What’s Your Plan? My First Challenge


Tonight, after putting the kids to bed, as I was trying to catch up with the tweets and #ELTChat one tweet, from a teacher who I greatly enjoy sharing and chatting with (and who also has a Brazilian heart), caught my attention:


A tweet suggesting a new #ELTpics... that turns into a blog post 🙂


Guido was suggesting a new topic for #ELTpics (A great idea lead by @VictoriaB52. A set of photos, based on a weekly theme, taken by ELT teachers, trainers and writers from around the world. These are, in turn, available free to others in the field of ELT under a CC license. Anyone interested in joining in can tweet an image with the hashtag #eltpics). He thought we could share pictures of our lesson plans. I liked the idea, but we then talked about the objective of #ELTpics and we thought maybe it wouldn’t be adequate. But I had already been bitten by the curious bug, wanting to know how my PLN did their lesson plans – if they did it at all! So I decided to write a post about it, telling a bit of my lesson plan “history”. But more than showing what my plans are like and the rationale behind it, I want to know how other teachers do it (or if they do it at all) and why. So I decided maybe it was time for me to stop just joining challenges and setting one of my own. So here’s the challenge:


Do you write your lesson plans? If so, how do you do it, what is the format?

Why and how did you arrive at that format?


  If you feel like joining the challenge (and I really hope you do) you can blog about it – and I’ll add a link to your post here. If you don’t have a blog but you’d still like to join the challenge you can send me your lesson plan story through email and I’ll post it here. I think sharing our lesson plans will be a great way of finding new ways of doing it, maybe even finding one we would like to try doing, or ideas to adapt the way we do it now. After all, like so many other things in teaching, there’s no right or wrong – each person works best in their particular way.


So, here’s my lesson plan story: When I started teaching, about 17 years ago, I did it after taking a TTC (Teacher Training Course), in which we learned how to write a lesson plan, how we should do it. It was a very thorough and long format, that included the aim of the lesson, the procedures for each activity, the material needed for each of them, as well as the time they should take. It also contained the type of interaction of the activities (T-ST / ST-ST). I planned my lessons like that for a few years and it was really helpful in my development as a teacher because it made me reflect about what I did in class, the purpose of each activity, etc. But it took ages to write the plan for each class, for each group. So after a few years, and with a great number of different groups/levels each semester, I decided it was time to change and make things simpler. So I started writing just the procedures, followed by the time and material for each activity. After a while (in an attempt to take even less time, optimize things) there were some very slight changes and my plans looked like this (yes, I keep a lot of old lesson plans that I rarely look at and mostly just gather dust – this one is about 7 years old):





(By the way,  no jokes about the Pooh paper, please. I (like many other teachers I know) indulge in a little “cutesy” with my teaching materials once in a while. :-)) Up til this point I always wrote my plans on paper. At this point, in the school I work at, we started using Palms to do role call and other administrative procedures. To make my life easier (and save some trees) I began doing my plans digitally, typing them on a Word Processor (sample here:  Lesson Plan AE SL ) and just uploading to the Palm. I still kept the format though. This lasted about a year. I know what I’m about to say is completely eco-UNfriendly, but I love writing the plans, using pen and paper. Sitting in front of a screen and doing it just didn’t do it for me. So I went back to paper. The last evolution/development my lesson planning has gone through was making it even simpler. I now use index cards. Most times one is enough – front and back. I assign a color to each different group and I use little round stickers on the corner of the index card to signal the group that plan is for. I also write the class number inside the sticker. I take the card to class and after it I collect them all into a box, categorized by color/group. I no longer write the material needed. So now they look like this:


What my lesson plans look like these days...




 Why I do it like this now? Do I think being as thorough as I was in the beginning was a waste of time? Not at all!! It’s just that after so many years teaching there are some things that I don’t need to write down on paper anymore, that I just run through my mind. I’ve been using this format for the past 3 years, and still feels like the best one for me.


So, up to the challenge? What is your lesson plan story? I’d love to read about it!


Updates of Teachers joining in the challenge:

• Sandy Millin’s (@sandymillin) “Planning Evolution” post

• Ceri Jones explains (@cerirhiannon) the lesson plan from the day she had Flashes of Inspiration:  My Lesson Plan: A Walk-through for Ceci 

• Marisa Pavan (@Mtranslator) shows her Lesson Plan History

• Tyson Seburn (@seburnt) reflects on his Lesson Plan Transformation

• Jason Renshaw’s (@englishraven) analyzes lesson planning on Without Reflection, We May Be Planning to stand Still

• Anna Bring and her Lesson Planning in Evolution

• @EclipsingX ‘s colorful lesson planand her use of index cards for LP after reading this post 🙂






45 comments on “What’s Your Plan? My First Challenge

  1. Marisa Pavan says:

    Great idea, Ceci! I’ll write about it and share my post.

