Lesson Planning

The ULAT’s Table of Contents presents the lessons and topics dealt with each year. In order to complete the study of all the lessons for a particular year, it is assumed that the teacher has 180 class periods per year with the students and that those classes last at least 45 minutes. By looking at the quantity of yearly lessons found in the Table of Contents, teachers can get a good idea of where they should be in their work with students at any point of the school year.

As for the creation of specific lesson plans for a particular week or month, since ULAT students range in age from elementary to high school students, the duration of class periods varies from school to school and student comprehension and mastery will be different from one classroom to the next and from one school to the next, no single, specific schedule can be provided. However, the ULAT proposes that teachers follow a sequence of activities that takes into consideration the “four pillars” (effective curriculum, first person sharing, storytelling and cross-cultural relationship building) of the successful world language program and ensures that all of these elements are present on a regular basis.

Download the 5-Day Lesson Plan Sequence spreadsheet

Before reading about the explanation below, download the “5-Day Lesson Plan Sequence spreadsheet“. Please note that the spreadsheet contains two worksheets entitled “SEQUENCE” and “PLANS”, which you can access by clicking on the tabs in the lower left-hand corner of your browser.

The 5-Day Lesson Plan Sequence

First, please note that, in most cases, vocabulary themes or grammatical structures are presented in the ULAT over the course of two consecutive lessons. The first lesson introduces the topic and the second lesson drills the knowledge or skill presented in the first lesson and then tests the students’ mastery of it. The most complex or extensive topics to master will require more than two lessons, but two lessons, one presenting a topic and the second reinforcing and testing, is the most common situation. Thus, as outlined below, one can expect a student to deal with no more than two lessons per week. For those more challenging topics, presented, reinforced and tested over more than two lessons, their study will require two to three weeks to complete.

When a new grammatical or vocabulary topic is introduced in the ULAT, there is a sequence of activities a teacher does well to respect. For a detailed explanation of each of these steps, see “Detailed Explanation” below. Otherwise, here is a simple explanation of one week’s routine:

Day 1 (PRESENTATION AND SHARING): Use a “hook” to introduce the new vocabulary or structure, relating it to your own life, and then show the lesson’s instructional video (or make your own presentation).

Day 2 (REINFORCEMENT): Drill the students on the lesson’s gestures and exercises for oral participation credit.

Day 3 (TEST PRACTICE AND ENRICHMENT): Continue drilling the gestures and content, then move into open-ended discussion, for oral participation credit, which enables the students to connect the content with their own personal lives.

Day 4 (TESTING AND ENRICHMENT): Testing and preparation for storytelling or cross-cultural relationship building activity.

Day 5 (STORYTELLING OR CROSS-CULTURAL RELATIONSHIP BUILDING): Storytelling or cross-cultural relationship building activity.

Detailed Explanation

Day 1: Hook and Presentation

A “hook” refers to an activity that captures the students’ attention and into which the new topic of study has been interwoven. Ideally, teachers will engage in first-person sharing in creating this hook. Teachers select an aspect of their lives to reveal to the students, possibly in the format of pictures built into a PowerPoint presentation, for which the use of the structural element or vocabulary topic will be repeatedly required. For example, when presenting elementary vocabulary and present simple verb conjugation, teachers can reveal general information about themselves in the form of a PowerPoint presentation touching on where they live, the composition of their family, activities in the home, likes and dislikes, hobbies, preferred forms of entertainment, etc. When presenting daily routine vocabulary and expressing time, teachers can show pictures of themselves going through their daily activities, at home and at school, with the time of day inscribed on the image.

Click below to download sample presentations that serve as “hooks”:



Having “set the hook” and engaged in first-person sharing, teachers can now draw the students into second-person learning, which involves leading the students to use the new vocabulary or sentence structure in sharing information about their lives. In the context of an oral participation session, teachers first reiterate some element of their hook, to remind their students of the pertinent vocabulary or sentences structure, and then ask the students a leading question about themselves. Here are some examples taken from ULAT lessons:

