Have you ever done something spontaneously?

Usually, it makes for a fun and exciting experience! 

But that is absolutely not the case when it comes to teaching, especially teaching English! 

Suppose you’re going on a vacation with your friends. Would you go somewhere with absolutely no plan in mind? You don’t know where you will stay, how you will get around once you’re there, which spots you’ll visit, what food you’ll eat…

Surely, at least some planning is required. At least, you have to sort out your accommodations and transportation. 

Likewise, you also need to plan your lessons. Every class session has an objective – and your plan is how you can achieve those objectives. 

So, plan your lessons carefully and avoid these 10 mistakes if you want your class to go off without a hitch! 

Starting with number 1… 

1. Not having a clear goal 

Making a lesson plan without a specific goal is like going out with no direction. Where do you want to go? You don’t know. So you just keep driving around in circles.  Pointless, exhausting, and a waste of time! 

Having a specific objective helps you create a framework to achieve those objectives. Essentially, having a clear goal makes you teach with more clarity, which in turn helps your students follow along and absorb the lesson better. 

With a clear goal, you can choose the appropriate exercises, activities, games, and resources. 

So, how does this look in practice? 

It’s actually quite simple! Take a look at these two examples of a teacher’s goal: 

  • By the end of the lesson, I want my students to have learned the simple past tense
  • By the end of the lesson, I want my students to be able to describe their past weekend activities.

See the difference? 

You might think the goal is essentially the same. But turning the goal into something more concrete really does help with lesson planning! 

From there, you can then map out the lesson structure… 

2. Having no lesson structure 

Related to the first point, having a lesson structure is definitely a must! 

After you’ve mapped out your lesson plan, the next thing you need is a structure!

Using the example above, your goal might be “By the end of the lesson, I want my students to be able to describe events that happened in the past”

Remember, a good lesson structure integrates three parts:

  • Learning objectives 
  • Learning activities 
  • Assessment to check students’ understanding 

Using the examples above, you can ask yourself these questions:

  • How will I explain about past events?
  • How can I engage my students to learn about the simple past tense?
  • What are some relevant real-life examples, analogies, or situations that can help students understand the topic?
  • What will students need to do to help them understand the topic better?

From there, you can start to structure your lesson. For example, you can… 

  • Convey the concept verbally with the help of a visual aid (such as powerpoint) 
  • Pair work: have students discuss their last vacation 
  • Exercise: have students do an exercise, perhaps fill in the blank for a past tense narrative text 
  • Quiz: check students’ understanding with a timed quiz

Lesson structure isn’t meant to be rigid. As we all know, our days are unpredictable, and you know your students best, however, it’s still good to have a guiding structure. 

It can serve as a sort of anchor to keep you from getting lost! 

3. Failing to include variety 

Quoting Melinda Schoenfeldt, a professor from the Department of Elementary, Ball State University, ““People learn what they want to learn.”

As teachers, we also have to deal with the challenge of getting our students to really take part in their lessons and not just come to class and sit there passively. 

So, what can we do to raise and maintain our students’ interest in learning?

The answer, as you might have guessed, is to include variety! 

You need to be creative when it comes to delivering your lessons. Try to incorporate different kinds of activities and games in your lessons, such as music, crafts, games, storytelling, group work, and anything else that will raise your students’ enthusiasm! 

4. Using the same lesson plan 

The coursebook and the class syllabus might be the same as last year’s, but your students won’t be. Each class is unique. What worked with your previous students might not be the best for your current students. Don’t forget that there’s always room for improvement!

 Each year, there will always be some new pop culture that becomes really popular – a popular song, artist, tv show, or movie. By updating that every year, you keep your materials relevant, which means your students will engage with your lessons better. 

If you’re happy with your lesson plan and think it really works, by all means, use it. Just don’t be super rigid – some flexibility is always good. Again, take into account that every class is different. So, customize your games and activities to suit each class’ characteristics!  

5. No Plan B 

You’ve planned an awesome lesson. Today, your students will watch a short video for their listening comprehension exercise. But, when you turn on the computer, you discover that the wifi is having problems, and you can’t play the video you intended to play. Now what? Do you just let your students play games and talk amongst themselves for the entirety of the class?

That’s why having a plan B is important! 

You never know when a problem might occur, so it’s better to always be prepared! Have several games, exercise, and practice options that your students can do to achieve the learning objectives. 

6. Not trying the task first

Ever dived into teaching a task without trying it yourself first?

It might seem like a time-saver, but it’s a shortcut to a classroom hiccup! Not test-driving a task or activity before introducing it to your students can lead to a bunch of classroom challenges!

First of all, if you haven’t experienced the task yourself, you might overlook some of its more challenging aspects. This can lead to situations where students face obstacles that you’re unprepared to solve, creating confusion and disrupting the learning flow.

Moreover, Without trying it out, you might not hit that ‘just right’ level for your students’ abilities. The task could be too complex, too simple, or miss the mark on your learning goals!

Also, keep in mind that students are curious, and rightly so! If you’re not familiar with the task, their questions might catch you off guard. Being unable to provide immediate, accurate help can put a damper on the learning vibe!

Last but not least, knowing the task well helps you allocate the right amount of time for it. Without this knowledge, you might spend too little or too much time on the activity, which can disrupt the lesson’s flow.

7. Ignoring pedagogy 

Pedagogy is all about understanding how different students learn. If this is overlooked, you might not cater to the varied ways your students process information, leading to less effective teaching!

