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Concourse 2

How to write a Delta lesson plan


A poor teacher can teach successfully with a good plan but a good teacher cannot teach successfully with a poor plan.

Before doing all this, you may want to follow a basic guide to planning.

Here's the picture


We'll take each element of the plan separately and match the content of the plan to the Delta assessment criteria.
Also included in this guide are typical criticisms made by Delta assessors.  Be careful to ensure that they can't be levelled at you and your planning.
A lesson can pass or fail on the strength of its plan so this is not a box-ticking exercise.


The learners

All plans start with a consideration of the learners, their needs, their learning preferences and their interests so it's unsurprising that this is the first criterion for a Delta assessment.

5a) includes
(i) a brief general overview of the group of learners and the course
(ii) information about individual learners relevant to the lesson

Here you need to explain the context of the lesson.  It may be that your observer-assessor knows most of this but it is unlikely that an external assessor will.  The key question to ask is
What do I need to tell the observer to make the context clear?
Do that but do no more.

assessorssay What assessors sometimes say:
The information on the class is incomplete in terms of ... (followed a by a range of areas including context, needs and the setting).
The candidate has provided too much that is not relevant so it is difficult to identify key issues.
There is information on the individuals in the class but too little / nothing that is relevant to the aims and design of this lesson.

It is here that you demonstrate your familiarity with the group and the fact that there are some commonalities to bear in mind when planning for them.  If you are sharing a class, do not rely on other people's perceptions (but draw on them).  It is your view and your response to the group that is most important.

To meet 5a) (i)

Set out the following (in a grid or table if you like):

Item Example
the length of the course and its aim this course runs over six weeks and started on ...
its general aim is to help these B1-level learners use English in their workplaces
intensity and timetable the group meets for 3 hours, twice every week in the evening
teachers there are two teachers who share the timetable equally, one focusing on productive skills, the other on receptive skills.  I am the first of these.
structural and lexical issues are dealt with in the context of skills work
I have taught the group for ...
group most members of the group are well-educated professionals (in a variety of fields) in their 20s and 30s
the group is reasonably homogenous in terms of level although some have weak writing skills
attendance is compulsory but somewhat variable

That's enough.  There is no need, unless the group is very unusual, to say more here.
There may be an unusual item worth adding to the list.  For example, if the group is particularly heterogeneous, has split aims and so on.  Before you write something about this, ask yourself if it's really relevant to your lesson.  If it isn't, leave it out.
It's important to state your familiarity with the group.  The less you have, the less will be expected of you in certain areas.  (That is not, however, an excuse for not doing research into needs, preferences and abilities.)

TASK: what would you say about the group you are currently teaching or have recently taught?

To meet 5a) (ii)

Here your focus is on the individuals in relation to the lesson you are planning.

The data are probably best set out in a grid, but you may need to vary the columns to suit your group.  For our example, all the learners have the same aims but your group may be less homogenous and you'll need to include a column for Reasons for learning, for example.  Special needs, too, may need a column or a comment such as:
    Jose is a little deaf so needs to sit near the front to hear me clearly and to be face-to-face in any pair-work or group-work activity.

Individual Age, gender L1 Other languages Occupation Particular interests General ability Ability etc. relevant to this lesson Attendance and motivation Learning preferences Other comment
Learner 1 27, F Italian Excellent German IT engineer IT and films Average for the group in most skills but with weak pronunciation and confidence She will struggle with the pronunciation stage and may be reticent in role plays Perfect attendance and high motivation
She says she enjoys the problem-solving nature of learning a language
Is reflective and individual, preferring to work alone or in a pair rather than in groups Has recently divorced and is looking for a new career and direction
Learner 2 35, M Italian None Golf professional Landscape gardening Weak grammatically but willing to experiment orally
Has high confidence which aids communication
He will appreciate the opportunities to work with others and use his good speaking skills
He may struggle with the language analysis phase
Intermittent attendance due to work commitments but highly motivated Is an activator of language and takes every opportunity to put new language into practice.  Enjoys group work Has a tendency to dominate if open questions are asked but is sensitive to this and tries to keep quiet sometimes

and so on.


Two words of warning

  1. Do not be tempted to include everything you know about the class and the learners in this section.  If you do that, you have demonstrated the fact that you are unable to select what is relevant and important for your lesson and your teaching.
  2. Do not describe learners by learning-style stereotypes.  The whole area of learning styles and whether they actually exist is controversial.  Even if you accept some of the theories (and there are lots of them), do not be drawn into saying that this or that learner is 'a kinaesthetic learner' or whatever.  That's just nonsense.  For more, see the guide to learning styles and culture.

