will see that in P2-Practice and P3-Production you will teach less and observe more. Presentation time can vary depending on the time allotted for the class and how well the students pick up the new material. One key aspect to remember is that you will be doing most of the talking during presentation. Teachers should talk approximately 75% of the time during presentation.
Introducing new material
Introducing new material to your class is why you became a teacher, so remembering relevancy and grading, the first bit of new material should be something familiar to your students—possibly material discussed in a previous class.
Sample presentation activity
Visuals are extra useful in your introduction. For example, if you are discussing items in the home, you could develop your presentation around photos from your home, noting different items associated with vocabulary as well as preposition use. “The toaster is on the counter,” would be a great way to introduce vocabulary (nouns) with prepositions of place.
Remember how boring it was when you had a teacher who only lectured, telling what you need to know with little enthusiasm? Well, don’t be that teacher; break the mold and become animated. Students learn through context, so tell a story or present new material using pictures and other resources that excite students to learn more. Peaking interest is essential.
Once introduction is complete, you can begin the analyzing phase of presentation. This is when you let your students discover the material by analyzing it with a closer eye. You are still in control of your classroom, so keep presenting, but ask questions regarding the new material and make your students think more about what it is they are seeing and hearing.
You can also use this period of presentation to check in with your students, making sure they are understanding the new material by asking them lots of great questions, each one a bit more challenging than the previous.
Excellent presentation techniques:
- Don’t let your students off the hook so easily. Ask questions that will help them understand the new material and try not to tell them answers, allowing them to work it out with an English thinking mind.
- Use visuals to stimulate understanding and to get your students enthused about a topic. If you are presenting key places in a city or town, using pictures of your students’ town’s will invoke interest and be relevant to their world.
- Make presentation of vocabulary an exciting activity. Start with what they know, a bedroom for example, and then break down the vocabulary inside of the bedroom.
Practice: Letting Your Students Give It a Whirl
Practice is the second stage of the PPP lesson plan template. This is when you will hand over a bit of control to your students and let them try out and experiment with the new material. If your presentation was well-developed and awesome, your students will be more than ready to jump into the material themselves. In the practice stage, you will give your students a set of tasks or activities to complete by using what they have learned in the presentation stage.
Sample practice activity
To continue with the same example of rooms in a house, a great practice activity would be to let your students label nouns and prepositions of place around the room. There are many techniques for implementing an amazing and effective practice activity, and you can float around the room looking for any trouble areas and answer questions as needed.
Practice techniques you can employ:
- Make it somewhat challenging, but not too difficult. Having tasks that are only solvable using the new material is a good tactic in harboring understanding of the new material by your students. Don’t make the task too difficult, but create something challenging enough that takes guessing and pattern forming out of the ESL learning equation.
- Let students work together. Letting your students join forces and tackle practice activities together is also a great technique. Allowing them to brainstorm and discuss the new material is a great communicative exercise that can be beneficial for overall communication later.
- Do a task with your class. Doing a task with your class is also a great way to keep some control while letting your students roam free in their new ESL activity. You will be there for any problems or questions, keeping an eye out for any areas that you may have missed in your presentation—which happens from time to time.
Teacher to student talk time
In the practice stage, the students will do most of the talking, practicing and discussing the new material with you and their classmates. Generally, you would try to let your students speak 65% of the time, with you jumping in now and again to point out anything new or answer any questions that may arise.
Transition into practice
A smooth transition into the practice stage is always a good plan, keeping the direction and flow of the lesson moving along without breaking your student’s attention to the material. In one of the above techniques we discussed students and teachers doing tasks together, and this is the optimal way to make that smooth transition from presentation to practice. Participating with the whole class using small tasks or questions based on the new material is a good way to make this transition, keeping your students’ focus on the material and task at hand.
After a smooth transition into the practice stage, you can begin pair and group activities, loosening your control on the class. It is important to always maintain some form of control, ensuring the new material is the topic within the groups and teams while watching for any issues that may arise about the material. Putting students in pairs will help them communicate more and learn about their fellow classmates.
