Busy! Busy! Busy!
If you’re a language teacher, that probably describes your life.
Much as we may want to, there’s often not enough time in our packed schedules to develop lesson plans from the ground up.
So naturally, we turn online for inspiration.
If you’re on the prowl for awesome lesson plans and lesson plan ideas, you’ve come to the right place!
I’m about to share some links with you that are proven language teacher timesavers.
And since we’re already on the subject, let me first share with you my recipe for an awesome foreign language lesson.
3 Characteristics of a Successful Foreign Language Lesson
1. An Awesome Hook
When putting together your lesson plan, think of a riveting hook—something that jars your students to attention. A lesson has to have an arresting opening salvo, a “Hey, look here!” moment that not only grabs your class by the collar but also sets the tone for the whole lesson.
Your students have busy lives, too, and they step into the classroom with their minds filled with various cares and concerns.
If you teach professionals, they’re thinking about work, business, careers and families.
If you teach a younger crowd, they’re probably thinking about their next Snapchat caption or the fact that their latest Instagram post isn’t gathering enough “likes.”
So when you’re planning your lesson, think of how you’re gonna knock all of these thoughts from your students’ minds.
Should you open with a riveting story complete with props and sound effects?
How about bringing in a puppy as a visual aid to teach about various parts of the body?
Would a viral video do the trick?
Just remember that your opening salvo should always be related to the lesson. You should always be able to connect it to the subject soon to be tackled.
2. A Killer Activity
The best teachers always seem to have some cool activity for their students to do. Their classes are often buzzing with the good kind of noise as students play games, work on tandem projects, test out ideas, etc.
Think about the killer activity as something students wanna do because it’s fun, not because you’re the teacher and you just told them to do it.
Maybe you can divide them into teams and play a game. (Scavenger hunt, anyone?) Or when you wanna teach them about numbers, you can play “bingo” or “lottery.”
Storytelling TPRS-style could also work.
Or you can ask them to do tasks that require them to use the language. For example, you can get them thinking with, “If you were an Italian/Spanish/French/Chinese superhero, what kind of superhero would you be? Describe your powers using the target language.”
This is where your creativity comes in. This is also where the links we’re listing in the next section will help you.
If the hook is used to engage the students, the killer activity is where they’re actually learning about the language.
3. An Effective Review and Assessment
You shouldn’t forget this part of the lesson plan. It’s a pretty important one. A lesson has to have its own feedback mechanism, a way of determining whether or not learning outcomes have been reached. Without assessment and review, a language teacher really has no way of knowing whether the lesson actually worked.
How do you know that your students learned?
For many, the automatic answer is a dry written quiz or exam.
But there are many creative ways to skin this particular cat. They can be so fun, your students won’t even know they’re being assessed. For example, after a vocabulary lesson about animals, you can ask all the first row students to come to the board. When they’ve each staked out a space, ask them to draw the animal you name (e.g., “bird” in the target language). Give them 30 seconds to a minute, then ask them to sit down.
Then process the “answers.”
Can you imagine how fun this would be? What happens when somebody draws some horns or antlers? What if a student’s bird looks more like a mouse? You can have so much fun with this one, while at the same time removing the stigma attached to making mistakes.
If you think about it, review and assessment isn’t really for the sake of grades. It’s just to get feedback on what part(s) of the lesson needs scaffolding, more emphasis or more time. You’re just really trying to find out in what areas your students need more help.
Next up, we’re gonna look into some awesome resources that can…
1. Provide you with ready-made lesson plans.
2. Give you insights and inspiration to help you shape the Hook, Activity, Assessment and other elements of a lesson plan.
The 7 Best Sites for Grabbing a Great Foreign Language Lesson Plan
Pimsleur is one of the most trusted and widely-used language programs in the world. On their website, they have a dedicated section that contains full-blown lesson plans that are yours for the printing. They are in PDF format and come with complete details for the language teacher, including “Learning Outcomes,” “Activities” and “Assessment” sections. The lesson plans even have corresponding worksheets and quizzes with answer keys.
(If that doesn’t tickle your fancy, I don’t know what will.)
So if you’re looking for lesson plans for your Spanish, Italian, French, German, Portuguese or Polish class, head on over to Pimsleur and get a leg up from one of the most successful language programs to date.
FluentU is the best place to find authentic videos adapted for language learning online. FluentU takes real-world videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons. The site offers videos with interactive captions and downloadable transcripts that can easily be integrated into your class as lessons with riveting openers/hooks, killer activities and tools to assess learning.