TASK: what would you say about three learners you know well concerning a lesson on newspaper sports pages?


Aims and objectives

Much guff is used to distinguish between aims and objectives.
However, it is important to distinguish between the outcomes for the learners and the aims for the teacher.
For example, your aim may be to teach the first conditional for bargaining but that is what you are going to do not what the learners will achieve.  There are three good reasons for setting out your aims in terms of learning outcomes:

  1. It will be easier for you to select the most appropriate materials and procedures when you have stated very clearly what you want the learners to acquire
  2. If you define objectives precisely, you are in a better position to judge whether they have been achieved
  3. If you transmit to the learners what your intentions are vis-à-vis learning outcomes, they can use their own experience to try to achieve them

It's not a mystery then, why the criterion for planning states:

5b) sets out clear and appropriate overall aims and learning outcomes for the lesson in relation to language systems and/or language skills and learner needs

assessorssay What assessors sometimes say:
The aims are expressed in terms of procedure (e.g., "The learners will exchange information about their own preferences.") rather than focusing on learning outcomes.
The candidate has focused on teaching aims to the exclusion of learning outcomes.
Aims are clear but the profile of the learners shows that they are unambitious and under-challenging

If you have done the basic guide to planning, you'll know that there is a critical difference between an aim and a procedure.  To remind you, which of the following is a learning outcome and which a procedure?

  1. Students will exchange ideas about sports and pastimes
  2. The class will practise making question forms with conditional sentences
  3. At the end of the lesson, the learners will be more aware of the importance of collocation
  4. The learners will be able to understand, use appropriately and pronounce the following 10 lexemes ...
  5. The students will mingle to find someone who has selected the same three adjectives to describe their families
  6. Students will have gained a better understanding of the nature of verbs followed by gerunds and infinitives and be able to use them confidently

Click here when you have an answer.

Once you have settled on the outcomes you want to achieve, you can focus on how you want to achieve them.  For example:

At the end of the lesson, the learners will be more aware of the importance of collocation by encountering 10 common noun-verb combinations in context in order to understand them and using them in a text of their own making.

The part in black text tells the reader exactly how the aim will be realised.  That's the way to write aims.

There are three important things to consider when you are deciding upon aims and objectives:

When you set out the aims and objectives for the lesson, make sure you think carefully about the level of challenge.  Do not be tempted to play it safe (and write aims that are insufficiently ambitious) or try to do too much (and have over-ambitious aims and densely packed materials).  A common complaint from assessors is that a lesson was well conducted and enjoyable for the learners but unproductive because they left the lesson without having made any obvious improvement or developed any skills.
Demonstrating progress
Plan in how you will show the learners, the assessors and yourself what progress has been made in the lesson.  Simple ways to do this include getting the learners to articulate what they have learned or showing them what they have learned by making the final practice procedure one in which they are using new language or a new skill (or both).
Make sure your aims are achievable in the time you have at your disposal.  Do not have so much material or so many new items that you can't deal with them properly.

TASK: what were the learning objectives of the last lesson you taught?



This criterion states:

5c) provides relevant analysis of target language in terms of form, meaning/use and phonology in the case of language systems, and in terms of linguistic, discoursal and communicative features in the case of language skills

assessorssay What assessors sometimes say:
The candidate has simply lifted the analysis from the Background Essay and has not properly analysed the targets of this lesson.
The candidate has not analysed in sufficient depth and has not focused on ... (followed by, e.g., phonology, meaning, use, form etc.).

In your Background Essay, you will have analysed the language system or language skill that is the target of your lesson.  Here, you need to draw on that to analyse only the element(s) which form the target(s) for this lesson.  Do not just lift a section from the essay and parachute it in here.  Make sure that you analyse fully – consider form, meaning, use, style, register, pronunciation and function for a systems-focused lesson (and for the systems elements of a skills-focused lesson) and analyse all the relevant subskills for a skills-focused lesson.
This is also not the place to discuss problems learners have.  That comes later.


Timetable fit and linkage

This criterion states:

5d) outlines any relevant link(s) between this lesson and relevant aspects of preceding and subsequent lessons, and if relevant the course as a whole

assessorssay What assessors sometimes say:
The candidate has said what came before this lesson but not what follows it (or vice versa).
The candidate has stated what came before this lesson but not how it impinges on what is to be done now.
The candidate has not made the relevance of what is to follow clear in terms of this lesson's content and aims.

