Last-Minute ESL Lesson Plans That Can Be Adapted for Any Class (2023)

By Coleen Monroe
February 17, 2021

Last-Minute ESL Lesson Plans That Can Be Adapted for Any Class (1)

Whether you teach ESL online or teach abroad, you may find yourself in a situation where you need to rely on last-minute ESL lesson plans. Having a few low-prep ESL activities in your back pocket (or being able to create quick lessons on the fly) will make you a more prepared, adaptable teacher and a valuable asset to your school or company.

To learn the foundations of English teaching methodology, including lesson planning, enroll in one ofBridge’s Professional TEFL/TESOL certification courses.

Why would I need last-minute ESL lesson plans?

When you teach English, you can’t control everything that comes your way. Some examples of when you might find yourself in need of a last-minute lesson plan are as follows:

  • A group of students flies through material that you thought would be difficult for them, leaving you with extra time in the classroom.
  • You walk into the room and realize the energy level that the learners brought that day is rather low. So, you decide to use a relevant warm-up activity to energize your students.
  • You get called in last-minute to substitute for another teacher.
  • Students just aren’t grasping the concept you’re teaching, and you need to take a new approach to help them understand.

How do you plan an ESL lesson quickly?

If you find yourself needing last-minute ESL teaching ideas, here are some helpful tips to keep in mind.

Tip #1: Use clear objectives in your lesson plan.

If you have time for nothing else, take the time to consider what result you want from the lesson. This is the most important part of any lesson plan.

Try writing your ESL lesson objective in this format:

  • By the end of this lesson, students will be able to __________.

Find out more about writing and using objectives in ESL lesson plans.

Tip #2: Consider what materials are needed for the last-minute ESL lesson plan you’re creating.

It’s important to make sure that you don’t accidentally shoot yourself in the foot by creating a plan in a short period of time but forgetting that the materials needed for the lesson will take far too long to make. Make sure that you’re using low-prep or no-prep ESL activities so that you don’t have to spend time cutting up bits of paper or creating an entire packet of digital worksheets from scratch.

Learn to create materials for the EFL classroom.

Tip #3: Make sure your lesson is adaptable.

When teaching English, it’s very important to have lesson plans that can be adapted to any content or lesson objective. When teaching online, this is especially true — think technical issues that arise, being on standby to teach a last-minute class, etc

(Video) 7 Tips to Make Your ESL Class Last 25 Minutes

Tip #4: Recycle activities.

There’s no need to reinvent the wheel! In fact, one secret to creating last-minute ESL lesson plans is that you don’t create them from scratch, but rather should have a few go-to lesson plans and activities that you can circle back to and use for various subjects. Good activities to recycle can include Tic-Tac-Toe with grammar, Bingo with vocabulary words, list race activities with categories, and memory games.

Check out these fun ESL games and activities for young learners.

Where can I get free ESL lesson plans?

Visit ESL teaching websites

The Internet is a wonderful place to get lesson ideas or even ready-made lesson plans. Some websites, such as ESL Library, require a subscription for full access to their database of lessons, but there are also manyfree ESL lesson plans available online.

Some great websites where you can start your search are:

In addition to individual lessons, you may be able to find resources for teaching entire units with multiple planned lessons. It’s likely that whatever you’re teaching has been taught before by someone else in the world, so you can see how others have attempted the lessons you need to plan and adapt what you find to your own style.

Take a Micro-credential certification course

Bridge offers manyMicro-credential courses to help teachers focus on specific teaching skills! Many of them offer tips, ideas, and training when it comes to lesson planning and incorporating games and activities into the classroom. Here are a few:

  • Materials Development for the EFL Classroom
  • Games and Activities for the Online Classroom (Very Young Learners)
  • Games and Activities for the Online Classroom (Young Learners)
  • Games and Activities for the Online Classroom (Teenagers)
  • Games and Activities for the Online Classroom (Adults)

A teacher sings with her ESL class of young learners.

(Video) How to Use Google Slides for Lesson Plans

What are some last-minute ESL lesson plan ideas?

So, you need a lesson plan ASAP. It’s 30 minutes to go time and your boss just told you that you’re covering a class. What can you do to be prepared? We’ve collected a couple of quick ESL lesson plan ideas that you can pull from right here. Follow the basics of lesson planning in terms of structure and scaffolding, which, if you’re new to teaching, you can learn about in Bridge’s Professional TEFL/TESOL certification courses.

