3 ESL Lesson Plans Fit For Any TEFL Teacher

by Suzanne Bhagan

If it’s your first time teaching abroad, you may be surprised to meet some students who absolutely hate English and find it extremely difficult to learn. Some dislike it because languages just aren’t their jam, while others dislike it because their past teachers may have taught it in a boring, grammar-centric way (zZzZzzz). Although this isn’t your fault, you can do something to change how they perceive the language. You might be wondering: “But how, oh-wise-one?” We're so glad you asked. :-)

Kids in a class

You should start by teaching students authentic English, you know, the stuff they will actually use in the real world.  Next, set a goal of making interesting lessons that are also fun and interactive. Then craft your lessons like a boss.

Best Practices When Crafting TEFL Lesson Plans

The foundation of any good TEFL lesson is always an awesome lesson plan. Lesson planning can seem scary to the first time TEFL teacher, but there are many TEFL resource sites to help you. Before planning any lesson, you should check any curriculum requirements and whether you have all the teaching resources you need.

Next, your lesson plan should have an educational objective: what do you want your students to be able to do at the end of the lesson? The objective can be one you find in your school’s curriculum or one you develop yourself, once you’ve analyzed your students’ learning levels and goals for the course. 

Your plan should also include a warm up activity to get students comfortable with the target language. These activities don’t have to be very long or rigidly structured. They can be fun language games, like charades, that help students review and practice their English in a casual way. Warm ups help to break the ice and make students primed to continue learning. After the warm up, the main part of the lesson should show the model language you want your students to learn, and allow them to practice it several times before they can attempt it themselves. Finally, lessons should end with a short recap of what you taught.

Have a nice day written on the board

3 Lesson Plans Fit for TEFL Teachers of All Kinds

If you’re new to teaching, the lessons listed below can be lifesavers, especially if you feel as though you have no clue about what you should do. With a little tweaking, you can adapt these lessons to suit any students’ language level or age group. Here are three lesson plans fit for any TEFL teacher:

Acing the self-introduction.

This is a no-brainer. If you’re meeting your student or class for the first time, you need to make a strong first impression. Although meeting someone new is awkward for both the teacher and student, you can ease the tension by preparing an interactive first lesson: the self-introduction.

One of the ways you can do this is by asking your students to guess the answers to questions about yourself. These can be easy, hard questions like “What’s my favorite color?” or “What country do you think I’m from?” If you have a big class, divide them into smaller, more manageable groups and challenge each group to give the right answer in the quickest time. For beginners or younger learners who lack the essential language skills, you can make this activity a matching game, two truths and a lie, or a multiple choice quiz. After you’ve completed this exercise, you can summarize your self-introduction by saying all the right answers. For example, you can say, “Hi! My name is Jenny. I’m from Canada. My favorite color is yellow.” 


After you’ve shared information about yourself, encourage students to follow your example and introduce themselves to one another. Provide worksheets for beginners to write down their introductions, then put them into pairs and allow them to practice with their partners. After a few tries, challenge them to introduce themselves without looking at their worksheets. For child learners who are still learning to write English, make them repeat the essential phrases and practice them orally in a large group and then with partners during pair work.

For adults and more advanced students, you can encourage them to ask follow up questions. For example, if a student says, “My favorite color is yellow,” you or another student can ask a follow up question to find out more information like, “So, yellow’s your favorite color. What’s your least favorite color?” or something more subjective like, “Tell us about the most beautiful yellow thing you’ve ever seen and why?” 

Sharing opinions.

You should never forget that teaching English is also about sharing its culture or way of doing things. For example, sharing your opinion with others may seem natural if you’ve grown up in a Western country, but it may not be so straightforward in other countries. In some Asian countries, like Korea and Japan, students are trained to keep the group happy by not offering their individual perspectives. This can be frustrating for TEFL teachers who are accustomed to working with students who are comfortable expressing personal viewpoints; however, with a little patience and persistence, your students can come around in no time.


First, you need to start small. With young students and beginners, teach students to give their opinions using simple phrases like “I like bananas” and “I don’t like oranges.” This is the easiest way to help students share their likes and dislikes. Keep the questions simple and non-controversial. You can even make them funny, for example, “I like clowns with big feet” or “I don’t like monsters with green hair.” 

For intermediate students, teach them to express their points of view by agreeing or disagreeing, using phrases like “I agree that ramen is delicious” and “I don’t agree that ramen is delicious.” In this way, students will get used to the idea that it’s okay to disagree with others, once they say it in a polite manner.

For fun, have some ESL lesson plans worksheets handy. Have students check or mark “X” on the statements they agree or disagree with. You can make these as complicated or easy as necessary, depending on your classroom level. 

For more advanced students, teach them to give reasons for their views. For example, if a student hates oranges, ask them, “Why don’t you like oranges?” Give the student some time to think and create a response that follows this format: “I don’t like oranges because they’re too sour and hard to peel” or “they make my hands sticky” or “I’m a fool.”

Introduce Christmas

Teaching English as a foreign language doesn’t have to be dull. Students especially love to hear about the culture of English-speaking countries. Western holidays like Christmas are always a popular topic that students want to learn more about, especially in countries where Christmas is not a traditional festival or holiday. 

Young students love to learn songs, so why not teach them a popular Christmas song? ESL conversation lesson plans are always a hit, especially when there are tunes involved. Make sure the lyrics are easy to pronounce and remember like “Jingle Bells.” Teach them the lyrics, practice them a couple of times, then play a part of the song. Stop and ask the students to sing the missing words. To make it more fun (and potentially crazy - proceed with caution), you could even make students sing the song while playing Musical Chairs.

For intermediate to advanced learners, why not play a Christmas Jeopardy game? What’s that? You’ve never done it before? Never fear! Instead of making one from scratch using PowerPoint, why not download a free game template. You can design the categories according to your students’ learning levels, interests, and prior knowledge. Remember that students learn best when you give them doable challenges so don’t make your questions too easy or too hard. 

Angel figurine

For example, for beginners, you can give multiple choice type questions, Spelling Bee, Hangman or True/False questions under each category. For more advanced learners, you can play a Christmas song and allow them to fill in the blanks for the lyrics or show a short movie clip and ask students to guess what happens next. These guessing games will test their creativity and English language abilities. Again, it’s recommended that you break up a large class into groups when playing games like Jeopardy and award points to make it more competitive. You can even award prizes to the winning group like Christmas cookies or candy. 

If you’re teaching one on one or dealing with adult students, Christmas Jeopardy may not be the best activity. Instead, make it more conversational. Ask the students to share what they know about Christmas. If you have really advanced students, you can even encourage them to compare Christmas with similar festivals in their country.  Ask each person to research one topic about Christmas that they really like and allow them to present it to the rest of the class. For example, one student could present on Christmas food whereas another could talk about Christmas traditions like giving presents. 

The Secret to Great ESL Lesson Planning

Be proactive, creative, and have FUN with it. Make sure you’re doing your job though, too. After presenting each lesson, always check whether you’ve met your objectives. Was the lesson too easy or too hard for the students? Did it confuse them? If it did, then you should reevaluate it and tweak it some more. With these three lessons under your belt to get the wheels turning and the ideas flowing for future lessons, teaching ESL will become a more meaningful experience for you and hopefully inspire your students to really love their new language.