You have to say how the lesson fits with what has come before and what follows.  Be clear about how it is relevant to the way this lesson has been designed.  Do not just state what came before and what follows in the hope that the reader can make the connections.
Don't be tempted to describe the whole course here – state things relevant to this lesson and its targets only.
For example:

The group have recently encountered some simple multi-word verbs, both phrasal and prepositional.  In particular, they have recently had two lessons, one of which focused on the topic of transport and included:
look after, look at, look for, get on, get off, check in, wait for, take off
It is now appropriate to move on to considering the topic of separability and the characteristics of transitive phrasal and prepositional verbs in this respect.
Next week, my co-teacher and I intend to extend and develop their knowledge of multi-word verbs and focus on more examples of (in)separability, also considering stylistic appropriacy in the context of the workplace (e.g., using put off vs. postpone a meeting).  For this reason, this lesson's second sub-aim is only to raise awareness of style at this stage.



This criterion states:

5e) states assumptions made about the learners’ knowledge, abilities and interests relevant to the aims and learning outcomes of the lesson

assessorssay What assessors sometimes say:
The candidate has listed assumptions about the learners' existing knowledge / skills development but has said nothing about the materials and design of the lesson and what assumptions underlie its construction.
The assumptions are not clearly set out and distinguished from timetable fit and anticipated problems.

There are two things to consider:

  1. assumptions about learners’ prior knowledge.
    For example,
    all the learners have demonstrated in the past that are able to form the tense accurately but there are still issues of appropriate use to work on
  2. assumptions that have a specific bearing on learners’ ability to engage with the language systems/skills, the topic, the materials and the methods/techniques of the lesson.
    For example,
    The class as a whole (with one exception) has expressed some interest in learning about the educational system in the USA so should be engaged by the topic.
    Speaking is a high priority for this group and the final stage of the lesson will be an opportunity for them to put a number of speaking skills into practice which will show the learners what progress they have made in this regard.

Make sure you refer to both.

TASK: what general assumptions do you make when planning for a current class you teach?

problem and solution

Problems and solutions

The next two criteria are linked so we'll take them together.  Both these criteria are, judging from reports issued by Cambridge, critical.  Failure to meet them is a common reason for failing overall.

They are:

5f) anticipates and explains potential problems in relation to the lesson’s aims and learning outcomes, the learners and the learning context, and the equipment, materials and resources to be used


5g) suggests appropriate solutions to the problems outlined in 5f

assessorssay What assessors sometimes say:
The candidate has listed language / skills problems which are, in fact the targets of the lesson itself.  If these weren't problems for the learners, there would be little point in teaching the lesson.
The candidate has focused on an insufficient range of issues, excluding ... (followed by, e.g., affective factors, organisation and equipment issues etc.).
The candidate has included a problem which actually stems from the materials chosen and should have been addressed at the planning stage.
The solutions proposed are too vaguely described (e.g., "I will explain ...")

The sorts of problems you should consider are

  1. Problems that learners may have with the content and focus of your lesson (i.e., the target and the topic)
  2. Learners’ potential problems with the skill(s)/subskill(s) they will have to deploy
  3. Levels of interest in the topic
  4. Level of challenge
  5. What might go wrong (not only with technology)

This is not the place to say that the learners won't know the target language or can't deploy the target (sub)skill.  Of course not – that's why you are teaching it.

Then you set out the solutions you have in mind.  Some like to use a table for this with problems on the left and solutions on the right.  That works well to make sure you have covered everything.  For example:

There are issues both with transitivity vs. intransitivity and (in)separability with the target items so I have arranged the projector slides and the handouts to highlight the differences in colours and text font styles to aid the noticing process (appendix 2).  The first half of the text contains only intransitive forms of multi-word verbs (queue up, stand up etc.) and the second half contains transitive forms (push through, grab hold of etc.).  The answer to the first while-listening question can be arrived at without encountering a transitive or separable verb but the second question requires some noticing of the object of the verb.  For this reason, I shall play the recording in two distinct parts.
Three of the learners work in public transport of various kinds so will be familiar with the topic and may have some specialist vocabulary to contribute.  Others will be less well informed but they all struggle to get to work or school on overcrowded buses and trains so will be familiar with the topic area discussed in the audio text of a radio interview.  I shall make sure that the three groups all have one of the experts as a member so the expertise can be shared.
The listening task is quite challenging because the interview from a local radio station concerning overcrowding on trains is authentic and there is a good deal of potentially blocking lexis (see list in the analysis section).  I am hoping that the three who work in the field may be able to help their colleagues and intend to introduce three of the items in the opening anecdote.  However, if the text still proves too difficult, I have the tapescript prepared on a handout and can project it on the interactive white board if need be.
The gap-fill task, too, to select the correct adverbial particle or preposition is challenging and I am prepared to give those who find it so a handout of the possible choices to insert (thus making it a multiple-choice rather than an open-ended task).
The technology I want to use (audio playback and interactive white board) is usually reliable but I have a script of the text which I can project if necessary should either or both fail.
Writing in an unfamiliar script for both the Urdu speakers in the group is a challenge and they do so slowly and often reluctantly.  I shall, therefore, pair them with more fluent writers to compose the email to the council so that this does not delay things too much and throw the timing awry.

