How to Make Lesson Plans for Adult Students

Easy and Effective Lesson Plan Design for Teaching Adults

Adult students learning in a classroom

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It's not difficult to design lesson plans for adult education. Every good course design begins with a needs assessment. Before you design a lesson plan, it's vital that you complete this assessment and you understand what your students need and what your objectives are for the course.

As with any gathering of people, it’s good to begin your class at the beginning and address who is there, why they’ve gathered, what they hope to accomplish, and how they’ll accomplish it. Follow these easy steps for designing adult lesson plans, and see how effective you can be.

Welcome and Introduction

Build in 30 to 60 minutes at the opening of your class to conduct introductions and review your objectives and agenda. Your beginning will look something like this:

  1. Greet participants as they arrive.
  2. Introduce yourself and ask participants to do the same, giving their name and sharing what they expect to learn from the class. This is a good time to include an icebreaker that loosens people up and makes them feel comfortable sharing.
  3. Try a fun classroom introduction for the first day of school.
  4. Write their expectations on a flip chart or whiteboard.
  5. State the objectives of the course, explaining why certain expectations on the list either will or won’t be met.
  6. Review the agenda.
  7. Review housekeeping items: where the restrooms are, when the scheduled breaks are, that people are responsible for themselves and should take a restroom break early if they need one. Remember, you’re teaching adults.

Module Design

Divide your material into 50-minute modules. Each module will contain a warmup, a short lecture or presentation, an activity, and a debriefing, followed by a break. At the top of each page in your teacher’s guide, note the time needed for each section and the corresponding page in the student’s workbook.


Warmups are short exercises—five minutes or shorter—that get people thinking about the topic you are about to cover. These brief activities can be a game or simply a question you pose. Self-assessments make good warmups. So do icebreakers. For example, if you’re teaching learning-styles, a learning-style assessment would be a perfect war up.


Keep your lecture to 20 minutes or less if possible. Present your information in full, but remember that adults generally stop retaining information after about 20 minutes. They will listen with understanding for 90 minutes, but with retention for only 20.

If you’re preparing a participant/student workbook, include a copy of the primary learning points of your lecture and any slides you’re planning to use. It’s good for students to take notes, but if they have to furiously write everything, down, you’re going to lose them.


Design an activity that gives your students an opportunity to practice what they just learned. Activities that involve breaking into small groups to complete a task or to discuss an issue are good ways to keep adults engaged and moving. This is also a perfect opportunity for them to share the life experience and wisdom they bring to the classroom. Include opportunities to take advantage of this wealth of relevant information.

Activities can be personal assessments or reflections that are worked on quietly and independently. Alternatively, they can be games, role play, or small-group discussions. Choose your activity based on what you know about your students and on the content of your class. If you are teaching a hands-on skill, hands-on practice is a great option. If you are teaching a writing skill, a quiet writing activity may be the best choice. 


After an activity, it’s important to bring the group back together and have a general discussion about what students learned during the activity. Ask for volunteers to share their reactions. Ask for questions. This is your chance to ensure the material was understood. Allow five minutes for this activity. It doesn’t take long unless you discover that learning hasn’t happened.

Take a 10-Minute Break

Get adult students up and moving every hour. This takes a bite out of your available time, but it will be well worth it because your students will be far more attentive when the class is in session, and you’ll have fewer interruptions from people who have to excuse themselves.

Tip: Manage Class Time Wisely

While breaks are important, it’s crucial that you manage them well and begin again precisely on time, regardless of stragglers, or chatter will get carried away. Students will learn quickly that class begins when you said it will, and you’ll gain the respect of the entire group.


End your courses with a short evaluation to determine whether your students found the learning valuable. The emphasis is on "brief" here. If your evaluation is too long, students won't take the time to complete it. Ask a few important questions:

  1. Were your expectations of this course met?
  2. What would you have liked to learn that you didn't?
  3. What was the most helpful thing you learned?
  4. Would you recommend this class to a friend?
  5. Please share comments about any aspect of the day.

This is just an example. Choose questions that are relevant to your topic. You are looking for answers that will help you improve your course in the future.

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Your Citation
Peterson, Deb. "How to Make Lesson Plans for Adult Students." ThoughtCo, Aug. 28, 2020, Peterson, Deb. (2020, August 28). How to Make Lesson Plans for Adult Students. Retrieved from Peterson, Deb. "How to Make Lesson Plans for Adult Students." ThoughtCo. (accessed April 2, 2023).