  1. Teachers show their students the images in lesson 1.50 and, after sharing about their own life, ask their students questions such as “Where do you live?”, “Do you have brothers and sisters?” “What do you do to help out at home?” “Do you play/like sports?” “Do you watch television (a lot or a little)?” “What kind of music do you like?” “Do you play an instrument?” “What languages do you speak?” “Do you like animals and do you have any pets?” “What general likes and dislikes do you have?” “What do you like to read?” “How do you get to school?” “Do you have a lot of homework?” (Unit 1)
  2. How is your family like or unlike the Richardson family (fictional family presented in readings starting in Unit 2)?
  3. What makes a good father or mother? (Unit 2)
  4. What is your daily routine and what would you change if you could? (Unit 2)
  5. What do you imagine that the other members of your family are doing at this very moment? (Unit 2)
  6. What is a (minor) problem you face in your life and how might you resolve it? (Unit 2)
  7. What things (occupation, family, location, etc.) do you anticipate about your future? (Unit 2)
  8. What makes a good boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/wife? (Unit 2)
  9. Describe a person who has had an important impact on your life. (Unit 3)
  10. How are you feeling at this moment? (Unit 3)
  11. Describe the people in this photo from some significant moment in your life. (Unit 3)
  12. Describe the appearance of the outside of your home. (Unit 4)
  13. Using a PowerPoint of images taken within your house or apartment, give us a guided tour of your home. (Unit 4)
  14. What chores do you do at home and what do other family members do?
  15. What are things that you never/rarely/sometimes/often/always do after school, on weekends, with friends, etc.? (Unit 4)
  16. What are commands, orders and instructions you hear from your parents on a regular basis? (Unit 6)
  17. What did you do last night? (Unit 6)
  18. Tell us about significant events (birth, moving from one home to another, changing schools, achievements, obtaining a driver’s license, starting to play a sport, learning a new skill, etc.) from your life story. (Unit 6)
  19. Tell us about one of the most exciting/scary/funniest things that ever happened to you. (Unit 6)
  20. What places do you visit when you go to town and what things do you do there? (Unit 6)
  21. What you do like and don’t like about your town? (Unit 6)
  22. What is it that you appreciate about your parents and friends? (For example, What kind of things do they do for you?) (Unit 6)
  23. Have you ever…(fill in the blank)? When? Where? Why? (Unit 7)
  24. Describe the most beautiful natural setting you have ever seen. (Unit 7)
  25. What kinds of things did you do when you were young that you don’t do anymore? (Unit 7)
  26. When you went to bed last night or got up this morning, what were the other members of your family doing? (Unit 7)
  27. What is best vacation trip you have ever taken? Explain why. (Unit 7)
  28. Make predictions regarding the future of each of your classmates. (Unit 8)
  29. What things do your parents/friends do that make you happy or angry? (Unit 8)
  30. What would you do if you had a million dollars? (Unit 8)
  31. What would you change about your life if you could? (Unit 8)

Click HERE to see a sample lesson plan from a “Hook and Presentation” day.

Day 2: Reinforcement

Now that the sense of the vocabulary or sentence structure has been conveyed on Day 1 of the sequence, it is time to develop the students’ ability to use the new elements to express themselves in a guided fashion. On this day, you will help the students develop their linguistic reflexes, that is, the increasing ability to instantaneously use the new vocabulary or grammatical element without the need to reflect in their native language.

On a reinforcement day, the keys are time on task, repetition, acceleration and accountability. To maximize time on task and the repetition of new skills, half of the class is immediately directed to workstations or devices to study independently. This allows the teacher the chance to work more intensively with a smaller group and thus more easily to elicit the participation of each student. For those working on their device or computer, their browser should have the class’s home page as its default home page and thereby, once the browser is opened, the students immediately see their assignments for their time of independent study and are provided a link taking them directly to the ULAT activity.

The other half of the class works directly with the instructor, who reviews vocabulary, gestures and any appropriate KRS and practices the section(s) of the lesson that will be the focus of the oral participation session during the final portion of the class period. While practicing the section with the students, a good technique is for the teacher to verbalize aloud the thought process of a typical student trying to come up with the proper sentence structure. Teachers can even temporarily feign errors in thinking, and then correct them in order to help students visualize the proper thought process.

After the two groups exchange positions and perform the identical activities on the computers and with the instructor, the teacher brings both groups back together for an extended oral participation session.

Click HERE to see a sample lesson plan from a reinforcement day.

Day 3: Test Practice and Enrichment

On Day 3, along with deepening their students’ mastery of the new grammatical structure or vocabulary by means of test practicing, teachers begin to introduce the last two of the “Four Pillars”, namely, storytelling and relationship building.