Be precise here and avoid saying, for example
    I will provide more practice
    I will explain the meaning

etc. because these are too vague.  The reader wants to know that you have planned in detail how you will deal with the problems.



The criterion for this section is

5h) describes suitably sequenced procedures and activities appropriate to achieving the stated overall aims and stage aims

assessorssay What assessors sometimes say:
The stage aims / interaction modes / procedures are missing.
The stage aims are expressed as procedures, not learning outcomes / aims.
The proposed timing is too precise / not precise enough.

Almost everyone does this in the form of a table, like this:

Stage Aim Procedure Time Interaction Comment and teacher role
Stage 1 To activate the learners' knowledge of the topic 3-minute buzz groups to come up with 10 items related to hospitals – 5 verbs and 5 nouns 4 minutes SS-SS
(groups of 4)
Make sure that Maria, Helena and Juan are in different groups as they work in hospitals
Manager and monitor
Stage 7 To consolidate the language and provide a record
To prepare for the speaking activity
Individually, learners write a short anecdote for later retelling concerning a health problem 12 minutes T-S (individually) Monitor, knower, checker and assistant

This is a good place to ask yourself very important questions because a failure to meet this criterion is common in assignments which fail overall:

  1. Does the aim of the stage match its procedure?  (I.e., is the activity awareness-raising, skill getting or skill using?)
  2. Do the stage aims all contribute to achieving the learning outcomes?
  3. Is every aim and objective set out in 5b targeted by a procedure or activity (or two)?
  4. Is the staging logical?
  5. Is there anything I am asking the learners to do for which they have not been prepared?
  6. Is the timing realistic, bearing in mind that even a short instruction will take a minute or so?
  7. Do I need to prepare a board plan?
  8. Do I need to prepare concept- and instruction-checking questions?
  9. Do I need to write out my instructions and remember them?
  10. Which stages will allow me to check and demonstrate whether learning is happening or has happened?
  11. Do I have a stage (near the end) in which both the learners and I can see what has been achieved?

There are three guides on this site that are helpful in selecting and designing tasks and activities when planning the procedures in a lesson.  The guides will open in a new window or tab:

  1. The guide to activity types.  This guide covers the concepts of three kinds of activity:
    • awareness-raising activities
    • skills-getting activities
    • skills-using activities
  2. The guide to task types focuses on specific task types and covers, with examples:
    • matching tasks
    • gap-fill tasks
    • role-play tasks
    • skeleton tasks
    • listing and prioritising tasks
    • discussion and debate tasks
    • transformation and transfer tasks
    • information and information-gap tasks
  3. The guide to teacher roles is a simpler one, in the initial plus section, which will remind you of what to put in the right-hand column of the procedure grid.  It describes nine possible roles for you to consider taking on.



This criterion is

5i) states materials and/or resources to be used, which are appropriate to the teaching and learning context, the learners, the lesson aims and learning outcomes, and the time available, and includes a copy/copies of suitably presented materials sourced where necessary

assessorssay What assessors sometimes say:
The materials given to the assessor were incomplete / in the wrong order / different from the ones actually used / unsourced / contained typographical errors etc.
The materials are poorly chosen in relation to their targets / the level of the class / the learners' interests and ages etc.

All you need to do here is

  1. List the materials and resources you will use
  2. Supply a copy of everything just as it will be used in the lesson.  You must source your materials conventionally, even if you have produced them yourself.
  3. Make sure that your materials are free from errors.  There are two teaching criteria which will impacted by poor materials:
    7c) give accurate and appropriate models of language form, meaning/use and pronunciation
    7d) give accurate and appropriate information about language form, meaning/use and pronunciation and/or language skills/subskills

    If your materials contain errors in language form, you will not meet these criteria.
    Nothing reduces an observer-assessor's confidence in you more than materials which have been hurriedly and carelessly prepared.  If there are language errors in what you give or show to learners, you will be severely criticised.