  2. Great idea! I’m in, so watch this space. Or another space near you….

  3. Ceri says:

    Hi Ceci,
    Going to be joining you too 🙂

    • :-)) Fantastic! But I’m sorry to be the one pointing this out to you Ceri… I think you have an addiction 😉 You’re as bad as I am – I think. It’s nice to have good company. I’m really happy you joined in. Am going to post the plan/pic you tweeted right now.

  4. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Fiona Mauchline and cecielt, Adam Simpson. Adam Simpson said: @ceciliacoelho What’s Your Plan? My First Challenge:   Tonight, after putting the kids to bed, as I was try… http://bit.ly/hegkgB #ELT […]

  5. Aaron Nelson says:

    Hi Ceci,
    I love your idea – I’ll be participating for sure, and I’ll try to get the teachers working with me to join in. Aaron – Mexico City.

  6. […] I read Cecilia Coelho’s most recent post with interest, wondering what prompted her to begin her adventure as a blog challenger, having been a sucker for any challenge that came her way. Being just as much of a sucker myself , here is my response to What’s your plan? […]

  7. seburnt says:

    I don’t think I’ll blog this one because there’s really not much to show. My lesson plans consist of looking at the materials I plan to use and determining what I’m going to do with them roughly. Then I go to class and follow through or modify as ideas come to me. I’ve gotten pretty good at making materials in such a way that it reminds me what I want to do with it at that time. So when I get to class, I usually put my materials on my desk in the order in which I planned to use them. And if I forget? I’ll thank my previous experience for providing me with loads of options when on the spot.

    The only times I write out sort of order is usually the first couple of classes in a session or when writing materials for others to use–they can’t see inside my brain to get the instructions. 😉

    • David says:

      I just moved back to Canada and got collected a lot of “stuff” that I had in storage here and there. While unpacking , I came across my first 2 years of lesson plans on ruled paper, dense with scribbles etc… It was neat to look at this and think of how focused I must have been. I’m sure that it really helped me develop as a teacher.

      If I get some time, I’ll scan and let others have a peek!


      • seburnt says:

        That’s a fascinating thing to review, isn’t it? I may have old LP notebooks from long ago stashed somewhere in a closet too.

      • Hi David,

        That’s exactly how I feel when I come across those older folders and notebooks – when I try to clear space in cabinets and closets. It usually ends up with me getting totally absorbed into a flashback session, a trip down memory lane 😉 It’s neat and also it makes you think about how far you’ve walked, how things changed. Please let me know if you ever get that chance to scan them David :-)!

    • I see benefit in the sharing of any kind of plan here Tyson 🙂 From dogme to coursebook-centered. But maybe that’s just me… When you do it for other teachers, do you just put the order, do you write notes of possible follow ups, problems, ideas? Do you suggest a time limit for the activities? Do you add anything more technical?

      In many ways I’m like you. I mostly follow the plan, but I am always open to teaching opportunities and changing what I had planned for anything that seems more interesting – student emergent 😉 Most times I don’t have to look at the plan, it’s there just as a “safety blanket” – that’s one of the ways planning works for me. Besides giving me the chance to think of the whole lesson, of what would work best, the planning stage serves to “print” the plan in my brain. And I make notes on my plan throughout the class. Ideas that come to mind, interesting developments, any changes I decide to make; I tick the activities I did and mark the ones I had planned on doing but didn’t – for some reason. This helps me when I sit down to think of the next classes.

      • Sandy Millin says:

        I think that’s why my lesson plans include a lot of detail at the moment: they’re an idea of what could happen in the lesson, but I very rarely do everything on the plan as it is. That’s why I annotate them afterwards- so that I can see the different options I came up with. I agree that it would be interesting to see any kind of plan.
        What do people do when they’re observed at your school? Do they have to write a special plan? Or does the observer reconstruct the plan?

      • Hi Sandy,

        What people do when they’re observed in my school depends on who’s being observed. Some people just make a copy of the lesson plan and give it to the observer. Some people prefer to write a more thorough plan before giving it to the observer. I believe the latter happens because people feel their plans are not clear enough, that a lot of the plan is in their brains – much like what Tyson said about his planning and how he has to write more detailed plans when they’re for other people, because they don’t have access to his mind 😉 I think this is a good thing to do if your plan is not very clear.

