7 Sharp Lesson Plan Templates to Perfect and Polish Your Foreign Language Classes
Quick question: How many lesson plan templates are there in the whole wide world?
Quick answer: As many as there are teachers.
Everybody’s online these days, posting and swapping ideas faster than ever before—it’s like one huge teacher meeting, where thousands of the world’s foreign language teachers have united to brainstorm, collaborate and share.
To see this online teacher meeting in action, look no further than Lesson Planet, the lesson plan website made by teachers for fellow teachers, where thousands of lesson plans are available to download and utilize—and where hundreds of thousands of reviews by professional educators will guide you to what’s good.
In this post, I’m gonna give you just seven lesson plans to start with. They’re incredibly effective templates that will turn any language class into learning central, and they’ll give you a great idea of what to expect from all the templates you’ll come across online.
But first, let me share with you four P’s that make for effective lesson plans.
The 4 P’s of Effective Foreign Language Lesson Plans
Effective lesson plans include an interesting hook, an arresting way of getting students to listen up and pay attention. The “prompt” part of the lesson plan aims to make students realize that what’s coming next is important. It may not be the “meat” of the lesson, but it’s the “meet” of it.
The “prompt” is very important because it does the job of teasing and intriguing, wining the hearts and minds of your students for the main lesson. Without it, students’ focus will remain on whatever cares they have for the day: the news that morning, the mysterious Facebook status update of a friend, deadlines at work and meditating on the hidden virtues of an Apple watch.
As teachers, we know that we’re not only competing with actual classroom noise, we’re especially competing with mental noise–the cares and concerns that are vying for attention in students’ heads. What do we have to do to not be lost in that sea?
“Prompt” activities can include an exciting game, an engaging story, an invited native speaker, a demonstration of some sort, a trip outside class or an authentic video including real language usage such as a video from FluentU.
FluentU takes authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language lessons.
Anything that primes students for the lesson will work, limited only by the imagination.
This part is the very reason students are sitting in your class—for your presentation of the lesson. They wanna learn something, they wanna be taught something, but usually in the most painless and intuitive way possible. One can say that the reason the lesson plan exists in the first place is so you can execute this part really well.
You’re on deck here. It’s your show. This is the “teach” part of “teacher” exhibited in full colors. This is where you give yourself, your knowledge and your experience to your students. This is partly where the great teachers are separated from the pretty good ones.
To do “proclaim” effectively, you need to have a guide, whether its made by you or someone else. Effective lesson plans tell the teacher exactly what they need to do, the input they need to give, when they need to give input and in what order all the lesson materials should be presented. It also spells out the activities, materials and peripheral devices, digital and otherwise, that they might use in order to stimulate learning.
However, lesson plans should also be balanced, leaving room for classroom contingencies. A plan can’t be so inflexible that it doesn’t allow for spontaneity and creativity. A teacher shouldn’t create a lesson plan willy-nilly, but they should also not consider it unbreakable.
If for example in your course of presenting Spanish gendered nouns, a student asks if Spanish is the only language that does gendered nouns. You haven’t included talking about Romance languages in the lesson plan. No matter—take the cue and give your class the bigger picture by briefly explaining how French, German and Italian also have gendered nouns (even adding that English is actually quite unique in this respect).
A comment, a thought or a question can come up that could take the whole thing into a productive detour. Take that detour in spite of it not being written in the lesson plan. The plan is there simply as a guide. Your priority is to teach students, not perfectly follow the plan.
Effective lesson plans must include sufficient time for students to do their thing and actively participate in the learning process. It must leave room for practice to take place.
If the previous section is you doing your part, this is them, your students, honing what they’ve learned. This is about repetition, rehearsal and exercises. Practice sessions usually come immediately after the lesson.