  • Warm-up
  • Introduction
  • Practice
  • Produce

You’ll be well on your way to a quick, effective ESL lesson plan!

Lesson plan 1: Practicing the Past Tense (40 minutes, any level of proficiency)

Objective: By the end of this lesson, students will be able to produce a short sentence using the simple past tense in English.

Warm-up:This warm-up is called List Race. Put categories on the board (i.e., food, colors, animals, etc.). Make sure that one of the categories is “verbs.” Set a timer or play music. Learners attempt to write as many words in English as they can for each category, either in teams or as a class. Check the answers afterward.

Talk about the verbs on the board. Ask the learners if anyone can change one of the verbs into the past tense. Use this as a way to gauge students’ prior knowledge. Then, set a timer and have the class work together to convert all of the remaining verbs.

Gap-fill exercise:Use a gap-fill exercise, and set aside time for the students to work in small groups or pairs. The teacher should circulate, noting any mistakes that the students make and offering support.

Without identifying the students who made specific mistakes, put the noted errors on the board. Discuss these with the class. Ask who can correct the errors. Give more examples if needed.

Play Tic-Tac-Verb:Draw or display a Tic-Tac-Toe board. Put a subject in each box (i.e., “he”). Put a verb or a selection of verbs at the top. Model how to play the game by saying the subject and the verb in the past tense (“he played”) and marking it off with an X or an O. Then, split the class into small groups and have them play the grammar game on their own.

Extension: Strong learners could use the game as a jumping-off point to create their own sentences.

Online version:This activity works well for all levels and ages and can be adapted to any grammar subject. It’s also perfect for teaching online. You need only use your teaching software to display the content described above. If the software doesn’t allow students to write on a common platform, you should have the students call out answers and write them yourself.

Check out some tips for using games when teaching adults English online.

Teacher Juicy Mae plays a game with her ESL student online.

(Video) ESL Lesson Planning with Crystal Clear ESL and Daniel Shaw

Lesson plan 2: Writing Workshop (40-60 minutes, high-intermediate/advanced)

Objective: By the end of this lesson, students will be able to produce a short text.

Warm-up:This activity is called Sentence Scramble. Display words that could be used to make sentences. If you don’t have time before class, have learners call out random words and write them on the board yourself. The more random the words are, the harder this will be.

Set a timer and tell the students they need to write five sentences using only the words from the board. They can work alone or in teams.

Review the sentences that the students made. Correct their mistakes, allowing students to correct their peers’ errors as much as possible.

Create a story as a class:Using the sentences that the students generated, work together as a class to order them in a way that makes a (mostly) coherent paragraph or short story. Have the students read the full text aloud and offer opportunities to change the order if they think it needs to be changed. Emphasize that reading one’s written work out loud can help with the editing process.

Individual writing activity:Now, have the students create their own (new) paragraph using the words from the beginning of the lesson. Set a timer for 10+ minutes and have the students work alone or with a partner.

When the timer is finished, make the students swap their paragraphs with others in the classroom. Use the reading exercise from the class paragraph to encourage them to read the other student’s work aloud and correct errors that they find. If necessary, to keep learners on track, set a specific number of suggestions they must make to their classmate to improve their story.

Extension: Have students complete a final draft of the paragraph for homework, and review it during the next lesson.

Online version:This workshop format can be used for an online class without much change. Ideally, you’d want to split the class into groups; many online teaching platforms, including Zoom, allow for small group discussions.

Teacher Stefano plays a game with his students.

(Video) 5 Minute Lesson Plan (2021) by @TeacherToolkit

Lesson plan 3: Identifying Colors (40 minutes, very young learners)

Objective: By the end of the lesson, students will be able to produce a short sentence about an object and its color. E.g., “It’s a red ball.”

Warm-up:Play a song that has colors in it to grab students’ attention. There are tons of options on YouTube, but this one is a great choice because it’s loud and fun:

After playing the song once, pause it and repeat the colors together. Gauge how many of the colors the students already know in English.

