When you are a brand new teacher, a lesson plan can be your map through the minefield of a TEFL classroom. As you get more comfortable, you may start to feel that you don't need one, and even stop bothering to write them.
While it's true that not all planned lessons are great, and not all unplanned lessons are terrible, it's also true that planning them out just makes them better than they would have been without one.
Yes, filling them out can be monotonous and time consuming, but deciding not to write one gives you short term gains. The class itself will never benefit from you not planning.
The Benefits Of Lesson Planning
Some of these benefits will be pretty obvious to you, but there are others that you might not have considered.
- Planning a lesson helps you keep focused and on track.
- Planning a lesson shows that you're professional.
- Planning a lesson keeps everything coherent.
- Planning a lesson allows you to think of the bigger picture.
- When all else fails, planning a lesson will allow you to adjust to anything in-class.
We could name a few more points in addition to these, but the five above should give you enough motivation to spend the 30 minutes necessary to write out a plan.
It's Not All About You
Generally, teachers start to think that they're good enough to not need a lesson plan anymore. They have a great understanding of the target language, can follow the lesson structure by heart, and have a library of games/activities in their heads. With this in mind, it can be easy to forgo the lesson plan.
Unfortunately, a lesson plan isn't only for you!
When students see a teacher with a plan, they see an organized teacher who takes their job seriously, is focused on the lesson, and wants to make sure the students learn properly.
When students see a teacher WITHOUT a plan, they see someone who is there to entertain them, to be distracted, or worst case scenario, they see someone who isn't serious about the class. If students think you're not serious, do you think they will be serious either?
Think Of The Bigger Picture
As good as you might think your memory is, it's very easy to forget any problems that you came across in any given lesson. Writing a plan allows you to review the lesson and determine any errors or difficulties students might have faced. You can write notes for the next lesson, and really make sure that over the course of a semester, everything students need to learn is covered, and covered well.
In many cases, simply the act of doing this plan and thinking about the bigger picture makes each lesson better automatically.
Coherence Is Priceless
Even if you're able to perfectly recall a lesson plan mentally in your head, you'll lose 1-2 seconds between activities while you think what's next. Granted, you'll also lose a few seconds if you have to look down at a lesson plan, but the former uses more mental capacity, and that can start to add up.
Not only that, but the students will see you looking less structured than other teachers, and may even think you don't know what you're doing. If these are adult students, they'll feel that they're not getting the quality they deserve, but if they're children, they'll see this as an opportunity to misbehave. Afterall, they're not dealing with a 'real' teacher in their minds.
That extra coherence that you gain from having a solid structure and following a plan will add up through the lesson and result in a much better experience. Even if you're the world's best teacher at winging-it, your class will STILL be better with a plan than without.
The Plan Is Your Guide, Not A Science
To finish, you need to be aware that no lesson plan is a 100% guarantee. There will be some situations where you need to adjust on the fly or go off-plan slightly.
This is fine, and having the plan there means it's a lot easier for you to get back on track after. Use the plan as your map or guide through the lesson, but don't be afraid to go off the path when necessary. Sometimes an activity just doesn't work as planned, or students just aren't grasping a concept and you need to spend more time on it. Plans are there to "plan" for these unforeseen circumstances and get you through them.
As such, make sure to always plan more than you need to.
If you do this, your lessons will be that much better, regardless of how experienced you may be.