The same goes for groups, but there can be an added element to group work. Try dividing the class for a competition to make them more eager and enthused to focus on the material. Pair and group work is also a great time for students to learn from one another, letting them discuss and work things out as a team is an excellent communicative experience.
Production: Students Take New Material to the Next Level
Production is the final stage in the PPP ESL lesson plan template, one that can be challenging and rewarding for both you and your students. The production stage is also referred to as the fluency stage, since your students will now be like birds leaving the nest for the first time.
Teacher talk time
In the production stage, teacher talk time is at its lowest—almost nonexistent. Let your students be creative and develop their own work, speaking 90% of the time to your meager 10%. It’s important for them to gain confidence with their English voice on their own.
Letting your students loose
After having learned the new material, and then practiced it, now it’s their time to show off their stuff. Most production activities involve writing or speaking, and sometimes both are combined if necessary. This allows your students to build confidence and be creative when using the new material, as it’s solely in their hands.
Sample production activity
Carrying our example lesson through the final step, you can now let your students craft a short story or presentation involving the many things they have in their own home. They can write a script and present it to the class during production.
Production in pairs
Similar to the practice stage, you can separate your class into pairs or groups for production, but the key thing to remember is that they must become the creative masters of the material. You release your budding ESL learners into pairs and groups to construct dialogues, monologues, scripted plays and so on. One great pair exercise you can use is to have two students create a script using the new material and then let them act it out in front of the class.
Production in groups
Group production activities can be a bit more intensive, letting groups write and act out short scenes, surely a fun theatrical performance for all. Production is all about the student, so if you are floating around the classroom not receiving many questions, you know your presentation and practice was well-received.
5 Concepts to Remember When Developing Your Best ESL Lesson Plan
1. Know your student’s English level, their interests, profession, hobbies, travel experiences, home life and age. All these things are helpful in any lesson plan development.
2. Know what your students need to learn and understand during the presentation stage in order to be successful in the practice and production stages of the PPP ESL lesson plan. Things like vocabulary, grammar rules and relative information on the topic are essential.
3. Think about any problems that may arise during your lesson, at each PPP stage. This is a good strategy for ESL learning, since questions arise often and you can be more than prepared to answer them.
4. Develop your lesson plan with material and any other things you may need in mind. Having great material ready to go is not only beneficial for your students, but will save you time and energy later, like during class.
5. Allow time for communicative activities, letting your students engage in conversation with one another. This is why most ESL learners are in the classroom—to communicate—so let them have a bit of discussion from time to time.
A great, fun and material-rich lesson will keep your students encouraged to learn more and build their confidence as English speakers.
So for lesson plan success, be sure to construct a well-developed and exciting lesson plan using the PPP template. Good luck, and enjoy!
Stephen Seifert is a writer, editor, professor of English and adventurer. With over 7 years of teaching experience to students worldwide, he enjoys the many aspects of culture and traditions different from his own. Stephen continues his search for writing inspiration, boldly enjoying life to the fullest.
Oh, and One More Thing…
If you liked these tips, you’ll love using FluentU in your classroom. FluentU takes real-world videos—like music videos, cartoons, documentaries and more—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons for you and your students.
It’s got a huge collection of authentic English videos that people in the English-speaking world actually watch on the regular. There are tons of great choices there when you’re looking for songs for in-class activities.
You’ll find music videos, musical numbers from cinema and theater, kids’ singalongs, commercial jingles and much, much more.
On FluentU, all the videos are sorted by skill level and are carefully annotated for students. Words come with example sentences and definitions. Students will be able to add them to their own vocabulary lists, and even see how the words are used in other videos.
For example, if a student taps on the word “brought,” they’ll see this:
Plus, these great videos are all accompanied by interactive features and active learning tools for students, like multimedia flashcards and fun games like “fill in the blank.”
It’s perfect for in-class activities, group projects and solo homework assignments. Not to mention, it’s guaranteed to get your students excited about English!
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to teach English with real-world videos.