Ask questions:If you have time, grab a few objects before class to model the target language. If not, use objects that happen to be in the room, pictures on an interactive whiteboard, or items of clothing that people in the class are wearing.

Ask about whether things are a different color than they are. For example, point to a red object and ask, “Is it blue?” Students can raise their hands or shout out the answer. Then, have one student be the teacher for a short time. They can ask a few questions and everyone else can respond. Give every student a turn.

Pass objects around or play Telephone:Present and practice the target sentence with objects. For very young learners, a great and low-prep activity is to pass the object around and say the sentence.

If you didn’t have time to choose objects before class, a truly last-minute ESL lesson idea is to have students “pass” the language itself without using a physical object. This game is called Telephone, and students form a circle or a line and whisper a sentence to the person next to them. The last student says the sentence out loud, and the goal is for it to match the first student’s original sentence.

Extension:Have students draw objects that are the colors you’ve learned and practiced in class. Spend time asking each student about their pictures in English. They can share their work with a partner or with the class when finished.

Online version: It can be hard to work with very young students online, but using bright colors and easy language can really help to engage them! Try to do the Telephone game if you can by pointing to each student on the screen using your mouse or by assigning each student a random number and calling the numbers out.

(Video) Teaching 1:1 Classes

If you’re new to teaching, you’ll want to get initial training and qualification with a TEFL certificate. You can explore our online TEFL courses to get started!

As you can see, last-minute ESL lesson plans are not as difficult to create as they might seem at first. You’ll be able to create activities that work for you and your students and that can be used over and over, which will help cut down planning time and also reinforce a good routine.

To learn more about effective ESL lesson planning and practice creating your own lessons, enroll in a Professional TEFL/TESOL course, such as theBridge MasterCertificate.


How do you adapt a lesson to ESL? ›

After you determine that adaptation is needed, follow these steps to adapting a lesson plan.
  1. Identify the lesson's strengths and weaknesses.
  2. Ensure that the lesson focuses on key concepts.
  3. Use simpler vocabulary and grammar.
  4. Slow down the pace of the lesson.
  5. Provide for extra practice and review.
4 Jan 2022

How do you adapt classroom materials for ESL students? ›

Some keys to successful adaptation of authentic materials include:
  1. converting them into workshop activities.
  2. adjusting the length of the materials.
  3. simplifying or explaining key language elements.
  4. converting authentic materials into a variety of exercise types.
1 Apr 2022

Where can I get free ESL lesson plans? ›

The list below contains several websites offering free lesson plans for ESL, EFL and Sheltered English teachers.
  • English as a 2nd Language. ...
  • Englishpage. ...
  • ESL Flow. ...
  • ESL Home. ...
  • Free ESL Flashcards. ...
  • ISS of BC. ...
  • Lanternfish. ...

What is an adapted lesson plan? ›

Adapting instruction can be defined as making changes to instruction in order to allow students equal access to the curriculum and to give them the opportunity to process and demonstrate what has been taught.

What are some modifications for Ell? ›

Technique: Modify the tests you give
  • Accept printing or cursive.
  • Test key concepts or main ideas.
  • Avoid test questions asking for discrete information.
  • Make a simplified language version of the test.
  • Simplify instructions and rewrite directions at an appropriate reading level.
  • Provide word banks.

How do you create adaptations in the classroom? ›

Some adaptations are as simple as moving a distractible student to the front of the class or away from the pencil sharpener or the window. Other modifications may involve changing the way that material is presented or the way that students respond to show their learning.

What are the techniques for adapting teaching materials? ›

If the student has difficulty reading written material, then try…
  • Find a text written at lower level.
  • Provide highlighted material.
  • Rewrite the student's text.
  • Tape the student's text.
  • Allow a peer or parent to read text aloud to student.
  • Shorten the amount of required reading.

How teaching strategies can be adapted for use in the inclusive classroom? ›

Use these inclusive classroom strategies to help get you started with building a positive classroom culture:
  • Get to Know Your Students and Let Them Get to Know You. ...
  • Create a Safe Space for Students to Share. ...
  • Deliver Instruction in a Variety of Ways. ...
  • Choose Relevant Literature. ...
  • Invite Guest Speakers to Share Their Stories.

