How I Plan Lessons

Massive disclaimer: plan like this and you will almost certainly fail certificates and diplomas. This is how I plan lessons in a task-based framework that’s a bit Long/Skehan-influenced. However, if you wish to reclaim time for leisure, read on. Many thanks to Kamila and Sarah for the spurring on.


First thing, refer to your syllabus and notes from the previous lesson. What did you plan for in the syllabus? Does this need to change?

Syllabus: persuade people. (Authentically vague note). Remember a weakness in dealing with difficult people.

Next, what is your target task/exit task, that is what do you want learners to be able to do by the end of the lesson? How much time do they need to do it? How much time do you expect to need for reflection and feedback?
Task: Persuade a colleague to visit a disagreeable client. Estimate: 12 mins task, 5 mins reflection and feedback.

Regarding the exit task, can it be broken up into smaller components? What are they?

Greet, broach a difficult topic, hedge, point out advantages, bargain.

Would a text be useful as an example? Do you expect to do decoding, vocabulary, pragmatics, semantics, grammar, pronunciation or discourse work?

Yes. I’d love an authentic text. Unlikely though. Maybe something like a documentary or the BBC version of The Apprentice. Use an excerpt. Note time codes for difficult words/elements of connected speech. Likely 15-20 mins.

Can you cover all the smaller tasks and the text in one lesson or do you need longer, once the exit task is added to the end?

Probably in a 90-minute lesson. Greetings are fine. Broaching needs 5 mins + 5 minutes Focus on Form (likely discourse markers so prepare some corpus lines, perhaps). Hedging probably 3 mins FonF 2 mins, combine with broaching 7 mins and 2 mins FonF. Point out advantages – maybe 5, seems good for schema activation. FonF might be intensifiers. Bargaining, 6 mins with FonF around  7, possibly syntax with conditionals/modality. The FonF is just predicted. It might be totally different depending upon task performance. Component tasks may be cut as needed (see below).

What will you do to activate schematic knowledge? What about differentiation?

Brainstorm a list of advantages of talking to difficult people. Choose most persuasive three. 7 mins.

Put stages in order. 

Schema activation, 7 mins

Attempt task, 10 mins. FonF 5-10 mins. If task OK, add complexity.

Text work.

Decode these words:

tough /tʌf/

(the) first /ðə fɜːst/

I wanted to /aɪ wɒnɪtʊ/

Listen, summarise, check.

Till 13:09


Component tasks with FonF

Exit task, feedback, homework.

Gather materials.

Probably copy and paste the corpus lines (linked above) into a document, blank out the adverbs. Give it to my student if required.

Cheers, I planned my lesson.

11 thoughts on “How I Plan Lessons

  1. Oh Marc. What a gift! You’ve taken me thru the Qs and considerations that run thru your head as you plan a lesson. So useful to read this and obviously with more than 140 characters it all makes much more sense now!

    This is the kind of post that to my mind is helpful – a walk thru a real lesson plan that you’re going to teach next week to real students. Lucky students I say. Really appreciate it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks a ton for spurring me on to write it. It makes a lot of sense to me, but I don’t know to what end a lot of others. I imagine the “but what about” questions. It’s never a generic plan in TBLT, it’s always planning for a specific student or group of students. It was also a good way to show that a TBLT plan needn’t take a million years. Cheers once again!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. To answer the ‘but what about’ Qs that may well arise I guess a side note of WHY this decision was made could be very helpful. Explaining the rationale behind each step. In fact, wasn’t that 1 point that came out of Matthew Noble’s twitter poll on coursebook teacher packs made by Helen Legge?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I think this is brilliant.

    Do you know, a ‘lift the flap’-type approach to the margin notes could work!
    On flap = Q ‘why…?’,
    Under flap = reasoning/rationale.
    Or maybes the YLs are getting to me…

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Hi Marc,
    Thanks for writing this (and Kamila and Sarah for prompting it). I’ve been investigating TBLT a lot over the last year, but wasn’t really sure how to go about approaching a full lesson myself, without spending a long time on it. Seeing your thought process is useful, but I’d also be interested to see some more of the activities which you then created/sourced/used in the lesson, especially for this bit: “Broaching needs 5 mins + 5 minutes Focus on Form (likely discourse markers so prepare some corpus lines, perhaps). Hedging probably 3 mins FonF 2 mins, combine with broaching 7 mins and 2 mins FonF.” How many of the activities do you pre-plan and how many do you create in response to student needs within the lesson? If the latter, how do you go about this?
    When you say ‘attempt task’, is this a first attempt at the exit task? How did you set up the task? What instructions did the students get?
    How many students are in your group? I’m currently teaching a class of 12 upper intermediate students (my only class due to being the Director of Studies) and I’d like to experiment with them, but I’m still working out how.


    1. Hi Sandy. When I say attempt task, that is the exit task, yes. I’ll set it up as ‘Imagine you’re at work. Someone has to meet Client X, a disagreeable person. Try to delegate this to me.’

      For the sub-tasks it would be something similar, such as ‘Introduce the topic of Client X in conversation’. I’m all about natural conversation and role play of ordinary tasks.

      For FonF, I might board a sentence and have it reformulated – different front or tail, soften the meaning, etc.

      I hope this helps make sense of my chaos.


  5. Dear Marc,

    Thank you very much for posting this (and mentioning my name!). It is quite enlightening. Although I can’t use TB lessons with all my students all the time, I can definitely see myself using it for parts of lessons (even CZLT!) and some students. I think my weakness as a teacher is I am soft and tend to lose focus in lessons, especially with 121 students who have been with me for years and just like to talk a lot and avoid the work. TB lessons would be the right thing for them.
    My question is: can the sequence be reordered? That is, if you know the student can’t, for example, order food in a restaurant, it would seem advisable to: go straight to the video/text, show them how to do it – analyse language – practice – exit task, thus saving the ten mins on “attempt task”.

    Have a great day

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Kamila. What a great question! I’d say if the student can’t complete the task in even a roundabout way then the task should be postponed because there are other prerequisite tasks that need development. Check the needs analysis and reorder the syllabus if necessary. If you only find out in the lesson then try to give as much scaffolding as possible.



  6. Thanks Marc! I was worried it was a naive question:-) Yes, I think that’s a reasonable solution. Unfortunately, your answer leads to many more questions, such as needs analysis and syllabus design, but that’s perhaps something we could discuss in the TBLTchat?

    Liked by 1 person

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