Having a plan is an integral part of every life engagement. A popular axiom in Nigeria says, “He who fails to plan plans to fail.” Therefore, having a lesson plan is a precondition for any teacher to appear in a class. A common misconception, especially among university lecturers, deserves illumination in this piece.

Many teachers/lecturers feel they have mastery of their course content and can appear in a class any time and deliver excellently well. It must be mentioned that being so knowledgeable in one’s subject area is not a reason to appear in any class without a lesson plan. Having a lesson plan does not suggest lack of knowledge of what to teach. The lesson plan, therefore, serves much more purposes than just to relay the content of a lesson to students. However intelligent a teacher is, going to class without a plan leaves him/her with the chances of not sequencing ideas in the best of order or even omitting some important information.

Against this backdrop, this piece will discuss what a lesson plan is, the ways by which a lesson plan is useful to teachers, guidelines to writing a good lesson plan and, lastly, the structure of a good lesson plan.
In a succinct manner, Brandl (2008) defines a lesson plan as “a systematic record of a teacher’s thoughts about what will be covered during a lesson.” Thus, a lesson plan is a compass to navigate the activities of teachers and students in a class. Factually, the quality of a lesson plan determines the success and outcome of a class. This leads me to the discussion on the ways a lesson plan is useful to a teacher.
First, a lesson plan helps a teacher or lecturer to think about the requirements for a class such as the content, materials, sequencing, timing and the step-by-step activities of the class. The lesson plan serves as a kind of repertoire for the teacher when there is a need to reflect on the activities that have taken place in the class over a period of time. It serves as a form of logbook for the teacher. Very importantly, also, the lesson plan makes it easy for someone else to handle a class in the absence of a teacher. It serves as a document to be simply implemented. Lesson plans also confer some level of honour on the teacher and makes him/her appear like a diligent worker who does not trivialise his/her job. A teacher who appears in classes without a lesson plan lacks in professionalism, however, intelligent such a person is.

This piece will proceed to the guidelines that help one plan a lesson effectively, especially in a language classroom. The teacher should design a contextualised plan which will encourage students to use their knowledge of the English language in specific situations. Beyond mastering the linguistic content of the language, students should be led to deploy their language skills in communicative situations, and the lesson plan should reflect this. The teaching of “grammar,” “vocabulary” and even “sounds” should be tilted towards contexts of use.

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Also, class activities in the classroom should be student-centred. The teacher or lecturer should drastically reduce the use of expressions such as “I will show you…” and deploy more of expressions like “You will see…” and “We shall do…” Students must be properly engaged in the classroom to serve as examples and illustrations, and they should duly take down information. Engaging students during classes helps to build their confidence and makes the class lively. Your plan must also have activities that are commensurate with and appropriate for the students’ level of proficiency. It is the case that teachers give tasks that parents sometimes cannot attempt, let alone the students. This is usually the case when teachers do not sift what obtains in the recommended materials for students. Teachers should not just adopt the content of recommended materials for students hook, line and sinker. The writer of the materials did not directly have your own students in mind when s/he prepared the material, so you must make it suitable for your students. This applies to lecturers who also recommend materials to students. As a guide, too, the teacher should plan a series of activities to help learners of different categories cope with the class. Hence, mixed methods such as audio, audio-visual, discussion method and other possible approaches should be deployed in the classroom.

Scholars differ on what the structure of a lesson plan should be, and no one method can be described as the best. In this piece, however, I propose that the first thing in the structure of a good plan should be a start-up or opening activity. This helps position the students for the business of the day. The start-up engagement could be a story, short game, social issue or event, riddle or joke. As part of the start-up engagement, Brandl (2008) advised that the teacher could ask questions about the previous class, find out what the students did with the knowledge acquired from the previous lesson and could even find out how the students found the topic useful to their personal lives. The second part of a lesson is the main segment which describes the objectives of the lesson, states the skills the students will learn, describes the relationship between the lesson and the need of the students in the real world, states the role(s) of the students in the lesson and states the link between the lesson and the previous one. Note that in setting the objectives for a lesson, the teacher has to use measurable/concrete verbs such as describe, list, explain, apply, and not non-measurable verbs like know, understand, appreciate. As part of the structure of a lesson, the needed materials for the topic have to be stated.

Finally, a lesson should have a conclusion with activities such as reviewing or summarising the main points of the lesson, establishing the relationship between the lesson and the set goal of the class, admonishing the students to live positively, announcing assignments or developmental tasks for them and allowing students to ask questions.
This piece has discussed the importance of a lesson note and its possible structure. As teachers and lecturers, a careful perusal of the essay will help us execute our tasks better and will also help people who impart others at individual level.

Bamgbose is a lecturer in Lagos State University, Ojo