Where can I download free lesson plans? ›

These 10 websites are exceptional resources for teachers in all subjects and at all grade levels.
  • ReadWriteThink. ...
  • PhET. ...
  • Scholastic. ...
  • The Stanford History Education Group. ...
  • PBS LearningMedia. ...
  • Epic! ...
  • EDSITEment. ...
  • NCTM Illuminations.

What are the 5 A's in lesson planning? ›

What do you think the students meant when they said straight As? (Note to Teacher: Hopefully students will discuss that they meant excelling in the 5As—Academics, Activities, Arts, Athletics, and Attitude.)

What are the 5 Es lesson plan? ›

The findings of Atkin and Karplus directly informed the creation of the 5E Model, which focuses on allowing students to understand a concept over time through a series of established steps, or phases. These phases include Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate, and Evaluate.

Does Google have a lesson plan template? ›

You can grab a free copy of the weekly Google Docs lesson plans template here. Feel free to change and tweak the template to best serve your needs. You can also check out how I batch lesson planning to save time.

Does Word have a lesson plan template? ›

This accessible free lesson plan template for Word organizes your lesson plan, including requirements, resources, objectives, and more. Easily modify this lesson plan template to adjust to any curriculum or subject matter.

Is Chalk Planboard free? ›

While Planboard is a comprehensive and free planning tool, we do offer an optional premium service. Chalk Gold helps you better personalize your planner and share it with others. Create a Classroom website, share your plans and assessments to Google Classroom, add so much more.

What are some examples of instructional adaptations? ›

Adapt the way instruction is delivered to the learner. For example: Use different visual aids, enlarge text, plan more concrete examples, provide hands-on activities, place students in cooperative groups, pre-teach key concepts or terms before the lesson.

How do you adapt activities for additional needs? ›

In addition to written words, think about using pictures or even textures as adaptations for children with special needs. Provide breaks from the noise and activity of the group as needed for individual children. Breaks to a quiet area can often allow a child to regroup if the stimulation of the group is too intense.

How do you accommodate ELL students? ›

How can I support ELLs in my classroom?
  1. Provide a welcoming classroom environment. ...
  2. Know and include the student. ...
  3. Modify your speech. ...
  4. Provide opportunities for interaction. ...
  5. Support literacy development. ...
  6. Reading Instruction. ...
  7. Development of Writing Skills. ...
  8. Support ELLS in the content areas: Math, Social Studies, Science.

How do ELL students modify lesson plans? ›

ESL Modifications Checklist
  1. Speak slowly, clearly, and use gestures.
  2. Simplify language; avoid idioms, slang, and sarcasm.
  3. Pair student with a buddy.
  4. Give preferential seating.
  5. Maintain routines with consistent signals.
  6. Write clearly and legibly (most ELL's cannot read cursive)
  7. Give both oral AND written directions.

What are five ways in which teachers can improve learning for ELL students? ›

Five Things Teachers Can Do to Improve Learning for ELLs in the New Year
  • Increase ELL students' English language production and peer interaction. ...
  • Explicitly teach English language vocabulary and structures. ...
  • Build on ELLs' Background Knowledge to Increase Comprehension. ...
  • Increase ELL Parent Involvement.
22 Jul 2014

What are the 4 accommodations categories? ›

Accommodations are typically grouped into four categories: presentation, response, setting, and timing and scheduling.

What are classroom modifications examples? ›

Common accommodations
  • Listen to audio recordings instead of reading text.
  • Learn content from audiobooks, movies, videos, and digital media instead of reading print versions.
  • Work with fewer items per page or line.
  • Work with text in a larger print size.

What are adaptation techniques? ›

It concludes that adaptation can be classified into seven adaptation techniques. Then it expounds the seven techniques of adapting original work—adding, deleting, editing, narrating, condensing, integrating, and altering—one by one with case studies.

What are adapted learning resources? ›

Adaptive learning — or adaptive teaching — is the delivery of custom learning experiences that address the unique needs of an individual through just-in-time feedback, pathways, and resources (rather than providing a one-size-fits-all learning experience).

How do you teach adaptive skills? ›

Teachers can help their students improve their adaptive skills in the areas of cognition, motor skills, communication, and self-help skills. Activities such as the alphabet game, puzzles, story cards, and classroom jobs are fun ways to implement adaptive skill instruction in the classroom.

