The ABC of ELT

Are you spending too long lesson planning?

Imagine that you are in the teachers’ room, you don’t have any lessons till the next day but you’ve come in to get some of your planning done. Along comes your director of studies and asks you to cover a general English lesson starting in five minutes. Could you do it?

I’m willing to bet that if you’ve been teaching for a year or two then you could quite easily teach a lesson like this off the cuff (whether you’d want to is a different matter) and it probably wouldn’t be terrible either. I’m also willing to bet that if you were given 30 minutes or even an hour, you’d produce a much better lesson. But what is the ideal amount of time to plan for a lesson? Well maybe a couple of theories can help guide how long we spend planning a lesson?

Remember the “Exponential Curve of Excellence”

The exponential curve of excellence is a graph which reflects that for many tasks, perfection is impossible and the closer you get to perfection, the more effort (and time) it takes to improve less. (Check out the graph below taken from Early To Rise)

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This is unsurprisingly true of lesson planning. It’s easy to get a lesson plan to improve from nothing 0% to average 50% and probably doesn’t take very long. But to get your lesson plan to up to 75% requires twice the time/ effort as your 50% mark.

How much time/effort should you put in to each plan?

The curve of excellence can actually help guide how much time and work you should put in. A general rule of thumb for “good” work is to aim for the “tipping point” of the graph where growth dramatically levels of (point A on the example). However, excellence is beyond good, and so you should actually aim for point B on the graph, (one step beyond what you would normally do). [point c are lessons plans for formal observations and inspections].

But what is that in actual time?

Obviously experience will change these times a lot and some people need more time than others to reach these points. However, I’ve found that in terms of completely focused lessons planning time point A is about 30 mins and point B is 45 minutes. The major difference is usually point B includes more group specific activities, self created materials and can be made up of searching through different resource books for that one perfect activity.

What about you? How long do you spend lesson planning?

About Chris Wilson

I'm an English Language teacher based in Krakow, Poland. I enjoy writing, using technology and playing the Ukulele.

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