        Sometimes the observer reconstructs the plan – That’s usually how I do when I observe. I may get a lesson plan in advance, but I don’t look at it, I go and write everything down and then, before giving the feedback I compare what actually happened to what the teacher had planned, reflecting on the reasons for the change in direction, and I always like to talk about those on the feedback. In my experience when a teacher does something different from what he/she had planned it’s usually for the best and he/she always has a good reason for doing so. I have, however, seen schools where teachers have to submit their lesson plans in a specific format for the class they’ll be abserved. I sincerely can’t see the effectiveness of that, or reason for such. I think it loses great part of the point of the observation, since it changes the natural process of the teacher. After all, the objective of observing a class is seeing how the teacher is doing things, what he does really well – that could possibily be shared with other teachers – and reflecting on ways something cold’ve been done better, understanding the method and rationale of the teacher. Observation should always be seen as a tool to help the teacher (and the other teachers in the school) become an even better teacher and be praised on what he/she does well. Am I wrong in thinking like this?

        How does observation happen where you teach Sandy?

      • seburnt says:

        Are your teachers notified that they will be observed beforehand? If they prepare a full-on lesson plan and submit it to you, I’m guess yes they are. I think that goes against one fundamental reason for observation: to ensure teachers are doing something valuable with their classes. Sure, you’d hope that this was always the case, but I’ve been sorely disappointed when observing some classes, especially those younger and newer to teaching.

        I always wrote up a complete breakdown of the lesson (eg. http://coursetree.ca/downloads/ClassAssessment_Sample.pdf)

      • Yes Tyson, our teachers know when they are going to be observed. What usually happens in both peer and formal observations is observer and (to-be)observed talk and come to an agreement on when the actual observation will take place. It’s been decided to do things this way because teachers felt threatened by being taken by surprise – some ended up getting so nervous when that happened that they ended up not conducting the class as well as they would have. I honestly think it doesn’t change the outcome much and it gives the teacher more confidence, so I like it. Personally I don’t change my plan or do things any differently if I’m being observed. And I don’t mind if I’m told on the spot. 🙂

        The lesson plan is given to the observer usually on the way to the classroom. When I am observing I like to write up a full breakdown of the lesson, but I also like asking the teacher in advance if there’s anything specific they’d like me to take a closer look at – something they may feel more insecure about it, something they feel they need to improve… like classroom management, board usage, TTT – you name it! I find that by doing this you give an even better feedback to the teacher and you address something he/she feels they can use for their development.

      • Sandy Millin says:

        At our school we agree on observations (peer and formal) in the same way as at Cecilia’s. For formal observations we’re required to hand in a lesson plan before the class. I agree that this isn’t always the best way to do it, and that’s why I wondered what happened at other schools. I agree that observation should be used to support the teacher, although I don’t think this always happens (my school is good at it though!)
        Like Cecilia, my plan doesn’t change regardless of whether or not someone else is in the room. I’m always a little frustrated when I ask to observe somebody and they tell me about something special they’ll do just for me. To me, every class should be for the students, and having an extra person at the back of the room shouldn’t make a difference. But maybe that’s just my over-confidence speaking 😉

      • Hi Sandy,

        We’re lucky then – in the school where I work observation is truly used as something to support the teacher and make him/her develop. But I believe some of my colleagues) or many of them) may have had some negative previous experiences, working at schools where observation was actually used against them, and feedback for those observations was all about what had gone wrong in the class. After I started where I am now – 10 years ago – it took me some time to lose that fear and see things for what they were.

        We really see eye to eye on this Sandy 🙂 All around.

      • seburnt says:

        If observation is meant solely to support the teacher and that’s communicated well and acted on, then those teachers shouldn’t feel so nervous. Besides, they are observed everyday they teach, by their students.

      • Agreed Ty, they shouldn’t feel so nervous. But things don’t necessarily happen as they should, do they? And previous experiences do make marks, and leave you wary. And your observation about teachers being observed everyday, by their students is very true. However, teachers don’t feel their job is being threatened by the students. Maybe they should? But then again, your reality may be different from ours down here in Brazil.

  8. Veronique says:

    My lesson plans looked like Ceri’s in the first year. but now i’m in my 3rd year of teaching it looks like yours Cecilia, except for the Pooh decoration and the handwriting:) My handwriting can be awful at times. yours is neat.

    • Hi Veronique 🙂

      I have to admit my handwriting had great improvement after 4 years and a BA in graphic design from a time when we didn’t have computers so we did everythig by hand, which means I had a couple of semesters at the university where we practiced different kinds of typography in lined papers with fancy pens and markers. 🙂

  9. Hi Cecilia,

    Well, I was going to write a blog post to respond to this challenge, then realised I already had (in a way).