Once again, have half of the students study independently, but this time they should exclusively practice the online tests found at the end of the lesson in question. With the other half, leaving enough time for the story-telling or relationship-building activity that will follow, briefly repeat the second-person sharing which you did on Day 1 or the most critical section of the lesson which they studied on Day 2. After a few minutes, have the two groups switch roles.

Once back together, have the students take one or two of the tests aloud and in unison as you, using gestures or KRS, guide them to the correct answers. Then, offer the opportunity for two or three volunteers to actually take the test aloud, in the hearing of the rest of the class. Assure them, if they do not like their test result, that they can retake the test on Day 4 and that they can keep the better of the two scores. (Volunteers will often take you up on this offer so as not to have to feel obliged to study that evening.) Generally speaking, you can expect the most capable students to volunteer. This activity has the advantage of showing the others the level of fluency and accuracy they must attain, as well as giving you the chance to point out commonly made errors.

Finally, teachers either show their students the next 10-minute excerpt of the movie they are watching in the target language or present them with an assignment they will be performing as part of their cross-cultural exchange with a school in a foreign country. Ideally the movie will involve exposing the students to cultural content regarding a country whose native language the students are studying as well as providing content for conversation practice. A cross-cultural relationship with students from a non-English-speaking school inevitably accomplishes those same two objectives and, even better, demonstrates to the students the value of language learning as they establish these new friendships. The first and second-person sharing questions listed above on Day 1 provide excellent topics about which the students can correspond via a sharing of e-mail, sound files, PowerPoint presentations or teacher-guided Zoom sessions.

Click HERE to see a sample lesson plan from a “Test Practicing and Enrichment” day.

Day 4: Testing and Enrichment

Teachers face two great challenges in classroom management when it comes to Day 4. First, if teachers orally test students one-on-one, what do they do with all of the other students in the class to ensure that they are gainfully occupied? Secondly, if one has 20 to 30 students in the classroom, how can the teacher possibly test each one individually in a class period of, say, less than 60 minutes’ duration?

As for the first challenge, the key is holding students accountable for their use of time before and after tests. Actually, this is easier than one might think, provided that the students have computer workstations or devices available to them on which they can work independently. Prior to being tested, students are intensely focused on preparing themselves for the testing situation, particularly if they know it is going to be carried out in the presence of observing classmates. Following the testing situation, if given an assignment on the computers about which they will be interrogated immediately upon the last test having been completed, and if class participation is heavily weighted, their focus on the task at hand is enhanced and the chance for distracting behavior is diminished. The second challenge, that of completing one-on-one testing in a single day, is handled by means of the well-organized rotation described below.

In random fashion, it is determined which student will be tested first and half of the class following him or her, automatically determined by their order in the seating chart, is seated in order in chairs in the front of the classroom. The other half of the students are sent to the computers where they are given time to study a lesson on the story viewed at the end of the previous class or to prepare a task for their cross-cultural exchange.

Four of those students, including the first to be tested, sit in the first row. While the first student is being tested, within earshot of the half of his or her classmates waiting to be tested, the test is being projected on the classroom screen. In this way, those waiting to be tested are watching the test, mentally practicing the skill being tested and hearing the brief feedback their classmate is receiving from the instructor.

The green circle above represents the teacher who, sitting next to the students in the first row, evaluates their performance in order, one at a time, while the students in the back two rows watch the test and listen to their classmate’s performance and to their teacher’s brief feedback to each one. Those at the computers work on their storytelling or cross-cultural assignment.

When all 4 of the students in the first row have been tested, they rotate to the computers in the back of the room. Four of the ones, who had been on the computers, move forward to observe the testing process, and those who had been watching rotate forward to be tested. Having a chime to ring, one that quietly indicates that students are to rotate, facilitates a rapid, peaceful, seamless transition.

The red arrows show the rotation that occurs after a group of four students has been tested. Once the first four students have been tested, they rotate to the independent study area and begin their storytelling or cross-cultural exchange assignment on the computers. Students nos. 13-16 rotate to the last row in the instructional area and the two rows in front of them rotate forward.

The image above shows the new positions of each student after the first rotation. (Note the numbers to see their new positions.) After the next four students have been tested, the same rotation occurs, except with students nos. 17-20 coming forward and then, finally, after the next rotation, students nos. 21-24.

Another key to the speedy processing of tests is for teachers to immediately begin the timed test for the next student as soon as the previous student has finished being tested. In this way the next student is not allowed to delay the transition in any way, thereby increasing the chance that all of the tests can be completed in a single class period. Optionally, teachers can also terminate a test early if they see that a student has clearly mastered the material, thus saving time and accelerating the process of test-taking.

