TEACH: How should I plan my teaching sessions and activities?

TEACH (15)

Every teacher, trainer or tutor involved in foundation education needs to plan ways they can meet their learners’ literacy and numeracy needs within the constraints of the limited amounts of time they have together.

Planning happens in lots of different ways. Let’s have a look at a few different ways that tutors actually manage their planning.

“It’s in my head”

Sometimes we plan things without writing them down. This is something that experienced teachers do. Sometimes the plan might be a few scribbled notes on a piece of paper, but the planning happens mentally.

This kind of planning is usually based on what the educator knows will work from doing the same things on other occasions with the same kinds of learners.

Needs-based or improvised

This kind of planning is when you develop an idea on the spot when a need arises or an opportunity presents itself. This is also something good teachers do automatically and intuitively.

Experienced teachers can improvise a plan based on what kind of feedback they’re getting from their learners and what they know the learners need to do next.


In some teaching situations, it makes more sense to keep a record of what actually happened, rather than to plan extensively beforehand. This is often the case where the learners and teaching contexts are more dynamic.

One example might be an ESOL workplace literacy course where it’s uncertain which learners may turn up. In this case, the teacher might have a loose plan when they start, but then record the session details afterwards only noting what they covered.


A plan can also be a deliberate, written guide for what to do in one or a series of teaching sessions.

This is something that all new teachers do when they’re getting started. Some keep the practice, but just get better at it or find ways to plan faster. Others find that after a time they can shift to planning in their heads or improvising.

For most teachers though, the actual reality of planning reflects some combination of all of these methods. For our purposes, we’re going to focus on written planning. This means that if you are used to planning everything in your head, you’ll need to write some of this down.

If you’re a teacher or a trainer who is used to improvising, you’ll still need to develop a written plan. But there’s an opportunity after each of the three teaching sessions to reflect and review what actually happened.

What are some guidelines for writing up my teaching plans?

Our criteria are simple when it comes to what to include in your teaching plans. If you can answer yes to the following question, you’re likely to include everything we need:

  • If you were away for a day, could a colleague with similar training pick up your planning and resources and teach your class?

We don’t think you need to include any more details than are necessary. Aside from knowing your learning outcomes and having copies of any resources, all your colleague should need is a set of instructions to follow for the activities.

Author: Graeme Smith

Education, technology, design. Also making cool stuff...

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