How to Create ESL Grammar Lesson Plans

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May 3, 2021
ESL Grammar Lesson Plan

When you first start teaching, EFL grammar is often intimidating. It seems opaque and difficult to understand. If it’s difficult for you, how much more difficult must it be for your students? Fear not! With the right ESL grammar lesson plans, you can make any topic manageable — and even fun!

Take a Specialized Course in Teaching English Grammar for a comprehensive look at the structures, tenses, and English concepts your students need to learn.

How do you teach grammar classes in ESL?

Use these five tips to make your class go as smoothly as it can. Once you’ve got these basic ideas in mind, you’ll be ready to move toward creating well-organized ESL grammar lesson plans in the future.

  • Teaching grammar should be fun! Use games and simple tasks that connect to things learners already like, such as video games or music.
  • Give yourself a refresher on the basics of the grammar point before class. If you took a Bridge Professional Certificate course, log into Grammar Advisor for a quick review of the topic (you’ll have access to this resource for a full year). If not, a Google search will remind you what the present perfect is and where it is used, for example. If you need to do more research about a specific grammar point, you can, but the basics are generally what’s most important for EFL learners.
  • Don’t stress your students out by adding too many details or rules that have to be followed for a specific grammar point. Keep it simple!
  • Consider why learners would need to use a specific tense or understand a certain type of sentence structure. Then, tell them! This will put the lesson in context, which is key to keeping their interest and helping them remember what you’re teaching.
  • When students ask questions and you don’t know the answer, don’t be afraid to say, “Hmmm, you know what? I’m not sure about that. Can I write it down and come back next lesson with more information about this?”
English teacher in Greece

Teacher Sophia works with a student in Greece

How do I start teaching English grammar to beginners?

Nervous about teaching basic grammar concepts to beginners? Consider these tips:

  • It’s really important to make sure that students have a fundamental base to move forward from in grammar, so one of the first things you need to do is set them up for success by giving them the language that they need to understand grammar. In other words, teach them the words needed to talk about grammar (words like noun, verb, sentence, etc.). Scaffolding their learning this way makes sure that they don’t get lost later on.
  • Use visual aids to help your learners. They may not have the vocabulary to describe grammar points if they are just starting out, but having colorful or clear visual aids can make a huge difference. Get ideas for creating materials for the EFL classroom here!
  • Grammar lesson planning is key to your success with beginners. Please, for the love of teaching, don’t try to wing it with a new grammar point in beginner lessons! Spend time and effort outside of the classroom to fully prepare.
  • If you need help writing ESL grammar lesson plans for beginners, one great resource is teachers who’ve got more experience. If you work in a school, ask the teachers who’ve been working in the classroom longer than you how they approach a specific grammar point. If you don’t have access to colleagues, use the Internet to connect with experienced teachers and ask them questions. Remember that you are learning, too!
  • Introduce different grammar points slowly with beginners. You need to make sure that they don’t get overwhelmed, so you should break things down into digestible parts. For example, to teach the past tense, you may first need to make sure your learners know their parts of speech.
  • Cultivate an environment in the classroom where mistakes are okay by giving encouraging feedback and being careful how you correct student errors. You may even wish to explicitly mention that it’s okay to make mistakes in the classroom rules and that all students remain supportive of their classmates.

Get more ideas for correcting mistakes in this micro-credential course: Error Correction in the EFL Classroom.

What are the components of an ESL lesson plan for teaching grammar?

Below, you’ll find the key components that your ESL grammar lesson plans should all have. Let’s do a quick breakdown here, and if you want more information you can take a Specialized TEFL/TESOL Certificate Course in Teaching English Grammar.

Great grammar lesson plans are…

Appropriate

Take into account the age, culture, skill, and background of your students. Don’t choose to make a lesson plan that uses children’s songs for a Business English course, for example. You need to make sure that you don’t offend students or put them off the grammar lesson by providing materials that they won’t connect with. Take the time to address this by making your ESL lesson objectives strong and appropriate.

Relevant

Make sure that you know what the students will need to use the grammar for. The point of most ESL/EFL teaching is to make sure that the students are able to communicate effectively in English, but a business student and middle schooler will have different reasons for learning. Spend time asking students why they are learning English and what they plan to use their knowledge for in the future so that the grammar you teach will be relevant to their needs.

Progressive

Use a generalized structure to guide your lesson planning for grammar in ESL. You’ll probably develop your own effective ways to structure your lesson plans, but in general, experts recommend the following flow:

presentation of the new grammar → guided or structured practice → student-led activities with the new grammar

You’ll be able to produce solid ESL grammar lessons more consistently once you establish your progressive template. It will also make your planning process more automatic, saving you time!

Quantifiable

So, you want students to “understand” the present perfect, right? How exactly will you know when they’ve mastered it? Will you commit the common EFL newbie error of asking aloud, “Do you understand?” (Chances are, true or not, learners will say “yes” because of social pressure, even when they don’t understand.)

Find out how to use concept checking questions (CCQs) in the ESL classroom.