As soon as the last student in the class has been tested, the teacher rings the chime calling all of the students back to the front of the room and immediately opens the oral participation session regarding the content of the story or displays student work on the cross-cultural exchange activity* that students were ostensibly carrying out on the computers in the back of the room during the testing session.

*To be able to rapidly display student work on the classroom screen, each student needs to have a folder on the school’s server which only that student and the world language teacher can access.

Click HERE to see a sample lesson plan from a “Testing” day.

Day 5: Storytelling or Cross-Cultural Relationship Building

The fifth day of the lesson plan sequence is devoted entirely either to a storytelling activity (probably 3 times a month) or to a cross-cultural project (once a month). These activities are not included in the ULAT, which is exclusively a language teaching tool. Storytelling activities or cross-cultural relationship opportunities must rather must be created or organized by the instructor.

If the focus is on storytelling, on Day 3, an excerpt from a video was shown. On Day 4, the students saw a lesson leading them to recall the content and work with the new vocabulary from that excerpt. On Day 5, their task is to retell the story to their instructor and, in the process, to respond to his or her questions. The teacher displays the video to the class, cued to the start of the particular excerpt the students have seen, and show them its key scenes. The teacher can simply ask them questions about the scene, however a richer activity is to have the students try to retell the story to their teacher. This can reveal some rather hilarious misunderstandings on their part about the story’s plot, especially if the teacher strings the students along and goes along with their misunderstanding, but their inaccuracy is of little consequence. The story, after all, is just a pretense to get the students to speak while doing so in an entertaining fashion. In time, the teacher can reel the students back in and explain to them the reality of the plot.

If the focus of Day 5 is on cross-cultural relationship building, the teachers use their students’ projects (PowerPoint presentations, e-mail, voice recording, etc.), or those received from their exchange classroom, as the topic of discussion for class that day, again treating all discussion as an oral participation session. Once the teacher has played the student’s recording for his classmates, the teacher directs questions to the students regarding their classmate’s daily routine and how it differs from or resembles their own. Even richer is to play the corresponding recording of the student’s counterpart in Mexico because it allows the students not only to discuss the Mexican young person’s daily routine, but also to hear a more authentic accent, to note how he drops the subject pronoun, in contrast to the American student, and to learn how the life of a Mexican student differs from their own. Even if the Mexican student records his routine in English, the students can still benefit as they again learn cultural facts, empathize with his challenges in learning English and then can discuss in Spanish what they have heard.

Click HERE to see a sample lesson plan from a “Storytelling or Cross-Cultural Relationship Building” day.

How to Complete the ULAT Program in Three Years

The following plan presupposes that we are speaking about high school language students, likely using the ULAT from their freshman though junior years, and having daily classes with a qualified instructor. The ULAT recommends that the instructor do the following:

1. Employ the 5-Day Lesson Plan Sequence explained above.

2. Complete Units 1 and 2 during the first year. This should allow for a reasonable pace of studies, thereby allowing the teacher to provide sufficient emphasis to the all-important foundation of listening and speaking skills. As an option and if time permits, during the final quarter of the first year, the teacher may choose to introduce the skill of writing by assigning lessons 5.1 to 5.13. These lessons present the first year’s content in written form, after the students have mastered it orally.

3. Complete Units 3 through 6 during the second year. In order to be able to continue using the 5-Day Lesson Plan Sequence and still complete four units, the written lessons of Unit 5 should be assigned in parallel with the oral lessons found in Units 3, 4 and 6. (For example, during the first full week of class in the fall, the students might study lessons 3.1, 3.2 and 5.1 or 5.14.) Thus, along with the oral lesson being studied from Unit 3, 4 or 6, the teacher devotes time on Days 1, 2 and 3 to a written lesson from Unit 5. Whereas oral testing takes place on Day 4, the written testing can take place on Day 4, if the class is small, or on Day 5 for a larger class.

In that the material in Unit 5 begins with content the students have already studied orally in the first year, second-year teachers should only need to provide minimal writing instruction to enable the students to transcribe content with which they are already well acquainted orally, thus allowing teachers to devote the bulk of their time during the week to developing oral abilities.

4. Complete Units 7 through 10 during the third year, interspersing the written lessons from Unit 9, as was done during the second year with the lessons of Unit 5.