So, if the lesson was about greetings and dialogues in Italian, you could send the student in pairs and walk around the room to give personal coaching to the pairs. If the lesson is about basic sentence construction, you could ask students to come to the board and write some basic sentences in the target language. Or if vocabulary is the lesson, then you can divide the class into groups and play a vocabulary game that raises their adrenaline and gives them opportunities to anchor the learning.
Finally, lesson plans must have an effective review mechanism where teachers like us can gauge whether the learning outcomes have actually been reached. This is proving time.
This is a little bit different from the previous “P” because practice often happens immediately after the lesson, on the same day. “Proving” happens after an ample time of practice and after a number of lessons.
Usually, the proof comes in the form of a written quiz or an oral presentation. We use the results of such activities as feedback to help us discover concepts and skills that need scaffolding and enlighten us on questions, such as “what specific areas do students have a hard time with?” or “what specific techniques were effective?”
It’s important to remember that teaching is an iterative process. Everything doesn’t end with the test or the final presentation. We don’t simply mark down a letter grade and move to the next lesson. The whole thing is really giving us feedback to react to. Reading the results, we have just the guide that we need to teach the lesson again.
Again, teaching is an iterative process and we work in cycles, eliminating mistakes and weaknesses each time.
As you’ll notice, the first two P’s have something to do with you, the teacher, prompting students to attention and proclaiming the lesson in the most interesting way possible. The next P’s have a lot to do with students receiving and reacting to the lesson. They need to practice and prove what they have learned.
The four P’s highlight the interaction and cooperation between teacher and student to give the maximum benefit for the student. It is incumbent on us to do our vocations well, but it is also required for the students to do their part and actively learn the lesson.
7 Foreign Language Lesson Plan Templates
1. Daily Foreign Language Lesson Plan Template
This one is from Laura Terrill, author of “The Keys to Planning for Learning: Effective Curriculum, Unit, and Lesson Design.”
The template is from Butler Foreign Language Methods. It begins with you classifying the nature of the lesson as something that addresses areas like: Vocabulary Development, Language Structure/Grammar, Culture Concept, Listening, Reading, Speaking or Writing (you tick all that applies).
The 3 main components of the plan are: Providing Input, Guided Participation and Application.
These go on a cycle and are repeated as many times as necessary, with 20 minutes as the suggested duration of each completed cycle. The template implies what we just talked about as the iterative nature of teaching. Nobody ever gets it right the first time, and this is true for both teacher and student. So, that’s why we engage in repetition. This is reflected within the lesson plan.
The template, as a bonus, contains the American Council On The Teaching Of Foreign Languages’ standards for foreign language teaching. The table at the end merely shows the different indicators of varying competencies displayed by a teacher, “1” being the lowest and “4” exceeding the standards. The table, although a nice addition, isn’t really necessary for the purposes of this post.
2. Weekly Foreign Language Lesson Plan Template
The next lesson plan template can be used in conjunction with the previous one. It features a big picture look of what a teacher might have planned for a whole week. As such, it may not be as detailed as the previous template, but it’s an effective way of judging both the pacing and direction of your class.
It’s a handy tool when you want to plot your lessons and see to it that you’re getting all the important lessons and concepts covered. For example, the template gives you a clear look at all the activities planned from Monday to Friday and ensure that they aren’t only congruent with each other, but that they build from one to the next.
The template can be freely downloaded from Teachers Pay Teachers. The dream of the people behind Teachers Pay Teachers is to make available the wisdom of teachers, anywhere and at any time. It’s an online marketplace where educators like you upload their teaching materials so others can benefit from them. TPT is a mix of free and for sale materials, and they have plenty of foreign language lesson plan templates that you can choose from.
They also have a rating system where colleagues who have used the template articulate their opinion on it, which is always good to check out before downloading.
3. Skill-focused Lesson Plan Template
This next template is from Kara Parker (creativelanguageclass.com), a teacher who was once told to review her lesson plan as a way to solve classroom management issues. (Who would have thought?!)
