Horizontal and Vertical Lesson Plan Templates

I’ve blogged before on this wonderful video from the ever-resourceful Jason Renshaw. If you haven’t looked at this easy method of making nice looking lesson plan templates, check it out.

I’m mainly re-posting on this just to share two Word 2010 document templates you can work with:

Feel free to customize them as you see fit. Because I mostly print out my pages, I do leave the main background white, but a nice light gradient works well too.


Web Design: Custom Post Types

Another web design post about something that I think sets my site apart from others, my lesson plan formats. I really struggled adding custom post templates to Twenty Fourteen/Sequel so I thought I would share my solution here in case any one else has been suffering as I have.

The Twenty Fourteen theme claims that all you have to do is add a file called content-name of custom post type.php to your theme or child theme file and the theme will use that to display your custom post type. I found that that did not work. I ended up having to create a single-name of custom post type.php file just like in every other theme. However then came the problem of mashing up the single.php file and the content.php file to get it to work right. This took a great deal of care, perhaps because the last time I really dug into a template file like this, the coding was much simpler.

div=entry meta
get sidebar
get footer

Now there’s a million arrays and variables and the word ‘twenty fourteen’ is everywhere–does that actually do something?

Anyway, I am sharing my single-lesson.php file with you so you can take a look and figure out how to add content in yourself. Now I’m doing this partly because I have some big plans to move beyond this template and create something much more elegant and unique. But I do this helps people who ran into the same frustrations I did.

Making a Template

I mentioned last week that the TESOL Convention had ignited my interest in actual materials design i.e. what the materials look like on the page. Many years ago (about three  or four) I stumbled on Jason Renshaw’s blog which features quite a bit about materials design. I have always remembered the 3:1 principle which has informed a lot of what I do.

This is a really nice video on how to make a very professional looking template with a header and a footer. I really like the results as they hit that happy medium between overly simple and overly complicated. It looks very professional and finished without going overboard. Now Jason Renshaw tends to teach with online worksheets and presentations so these are designed with an eye to showing them on a screen rather than printing them out. For printing, I would leave the middle bit white personally.

I’ve also made a template for Word 2010 that you are welcome to use. You can change the text by just clicking on it and typing. And you can easily change the color of the header or footer by clicking on the center and going to the Format tab. Use Shape Fill, Shape Outline and Shape to change colors or add borders and shadows and stuff. I’ve been using one color as a header and a lighter version for the footer. Then I use a contrasting color for the name box over on the top right: Lesson Template.

Creating Custom Style Sets in Word

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Tastatur-Umlaute-deutsch.jpg Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

As I’ve been exploring the materials writer world more and more, I’ve learned a lot about a wide range of things from task design to publishing services to textbook company expectations. One area that I haven’t seen as much information on is actual document or visual design. I think that’s something that is very important. If you’re a teacher, the design of the handouts or worksheets can help students understand the information better and it also shows that you care, that you took time to make something nice for them. If you’re putting your materials out there online, a nice design makes it look professional.

One workshop I went to, Enhance Teacher-Made Materials Through Visual Consistency, with Tammy Jones and Gabriela Kleckova was on the importance of visual consistency. In other words, all your tests should look more or less the same. All your worksheets should have similar features. And one great way to do that, if you use Microsoft Word, is to create a style set. So here’s a little tutorial on how to make your own style set and then call it up every time you make a new quiz or worksheet or whatever.

I hope that it’s a useful resource and please feel free to leave questions, comments or critiques in the comments section or shoot me an email.


If you haven’t seen post by Jason Renshaw, definitely check it out for ideas on making coursebooks more flexible and giving students and teachers more choice. The comments are great as well.

I put my vision for a flexible text in the comments, but to reiterate here, I would love to have an electronic textbook (seems to me it could be a CD-ROM or a web-based service) that allowed you to plugin what you want to do for your lesson: i.e.
Level: Pre-Int
Area: Vocab
Skill: writing
Theme: Cities
and have it spit out the appropriate materials. But the next teacher, whose class has the vocab down but needs grammar help, could seek basically the same lesson, but with the materials designed to practice grammar rather than vocab.

When I do design my own materials, or seek out other people’s lesson plans, it’s usually because I feel my students need a certain kind of practice. Often it’s because the text is lacking something that my particular class needs. Maybe I already did the book section on past simple, but my students need more practice pronouncing “-ed” (In Kazakhstan they tend to go Lawrence Olivier on “-ed” and make it into an extra syllable, “wAlk-Ed”). Or maybe the way prepositions of place are presented in the book isn’t intensive enough, or doesn’t really relate to the theme of the lesson, so I want a better presentation in a specific context.

But my colleague down the hall, working with the same text, has different problems. His class has perfect pronunciation but can’t remember which verbs are regular in the past and which aren’t so he needs a good old-fashioned worksheet that makes them conjugate verbs over and over. It would be awesome to have a text that could produce the same basic lesson but with different kinds of materials to adjust to different classes and students.

If you added the ability of students to choose what kind of homework they want to do, that would be brillant. For example, a student has just completed unit 1. He or she goes home, logins in to the e-text and has a choice of homework that provides practice in writing or reading or listening, grammar or vocab, idioms or standard English…

Now this is more or less what a lot of textbooks try to do. They try to give you a lot of materials in different forms that hang together more or less coherently and as a teacher your job is to pick and choose. But in order to provide materials to suit everyone everywhere, the text would have to be massive. And there are a lot of the reasons why teachers don’t pick and choose: the “textbook-must-be-followed” culture that affects teachers, students, administrators and parents alike, lack of time, lack of ability (maybe) but most likely lack of confidence. And the feeling that a course should have some kind of coherent structure, something going through the book provides.

A textbook that is cheaper to publish because it’s online or on a disk and that allows teachers to customize materials while still being based on one syllabus seems like an ideal solution.