    My take on lesson planning (and a sample of the paperwork I used to use and ask a team of teachers to use):


    One thing I love about your post is how it demonstrates a teacher’s lesson planning ‘evolution’ – for want of a better word. It’s something worth talking about and examining more, because I think many of us start with a long road approach that might change if we are exposed to other methods and rationales.

    Wonderful topic to explore!


    – Jason

    • Hi Jason 🙂

      I am especially thrilled by your participation in the challenge – I thought it was somewhat poetic, since you were the creator of the first challenge I took part in, and responsible for me becoming hooked on them – and learning so much by taking part in them. So thank you. I loved your post, because more than anything it brought up a very important aspect of the importance of lesson planning. Not to mention it was great learning a bit about your teaching history and development.

      This challenge has been the source of great reflection for me – never expected it, I started it out as a simple way to satisfy my curiosity in looking at other teachers’ plans. But once I looked at my own plans, remembering how and why I did each step, each procedure… It helped me remember things, see my “evolution” as you say. I don’t think we do that often enough – at least I know I don’t. And it’s quite ironic in a way, because I’m always telling my students they have to stop and look at their learning process, their progress – what works for them, how they learned, what they learned (in the school where I work we don’t have tests, we use electronic portfolios as our tool for assessing the students’ learning – reflection is the backbone of it). So I guess I’ve been “do as I say, not as I do”.

      If I have made some teachers stop and think about their evolution as a result of my challenge, I am thrilled. And really proud. 🙂

      I’m really glad to have you aboard. Cheers –


  10. […] thorough are your lesson plans? Cecilia Lemos, a colleague in Recife, Brazil, recently asked for teachers to open up about their lesson planning style, format and the evolution of both.  At […]

  11. […] and add their own, like Jason’s, and why looking at old notes or diaries or lesson plans like Cecilia has done is all invaluable. Fruitful, one might […]

  12. Anna Bring says:

    Hi, read a RT on your challenge, and after reading your post and some of the other contributors I decided to share as well. Here’s my post on lessons plan.

    Best regards

    • Hi Anna!

      Thank you for taking part in the challenge and sharing! I’ve added your post to the list of responses. I hope we keep interacting, sharing and learning together.
      Warm, sunny regards,


  13. Caroline says:

    Index cards – what a brilliant idea! Great post… I’m six months post-CELTA and while I found the planning stages very helpful, as a 30-ac.h.+ teacher I just don’t have time to go into that much details, so my plans have already shrunk in size considerably.

    • Great Caroline!!! If this post helped you in any way, even if just giving you an idea – like using index cards – it is a successful post in my opinion.
      Thanks for the feedback!
      Cheers –


  14. […] recent reflections on lesson-planning, rule-based teaching (again) inspired by this discussion, and this challenge (I had no time to participate in, unfortunately), plus the #ELTchat of  of 02.02. 2011 (summary […]

  15. […] Coelho’s lesson plan challenge, inspired by an #eltpics […]

  16. […] thorough are your lesson plans? Cecilia Lemos, a colleague in Recife, Brazil, recently asked for teachers to open up about their lesson planning style, format and the evolution of both.  At […]

  17. berryart says:

    I came across this post and thought it was interesting. I have used a variety of different formats to plan out ideas but my favorite way to build a lesson plan is with a Prezi presentation format because that is just how my brain processes ideas. You can find several of my Prezi presentation lesson plans on my menu bar on the left at http://www.berryart.wordpress.com.

    Christy Berry

  18. David Petrie says:

    HI Cecilia,

    Tyson just drew my attention to your post – my own post on the lesson planning topic doesn’t exactly fit your challenge but does reflect on the planning process (or lack thereof!).
    I think if you have done something many times before, you probably have a clear plan in your head and a range of activities to suit and you have a reasonable expectation of what’s going to transpire in the class. But for me it’s the classes where I’m using unfamiliar materials or dealing with a relatively uncommon or complex language point / skills area that I feel I need the support of a piece of paper with my scribbles all over it!
    thanks for the post and the challenge – you can take a look at my post here: http://teflgeek.net/2013/01/21/what-really-goes-into-your-lesson-plan/

    All the best,

  19. […] the website had many interesting blogs, my favorite post on Box of Chocolates was the one entitled “What’s Your Plan?  My First Challenge.”  She asked for a response from teachers who read her blog of photos of their lesson plans if they […]

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