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Happy planning! 5 tips for reducing your planning time








As an English teacher, there is one thing that takes up a large portion of my time – lesson planning. Over the last few years, I have been gradually fading textbooks out of my classes and that has added to my planning time. Regardless, planning good lessons takes time. I know many teachers that work late into the night and on weekends planning for classes. Finding suitable materials if you don’t use a textbook, or figuring out how to adapt the textbook can be particularly time consuming.



On a positive note though, there are some techniques you can use to help save precious time. Here are five tips that might help you save planning time and your sanity! Then at the end of this post, there is a link that will take you to a 100% free lesson pack about the Titanic. It includes a free worksheet suitable for a 90 minute class, an accompanying PowerPoint, an audio file, and a homework vocabulary worksheet. I hope they are useful!



  1. Learn your lessons

I often find myself planning way too much material. I guess it is just my over cautious nature, but I don’t want to run out of materials during class. Recently however, I started taking time to evaluate my classes after I have taught them and in doing this I have realized I have been constantly over planning. What I did instead was to plan less for individual lessons but have a small reserve bank of activities and videos that I can use if the materials I have prepared don’t last the duration of the class. 



  1. Organize your materials

I thought I was pretty good at keeping my materials well organized electronically on my desktop. However, a friend showed me his method of organization and it was way more effective. He could locate past lesson plans, worksheets, and PowerPoints in the fraction of the time that I could. This is great when it comes to recycling materials. I have now figured out my own system and it is saving me time.



  1. Don’t try to reinvent the wheel

I used to spend a great deal of time planning different kinds of activities for each class. However, I found that was not always what my learners wanted. It would take me extra time to explain these cool new activities and often create confusion amongst my students. Now I have a small selection of activities that I re-use. Of course, I change the target language, but the activity is repeated. I think sometimes my students appreciate the familiarity.



  1. Share share share

I have recently started to collaborate with a colleague and we have started to share our materials on a regular basis. This is nothing new, but these days technology is making it easier to do so. Dropbox is great for sharing folders and Google Drive is great for collaborating on plans. Using these tools makes planning with a colleague much easier.



  1. Enough is enough

If you are still finding that planning is taking over your life, I suggest setting time limits. Set yourself a specific amount of time to plan a lesson and stick to it. In the past, I have spent an extra few hours changing fonts and adding images to my worksheets and really the end product is only marginally better. Get the basics done and take some time for yourself!



I hope you found these useful! Here is the link to the free materials I promised. 



Happy planning!


Neil Millington

Neil Millington

Neil Millington has taught English as a foreign language in Japan for over 12 years. He has taught a wide range of age levels from pre-kindergarten students to adults. He is currently teaching at the tertiary level. He earned his BA at the University of Sussex in Brighton, England and his MA in TESOL at Lancaster University, England. Currently, Neil is working on his PhD in language learning motivation also at Lancaster University. Neil is also the co-founder of, an English reading website with hundreds of free lessons for teachers and learners.
Neil Millington

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One Response to Happy planning! 5 tips for reducing your planning time

  1. Pingback: 5 Time Saving Hacks for Teachers | Language Teaching Professionals

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