Virtual lesson planning

Both for online or face-to-face classes, there are some tips you should keep in mind for preparing and delivering your lessons. Unlike what you might expect, these two modalities are completely different and it is a challenge to maintain your students motivated and focused on the contents at all times. In this blog, we will tell you more about this topic.

Author: Karen Waterston

Getting started

Converting face-to-face lessons to online ones is extremely difficult so it’s best to start your online lesson planning from scratch. Here’s a checklist to get you started.

  • Have you decided what you want the learners to achieve by the end of the lesson/course of lessons?
  • Do you know how you will present the new material? What tools will you use? (PowerPoint/audio/video/images/Word doc/coursebook)
  • Have you decided who your learners will interact with during the lesson, when and how?
  • Do you know how you will check your learners’ answers to the different activities?
  • Do you know which different resources you will use? (Keep these to a minimum.)
  • Have you worked out how long each section will take?
  • Do you have a plan B in case the technology fails?

Conducting an online lesson for the first time can feel like the first time you ever taught, so remember to keep it simple. Use fewer rather than more resources.


It’s all about the planning

With experience, our plans become more relaxed and more second nature. In face-to-face classes, we respond to our learners naturally and seize opportunities for learning, even if this takes us away from the plan. It is harder to do this in an online lesson. Doing detailed planning is essential. Remember, practice makes perfect.

Things to consider

  • There is no downtime for the teacher during online lessons, so make sure you have time off in the day.
  • Share your materials. Planning takes longer, so connect with other teachers to share resources and ideas. Set up a shared online folder for you and your colleagues.
  • Use the notes under PowerPoint slides to add teacher’s notes for others to see. 

Lesson ideas

The beginning of the lesson

  • Have a holding slide at the beginning, welcoming learners to the class. Include instructions of what they need for the lesson. Include a note to tell learners to test their microphone and video before beginning. Add the topic of the lesson.
  • Do a short warmer activity – see Online lessons: A menu of ideas:
  • Display the lesson objectives on the screen.
  • Do a short lead-in to the topic:
  1. learners brainstorm on paper what they already know, then hold it up to camera or shout out their ideas o poll/quiz on the topic o jumbled word/unclear picture – guess what it is
  2. give a letter – learners write down as many words related to the topic beginning with that letter
  3. learners say what they can see around them connected to the topic.

The middle of the lesson

Use a PowerPoint slide/picture/video/realia/coursebook activity to introduce the topic. One huge advantage of online lessons is being able to plan your board work in advance. Use font size and colour to show different parts of speech and pronunciation, objects that move to show how sentences become questions, and images – all add to a good online lesson. Here are some ideas.

  • Grammar: Provide a situation that involves the use of the grammar point. Elicit example sentences and show these in context. Annotate on screen or use bold/italics to show the grammar. Elicit the rules. Learners practise in context either in breakout rooms or nominated in pairs/threes. 
  • Reading: Put a text on the screen. Set a timer. Learners mark where they got up to. Learners mark unknown words on screen. Learners use their own dictionary (online or paper) to look up new words. Discuss in chat/breakout rooms or nominated groups. Set comprehension questions.
  • Listening: Play video with audio off. Learners predict dialogue. Listen with audio and ask what was the same or different. Do a quiz/poll to answer comprehension questions.
  • Speaking: Learners use fingers or puppets to act out a dialogue with microphones off, then nominate pairs or small groups to have the conversation in front of the others.
  • Writing: Show a model. Use annotate to mark points of interest in the model. Give lots of examples. Learners do their own draft. Encourage them to ask each other for help.

See Online lessons: A menu of ideas: for tips on how to check answers and give feedback.

Remember to consider learners with different needs. See Inclusion in remote teaching contexts:

The end of the lesson

  • Use the shared whiteboard for a collaborative ending.
  • Use the chat for favourite words or new sentences.
  • Get learners to summarise the lesson.