Here’s the thing about good teaching – it’s way more than just getting through the lesson plan. It’s about guiding our students to truly get the concepts. Without focusing on pedagogy, students could end up just going through the motions without really understanding or being able to use what they’ve learned in new ways.

A huge part of pedagogy is all about scaffolding. Think of it like building blocks – you start with the basics and then gradually up the ante. Skipping this means you might dish out tasks that are either too tough or too simple, without the right kind of buildup or a moment to take stock.

And let’s not forget, effective pedagogy is about keeping things interesting. It means linking lessons to things students can relate to, shaking up your teaching methods, and creating a classroom vibe that’s both welcoming and engaging. If we skip on these, we might see our students’ interest starting to dip.

Also, a big slice of the pedagogy pie is assessing what our students have learned and giving feedback. If we miss out on this, we might not really know if they’ve grasped the concepts, nor can we give them the pointers they need to do better.

In a nutshell, weaving pedagogy into your lesson planning is super important. It lines up your teaching with what your students need, making sure your classroom stays a lively and effective learning hub. So let’s keep our focus on pedagogy – it’s not just part of teaching, it’s what makes teaching great!

8. Over-reliance on pacing guide

Let’s talk pacing guides. Sure, they’re handy roadmaps for our curriculum, but when we stick to them too rigidly, it’s like putting on blinkers in a race. We might be ticking off the boxes, but are we really tuning into what our students need?

Pacing guides, with their set schedules and content sequences, can sometimes make us feel like we’re on a teaching treadmill, rushing through topics out of fear of falling behind. But what happens if our students haven’t quite caught up? We’re off to the next topic, and they’re left trying to build on shaky foundations.

This becomes even trickier in places where standardized tests are the big deal. It’s tempting to zip through the syllabus, covering all the test topics, but then we might be skimming over the deeper understanding and mastery that our students really need.

Here’s a thought: What if we shifted gears a bit? Instead of being strictly guided by pacing schedules, let’s tune into our students’ actual learning paces. This means keeping an eye on how well they’re grasping the material and being ready to switch up our lesson plans to fit their needs.

It’s all about finding that sweet spot between sticking to the curriculum and being flexible enough to make sure our students are really getting it. Sometimes, this might mean lingering a bit longer on a topic, trying out different teaching methods, or offering extra help where it’s needed.

As teachers, our superpower is our ability to adapt. Sometimes, stepping off the pacing guide path is exactly what we need to do to make sure every student is firmly on board before we chug along to the next stop. Let’s make our teaching as dynamic and responsive as the students we’re guiding!

9. Being inconsistent

Navigating the world of teaching can sometimes feel like sailing on unpredictable seas. One day you’re using a paper planner, the next you’re all about digital tools, and then you’re drawn to the latest trend you spotted on Instagram or Pinterest. While exploring different methods is great, a lack of consistency can create choppy waters for both you and your students.

Inconsistency, be it in teaching methods, classroom management, or planning, can really throw a wrench in the learning gears. It’s like building a puzzle without having all the pieces – things just don’t fit. Students thrive on clear structures and set expectations, which are the cornerstones of a stable learning environment. Without them, you might find your students feeling a bit lost at sea.

Shifting between different planning styles can also disrupt your own flow as a teacher. It can make it hard to establish a routine that really clicks for you, leaving you feeling more like you’re treading water rather than swimming smoothly along.

So, what’s the fix? Find a method or approach that resonates with you and stick to it. Consistency is the key to unlocking routines that can ramp up your teaching effectiveness and make managing your classroom a breeze.

Remember, consistency in teaching goes beyond just lesson plans. It’s also about how you communicate and provide feedback. Keeping these aspects clear and steady builds a bridge of trust and understanding with your students.

It’s natural for teachers to want to improve and try new things. But, it’s all about finding that balance – like a tightrope walker – between seeking improvement and maintaining a consistent approach. Once you’ve found a method that works, give it some time to see its full impact before switching gears.

Lastly, remember that consistency doesn’t mean rigidity. It’s still important to be adaptable, tweaking your approach to meet the evolving needs of your students and the classroom dynamics, all while maintaining a steady core of methods and expectations!

10. Not allocating time for reflection 

After everything is said and done, there’s still one more thing left to do! 

That’s right! You gotta reflect and reevaluate! 

You can do this weekly, monthly, or whatever works for you! 

Ask yourself, what went well? What could be improved?

You should also ask for your students’ feedback! What did they like about the lesson?

Were you clear in explaining the materials? Were the exercises relevant? What about 

the lesson’s pace? 

Feedback from your students is immensely valuable! It gives you a great starting point to improve your lesson plan and delivery for the next term! 

So, never forget to dedicate time for reflection! 


In this article, we’ve discussed 6 lesson planning mistakes that you should avoid if you want your class to go off without a hitch. It might sound overwhelming, but trust me, you’ll get the hang of it soon enough! Remember that every day is a chance to learn something new, and that as teachers, we must always get better in order to give our students the best learning experience. So, cheers to continuous development and best of luck in your teaching endeavors! 

Do you want to develop yourself as an educator?

At IELC, we give you the opportunity to join a great team, develop yourself, and make a difference to Indonesia’s future by teaching English the right way to the next generation of English learners. 

You will also get access to continuous training and professional development and get to meet fantastic, like-minded colleagues and team members. 

Take the first step to enjoy a supportive and fun working environment, develop yourself, and get a rewarding job with IELC.


Anthony McCormick 

IELC Managing Director