Instead, use your lesson plans to set yourself up for success by writing clear, quantifiable lesson objectives. Use this formula:

“By the end of the lesson/unit/week, learners will be able to…”

End the sentence with a clear goal, such as “identify at least five past participles in English.” Use this as a way to show yourself (and the learners) that they can master each step and move forward, building their grammar knowledge as they go.

Learn more about how to correctly use objectives in ESL lesson planning.

online English teacher plays a game with student

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

Enjoyable

DON’T: Say to the learners, “Memorize this list of verbs over the next ten minutes.”

DO: Tell the learners that they have five minutes to look at a list of verbs, but then you’ll be taking the list away while you use those verbs in a game.

The slight shift from rote learning to competitive memory game is subtle, but it’s important. You want the students to enjoy the grammar lesson, and you need to sometimes “trick” them into learning.

Check out these last-minute ESL lesson plans that can be adapted for any class.

Example grammar lesson plan

Let’s get down to a sample grammar lesson plan now. This plan uses teaching regular verbs in the past tense as an example, but it could be adapted for almost any grammar point. Keep an eye out for the five components of a successful ESL grammar lesson plan that we talked about above. Can you spot them all?

Regular Past Tense Verbs

40-minute lesson, A1 CEFR level, primary school-aged students

  • Note: If you’re teaching English online via a platform that doesn’t allow breakout groups/pairs, simply substitute the pair work below for individual work. All of the activities outlined below can still be done individually.

Lesson Objective: By the end of this lesson, students will be able to use three regular past tense verbs in a sentence of their own creation. Students will also be able to explain how to form the past tense with -ed and -d in English.

Investigation (5 minutes): Display a PowerPoint slide with various verbs in the present tense, or write several verbs on the board. Use only verbs that are regular in the past tense (avoid irregular verbs like go, be, etc.). Students should work in pairs to figure out what is the same about all of the words. They can write their ideas down. Set a timer for two minutes, then share ideas as a class. (This is what is known as think-pair-share, or TPS, sequencing.)

Presentation (10 minutes): Once it’s established that all of these words are verbs, talk about what verbs do (i.e., verbs are actions). Switch students’ partners, and put a few examples of sentences with the verbs on the board. Then, have students create their own sentences in pairs. The teacher monitors and notes several good or incorrect sentences to share with the class later.

Student pairs can share their sentences with other pairs, and then the teacher can put a few sentences the students came up with on the board. Review any issues with verb agreement or present tense. Using the sentences on the board, demonstrate how to transform the verbs into the past tense. Can the students change the remaining 2-3 sentences on the board on their own? Guide them.

Identify the formula for making the regular past tense in English:

Verb+ed = past tense 

Verb with e + d = past tense 

Verb with y – y + ied = past tense 

Drill the above formula with the students, and ask comprehension checking questions. Talk about situations in which the past tense is used, letting students lead the discussion as much as possible.

Guided Practice (10 minutes): Use a simple song with a lyric gap-fill exercise. Remember that you must only use verbs that are in the past tense and that are regular! Play the song, and have the students read along in small groups. Set up a competition to see who can listen to the song and fill in the blanks correctly the fastest. Ask instruction checking questions, then play the song twice. Set a timer, and encourage the student groups to guess the missing words if they didn’t hear them. Mistakes are okay!

If time allows, have the groups switch papers to correct their answers.

Get more ideas for using ESL songs in your classroom.

Review and Error Correction (5 minutes): Using the verbs from the song as examples, give a few incorrect past tense sentences. Say these out loud and have the learners correct you. If necessary, provide written sentences on the whiteboard or virtual board with the incorrect verbs crossed out (i.e., I walk to the store.  I walked to the store.). Ask comprehension checking questions.

Student-Led Production (10 minutes): Display pictures that tell a story, and go over the story with the students. Now, the students will write their own stories using pictures. It will be a little bit tricky to keep things in the realm of regular past tense verbs, so elicit a list of 5-10 verbs to use with the learners. Write these on the board, and briefly review the formula for the past tense in English that you discussed previously. In small groups or pairs, students should create a story with complete, past tense sentences and pictures. Set a timer. If you want to make it competitive, announce that the funniest story wins.

Swap stories and have the learners read their peers’ stories out loud. Vote on the funniest one!

Teen ESL conversation activity

Teens practice speaking English in teacher Richard Allen’s class in Vietnam

Where can I find more grammar lesson plans?

For more ideas and strategies when it comes to creating ESL lesson plans, consider taking a Specialized Teaching English Grammar course that will provide you with the necessary skills, as well as inspiration for the classroom. After taking a grammar course, you’ll be well prepared to create a lesson plan for English grammar.

There are also a ton of great free ESL lesson plans on the Internet. If you’re not sure where to look, start by checking out the following websites:

It’s easy to teach grammar in ESL if you have a good lesson plan structure. Remember to include all of the five components we discussed, and your students will be learning grammar and having fun in no time!

Take the Bridge Specialized TEFL/TESOL Course in Teaching English Grammar to master the concepts you’ll need to effectively teach grammar and to get more tips for your lessons.