What are the 3 teaching strategies for inclusive education? ›

Inclusive teaching strategies
  • Create a consistent routine.
  • Provide a visual schedule.
  • Prepare students for an upcoming transition.

How do you ensure a lesson plan is inclusive? ›

Use differentiated resources. This is a simple but very important step. Using differentiated resources in your inclusive lesson plan means that all the children in your class will be able to complete the task. Every child has different abilities and skills, so you must cater to that.

How do teachers create inclusive learning environments? ›

5 inclusivity practises to consider

Create a supportive, respectful environment: promote diversity and fairness. Have high expectations of all your students. Research shows that students respond better when they feel that their teacher has faith in their abilities and is not focusing on their inabilities.

What is adaptation in language teaching? ›

We define adaptation as a set of improvisational and strategic processes carried out by teachers and students as they negotiate tensions arising from ongoing learning activity. The responses to those tensions mediate a productive reorganization of both the cognitive and social parameters of learning activity.

How do you adapt learning styles to teaching methods? ›

Tips for Accommodating
  1. Engage the student in conversation about the subject matter.
  2. Question students about the material.
  3. Ask for oral summaries of material.
  4. Have them tape lectures and review them with you.
  5. Have them tape themselves reviewing material and listen to it together.
  6. Read material aloud to them.
6 Apr 2021

What are the techniques for adapting teaching materials? ›

The range of options suggested for the purpose is enormous and includes such adapting strategies as: adding relevant content, deleting or reducing irrelevant material, simplifying material or activities to make them less difficult, modifying and supplementing materials or activities to make them either more demanding ...

What are some examples of instructional adaptations? ›

Adapt the way instruction is delivered to the learner. For example: Use different visual aids, enlarge text, plan more concrete examples, provide hands-on activities, place students in cooperative groups, pre-teach key concepts or terms before the lesson.

How do you adapt activities for additional needs? ›

In addition to written words, think about using pictures or even textures as adaptations for children with special needs. Provide breaks from the noise and activity of the group as needed for individual children. Breaks to a quiet area can often allow a child to regroup if the stimulation of the group is too intense.

What are the five key elements of an adaptation framework? ›

We have added to this framework for the purposes of this Project – drawing out and adding vulnerability and embedding actions as required in each of the five steps of: (1) initiation, (2) research and modelling, (3) planning, (4) implementation and (5) monitoring and review.

What is adapted text for English learners? ›

Adapted texts are texts that have the same content but are at different reading levels. Using adapted texts helps English learners continue to learn content while they are learning English. Many teachers create their own adapted texts, which allows them to control the vocabulary that is embedded.

Why must a teacher adapt materials before they can be used for teaching learning? ›

What they don't take into account is that adapting materials allows teachers to use resources properly and to consider what happens inside and outside the classroom, thus ensuring a better process of teaching and learning. Adapting materials allows teachers to use very good resources in their respective contexts.

What are some ways to adapt activities for diverse learners? ›

7 things you can do to teach diverse learners
  • Make an IEP cheat sheet. ...
  • Encourage active learning. ...
  • Embrace small group and learning stations. ...
  • Group by learning style, not ability. ...
  • Promote project-based learning. ...
  • Incorporate ed-tech and adaptive learning tools. ...
  • Provide alternative testing options.
31 Oct 2019

What methods do you use to plan and adapt your course curriculum? ›

Determine measurable, observable assessments for each objective and add these to your outline.
  • Throughout the year: ...
  • Determine your goals and expectations. ...
  • Choose one content area to focus on each year. ...
  • Research the content and use premade lesson plans. ...
  • Make a list of 3-5 resources for each concept. ...
  • Get to know your students.
19 Dec 2019

What are the 4 learning styles? ›

Perhaps the most simple way of describing 'learning styles' is to say that they are different methods of learning or understanding new information, the way a person takes in, understand, expresses and remembers information. There are 4 predominant learning styles: Visual, Auditory, Read/Write, and Kinaesthetic.

What are adapted learning resources? ›

Adaptive learning — or adaptive teaching — is the delivery of custom learning experiences that address the unique needs of an individual through just-in-time feedback, pathways, and resources (rather than providing a one-size-fits-all learning experience).


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(Mooncake English)
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