First off, there’s nothing like a video to set the mood and get the class instantly interested in a lesson. Remember when I told you that your students bring cares and concerns when they step into your class? Well, a short musical video or movie trailer can easily knock them out of their own thoughts. By simply pressing the “Play” button, you can command your students’ attention.
With interactive captions, transcripts and personalized learning for each student, you can not only use FluentU videos for activities in the classroom but also extend them to homework assignments and easily track each students’ progress and understanding individually, which makes assessment a whole lot easier!
Furthermore, FluentU’s wide and constantly growing selection of videos means you won’t any have problems finding appropriate material to build a lesson plan around. There are clips for absolute beginners, intermediate students and even advanced learners, as well as subjects to appeal to a wide range of age levels and interests.
K-12 educators teaching any level of more widely-taught world languages (like French or Spanish) can find a huge range of lesson plans here that have not only been reviewed by actual teachers, but also sorted into helpful categories, including ones for grades and educational standards. You can even take a look at what criteria go into reviewing and approving the materials on their site.
In addition to lesson plans, you can find other useful content like worksheets and videos. A subscription gives you storage space where you can save and keep track of all the material you’re using.
Content not only teaches grammar and vocabulary, but a lot of it tends towards the cultural and creative as well. Want to simulate a trip to an art gallery with your Spanish students? Have your French students practice spoken and written language by reading Baudelaire? Lesson Planet offers these lesson plans and many, many more. Spanish and French seem to be best represented here, but you’ll also find lesson plans and resources that can be used more generally for foreign language teaching, as well as more limited resources for other languages.
The tagline says it all: “by teachers, for teachers.” Oh, and did I mention that it’s free? This site contains lesson plans and an assortment of materials in various formats (audio, video, PDF, PowerPoint, Word, etc.) that you can use as hooks, activities and fun ways to assess learning.
What is even more special about this site is that it gives teachers help not just with language lessons (especially Spanish, German and French), but offers a ready armory of cultural and historically-nuanced lessons that you can readily integrate with language points.
You can start searching for activities by going to the home page and typing into the search box found on the upper right-hand corner of the screen the language that you’re interested in. So for example, if you’re interested in Spanish lessons, type “Spanish”/”Spanish language” in the search box.
Or you can search by grade level by clicking on “Teaching Resources” at the top of the home page. You can then choose among the grade levels available (up to Grade 12). In the list of subjects, choose “Foreign Languages” to see what lessons are available.
You’re one of the millions of educators worldwide. Why don’t we all share insights and inspiration with one another? This is what TPT is all about. The dream of the founders is to “make the expertise and wisdom of all the teachers in the world available to anyone, anywhere, at any time.” It’s a pretty lofty goal, but I’d say they’re on the path to doing exactly that.
You can buy and sell lesson plans here. But make no mistake, the site is brimming with free resources for everyone—language teachers especially. Just look for “World Language” in the “Subject” section found at the left-hand side of the home page. You will then be shown 14 major languages to choose from. Click on your language of choice. When the lessons come up, go to the left-hand side again to the “Price” section. This time, choose “Free.”
Bright Hub Education brands itself as a purveyor of “expert-driven educational guidance you can count on.” Here, you’ll find lesson plans and ideas for kindergarten through high school students.
You’ll find this site valuable if you teach Chinese, Japanese, Italian, Spanish, German or French. The lesson plans here follow a certain format and are more text-based, basically telling you how to go about the lesson and providing plenty of examples you can use in class. (The materials and visual aids are left to your own creativity and discretion.)
If your class belongs to the 11-18 age bracket, you might find a welcoming home at Teach It Languages. This site is valuable for KS3-5 (middle school and high school) teachers of French, Spanish and German.
A great majority of the materials here are free. There are resources for absolute beginners (e.g., counting and greetings) as well as advanced learners (e.g., idiomatic expressions).
With a subscription, you not only get access to hundreds of activities that have been tried and tested by native speakers and language teachers, you get the chance to adapt and edit the lessons to your liking.
This is a growing collection of lesson plans, so be a frequent visitor, or better yet, subscribe so you can have first dibs on the latest lesson plans.
If yours is a class with language lab capabilities (meaning computers!) the site even has interactive resources that can give your students hours of fun activities—like sequencing games, matching games and even Hangman.
So there you have it: the best timesavers for language teachers out there.
Just remember, always inject your own personality into your lessons.
Pre-made plans and resources may save you a lot of time, but you have to put your heart in to make them work.
You’re the most important element of your lesson plan!
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to teach languages with real-world videos.