By reviewing her old plans, she was able to see weaknesses and discovered why her students were less than enthusiastic about the class. She updated her lesson plan and came up with this—a template that’s not only quick and painless but also reminds her to come up with different activities that target different language skills (listening, reading, writing, speaking).
This teacher’s experience is a reminder of how important a lesson plan is and how it affects what happens in the classroom. Wanna change your teaching experience? Check what’s written in your plans.
4. Backward-design Lesson Plan Template
A backward-design lesson plan template starts with the basic question: What will students be able to do by the end of this lesson?
It then works backwards to figure out the kinds of activities and presentations teachers must give in order for students to reach the intended learning outcomes. Our template here comes from Startalk.
Startalk is a component program of the National Security Language Initiative (NSLI) by former President Bush (2006). It’s an initiative that seeks to expand and improve the learning and teaching of world languages. One way it does this is by identifying and promoting best practices in language education and language teacher development.
Startalk provides a template, a filled sample, a guide and a checklist for your perusal. If you want to really see your tax dollars at work, have a look at them. (All recommended materials can be viewed here.)
5. Block Scheduling Lesson Plan Templates
This next template comes from Language Links and is a whole different approach to lesson planning. The focus here is on time, making sure that you’re able to hit all the planned activities and that you’ve devoted ample minutes to each.
This is what teaching on a block schedule is all about and there are teachers who are more comfortable running the class with this approach. They see the whole session as a series of activities with a specific number of minutes devoted to each.
For example, in a 45-minute class, how are you going to divide all that time so that by the end of the time period you’ve achieved the day’s goals?
You can readily imagine that there are many ways to slice a 45-minute class. Say, you can do 10-30-5. This could mean you have 10 minutes devoted to introduction/getting attention, 30 minutes dedicated to the lesson proper and five minutes to close the session.
You can also do 5-20-15-5. Five minutes to open, 20 minutes to teach the lesson, 10 minute for review/questions and five minutes to close. There are really so many ways to go about this and it’s really up to you how you’re gonna divide the time and what activities you’ll include in the session.
6. Special-purpose Lesson Plan Template
Special-purpose lesson plan templates are unique because they’re specifically made to forward some sort of learning agenda. The American Council On The Teaching Of Foreign Languages have their own lesson plan template for the teaching of language. It’s very similar to the first one save for the fact that it induces you, the teacher, to think about how a particular lesson correlates to its 5C paradigm.
The ACTFL’s 5 C’s are Communication, Culture, Connections, Comparisons and Communities.
Communication: How will the lesson improve the students’ ability to communicate in the target language?
Culture: What cultural insights, if any, will the lesson have?
Connections: How will the lesson help the students expand and deepen other areas of knowledge?
Comparisons (and Contrasts): How will the lesson help them to better understand their own first language?
Communities: How will the lesson help the students beyond the classroom setting?
You’ll notice that the five C’s go well with ACTFL’s vision of educating students who are “linguistically and culturally prepared to function as world citizens.” This is the council’s marching orders and it’s amply reflected in the template that they put forward. (All recommended resources, books, sample units, sample lessons and lesson plan templates can be found here.)
7. Contingency-focused Lesson Plan Template
This next template is from the Tennessee Foreign Language Institute. It’s quite unique because it tries to plan for the “unplannable.” That is, it stimulates you to think of specific things that could happen in class.
It has sections labeled:
A. Anticipated Student Responses and Actions
B. Anticipated Problems
C. Contingencies & Solutions
We know we can’t possibly plan for every contingency. As teachers, we’re already well-versed with the line, “anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.” But, nevertheless, the exercise of filling up a template such as this not only engages our imagination, it can help us prepare mentally and emotionally for anything.
So that’s it. Seven foreign language lesson plan templates that you can use in class.
Find something that suits your personal style. If time blocking strikes your fancy, then give that one a shot. Or better yet, try each one and see what works best.
I wish you and your wards more productive sessions together. I’ll see you on the other side.