When Lesson Plans Go Awry…

Posted on June 2, 2012 by


Even the best laid lesson plans for class can instantly go awry. Any number of factors can impact a lesson plan: weather, illness, a supra suddenly materializes, or the electricity goes out and the estimated time of its return is a rather vague “sometime tomorrow.” These are just some of the examples of things that have impacted me over the last two years.

At first I didn’t handle these sudden changes to the class well at all. I felt a schedule is a schedule and there should be little to alter it. Now two years later I have learned that planning ahead is good, but there needs to be a lot of flexibility as most of the things cannot be controlled. Now I tend to view these inevitable occurrences in the following way:


Is it a recipe for disaster? Or is it a recipe for innovation and creativity?

How one views it will have corresponding results. However, here are some pointers to alleviate the problems associated with lesson plans that are affected by outside forces.

  • Be realistic. While having a year-long lesson plan is great, it probably will change before you can actually use it. I presently teach at a university in Batumi. I had a detailed semester long lesson plan worked out, but I quickly realized that I can only plan lessons one week in advance. Too much beyond my control happens to make planning farther ahead ineffectual.
  • Be flexible. Moreover, being flexible with lesson plans allows teachers the ability to better address the needs of the class. For example, if the class easily understands one topic, but not another, time can be allocated accordingly. Remember the lesson plans are to help the students learn, and can’t be what the teachers want to accomplish.
  • Have contingency plans. This is especially helpful if the power goes out or not enough of the students show up to class. Class still needs to goes on. How can you make it meaningful? You might want to spend some times preparing a few activities in advance, so that when presented with a situation that warrants their use, you are good to go.


At the university, I try to integrate technology into the class as much as possible, including PowerPoint, YouTube videos to watch and discuss, American movies, etc. Unfortunately, since technology relies on electricity, you will be left high and dry if/when the power goes out! Consequently, I’ve come up with some ways to combat the power outages and the subsequently changed lesson plans. Many of these ideas work well at any level, not just university. I tend to use the bonus time as a time to review vocabulary or grammar principles, but in a fun or unique way where all the students can be involved.


  • Charades: Have the students silently act out verbs from the current set of vocabulary words or to review verbs from the previous section.
  • Pictionary: Students can draw and guess the nouns they have learned.
  • 20 Questions: This works better with older students, and can be used to review a myriad of topics, such as countries or occupations. One student leaves, while the class together decides what the student must guess. Upon the student’s return, he or she must only ask questions that be answered with either “yes” or “no” to determine the answer. A tally is kept, and the student has only 20 questions to determine the answer.
  • How would you describe…?: For this activity have the students use as many adjectives as they can to describe something, whether someone’s outfit, a building, a celebrity, an object in the classroom, etc.


While a disruption to a lesson plan can be a problem, view it as an opportunity to be creative and bring something new and unexpected into the class. The diversion from the routine might be just what both you and the students need.