A word of warning: do not include materials for their own sake.  You may have an activity or some material which you know is engaging and interesting but the materials and what you do with them must contribute to achieving the learning outcomes of this lesson.



This criterion (5j) states that you must assign:

realistic and appropriate timing for each stage and/or group of stages in the procedure.

We have covered this in the bit on procedure.

assessorssay What assessors sometimes say:
The timing of the xxxxx stage is clearly unrealistic, given the need to explain the task, conduct it and get the necessary feedback.
The candidate has timed the lesson for 50 minutes but the maximums allowed for each stage add up to 74 minutes.
Timing is unrealistically precise / too vague.

Check your timings carefully for each stage and make sure you have included the time it takes to set up and get feedback as well as the time it takes to do the activity

TASK: how good is your prediction and allocation of timing?  What throws your predictions out of synch with reality?



The final criterion is

5k) includes a commentary, of between 500 and 750 words, which provides a clear rationale for the lesson plan with reference to learner characteristics and needs and the candidate’s reading and research in their background essay

This is a critical criterion and reports issued by Cambridge identify a failure to fulfil it is often indicative of a failure overall so you need to get it right.

assessorssay What assessors sometimes say:
The commentary describes the lesson rather than providing a rationale for its design and the procedures.
The candidate has given a justification for the lesson's design but has not referenced this to his reading and research or made connections between the commentary and the Background Essay.
The justification for the lesson is lifted verbatim from the essay and adds nothing specifically relevant to this class.

You need to address all parts of this criterion with a rationale for the lesson's design, materials and procedures.
There are two things to do:

  1. Say why you are doing what you are doing the way you are doing it.  Refer to the learners here, their needs and the context of the lesson.  Look back at what you wrote under 5a (the profiles) and 5d (the timetable fit) to do this.
  2. Say how your research and reading for the essay informed your planning.  Quote from the essay if you like but don't just repeat yourself – explain.

and there are two things not to do:

  1. Do not claim to be implementing an approach or lesson shape which your procedures do not exemplify.  If you have designed the lesson as test-teach-test, for example, make sure that the stages reflect this and then you can say why you have chosen this approach.  Bear in mind that there is no preferred approach in a Delta observation / assessment.  What you need to find is an appropriate approach given the targets and the current level of mastery of the learners.
  2. Do not be tempted to describe the lesson.  This is the place to justify and explain, not describe.


The planning paradox

While there are many good reasons to have a plan (see above) there are also ways in which a plan can actually get in the way of responding to your learners.  This calls for a little flexibility.

A map is not the territory.  Do not confuse the model (your plan) with the reality (your lesson).

While both focus and variety can be planned, flexibility, by definition, cannot.  What the teacher does when things do not go according to plan is just as important as knowing what to put in the plan in the first place.
However good the plan, and however carefully you have thought about your learners, their needs and their preferences, something will arise in almost all lessons which was not predicted in your plan (or predictable).

In fact, two of the assessment criteria for the teaching on Delta Module Two make explicit reference to your ability to respond to reality rather than march through a plan.  These criteria are that you demonstrate that you can effectively:

  • 7e) notice and judiciously exploit learners’ language output to further language and skills/subskills development.
  • 9a) implement the lesson plan and where necessary adapt it to emerging learner needs.

Meeting these criteria will involve some departure from the plan.
It may, for example, turn out that the learners' mastery of a language item which you had assumed in the section above under criterion 5e) is not as secure as it needs to be.  This may require quite a serious diversion from your plan if the lesson depends on their knowing how to handle the language in question.
It may also be the case, on the other hand, that the learners are already aware of and can handle some of the targets of the lesson.  If that occurs, you would be very unwise to continue with the teaching procedures you had planned for these targets.

The moral of all this is: Teach the learners, not the plan.

That's it.
Now all you have to do is teach the lesson and write a bit about how it went and what you should do next.

Related guides
planning for a basic guide to planning to remind you of the most important aspects
reflection and evaluation for how to write the follow-up to your lesson
meeting the teaching criteria how to meet all the teaching criteria above pass level, category by category
learning styles and culture for some ideas concerning what to include in the learner profiles
activity types of three sorts: awareness raising, skill getting and skill using
task types for some ideas of what to include in the activity phases
teacher roles which considers the nine main roles you need to consider when planning the procedure
grouping learners for some consideration of when it pays to take the time to re-group learners appropriately