Is there a way to create a road-trip-like type Extempore-based lesson plan?

If you are still thinking about this question, let me tell you, “There is!” Backward planning and the 5E model of instruction are what you need to implement for your lesson design.

What is Backward design?

The term was coined by McTighe and Wiggins (2004). The basic idea is that you plan your lessons designing backwards, which will eventually lead you to think forwards. Wait, what?

Yes, backward lesson planning is pretty much like planning a road trip. Take a minute and think about what you would do if you were to go on a road trip.

What would you do first? Probably, decide on the ultimate destination. Then, you would come up with ideas that will make the trip unforgettable. You will get creative, without a doubt! And you will be thinking forward, without losing focus on your target, i.e. where you want to get.

The above description of how to plan a road trip is a perfect analogy to explain what backward design for lesson planning is. So, basically, you will follow the pattern below:

In other words, you will plan the lesson outcome and, by doing so, you will be centered on the goals, skills and contents your learners will need to master in order to be able to reach that outcome. Then, you will need to think of what evidence will be necessary to show proof of what your students have actually been able to understand and what concepts and skills they are actually able to master. What will lead to that end product is the completion of different tasks, which will be part of the “road trip” which will take place during the lesson.

What is the 5E model of instruction?

I’m particularly fond of planning my lessons using the 5E model of instruction, which is founded on cognitive psychology and constructivist principles for language learning.

The model is based on a five-stage cycle, which expects the learner to become an active participant in the learning process. This cycle, which promotes the activation of Bloom’s LOTS and HOTS, through problem-solving tasks via collaborative work, will help the learner to be constantly retrieving their schemata and making self-to-self connections between prior and new knowledge.

The different stages of the 5E model of instruction allow for the lesson adopting different interaction patterns, a careful and natural interweaving of the language skills and, if needed (e.g., in a theme-based non-fully bilingual program), there could be a focus on the language. This should be achieved by deploying a battery of both non-reciprocal and reciprocal tasks to guarantee constant recycling (Ellis, 2003). The former focus on the language phenomena and the latter on communication strategies and skills and emulate actions we perform in day-to-day activities.

Without a doubt, combining the 5E model of instruction with Backward design for planning our lessons will contribute to making the learner go through a process of self-discovery, on the one hand, and of self-discipline, on the other. The learner will be driven to develop a sense of commitment to and responsibility for the learning process, the teacher acting as a facilitator and guide in assisting them in gaining knowledge.

When does Extempore come into play?

Easy! At different stages of the lesson. Extempore is versatile enough to adapt to the different stages of a lesson. So, if well-ideated, your lesson plan will consist of a variety of tasks, which will help you keep the focus on the ultimate lesson goal, instead of making you worried about the pitfalls that may arise as you plan your lesson or as the lesson progresses. The immediate consequence of this is that your learners’ motivation and proactivity will be boosted as you will have adopted the carrot and stick approach.

Here’s a sample lesson plan based on Backward design and the 5E model of instruction, in which Extempore is in the spotlight

The following unit on environmental issues has been designed to be taught to 6th graders at a school that adheres to a dual immersion bilingual program in Uruguay.

First off, we need to pinpoint the learning outcomes we want out the learner to achieve (at the end of a lesson/unit). For instance, based on Bloom's LOTS and HOTS.

For instance, by the end of the lesson, the learner is expected to be able to

  • identify different environmental problems in our home country,
  • compare the issues and rank said problems according to their impact on the planet,
  • choose one problem to do research into,
  • explore one problem,
  • understand the root of the problem and summarize/explain its consequences,
  • debate on the most urgent strategies to tackle the problem,
  • design short-term action plans to raise awareness of the problem,
  • discuss and evaluate which action plan(s) will be the most effective, and
  • write a report comparing and contrasting action plans.
  • produce a self-assessment on gained knowledge.

Then, what is needed is the “evidence” for the above mentioned learning outcomes, which in the Backward model will be the assessment. This is what I have planned for my group:

Learners will launch a green fair aimed at making the school community more aware of the serious environmental issues that are affecting our country through: posters, short video clips, organic vegetable gardens, etc.

By undertaking this type of authentic assessment, the learner is supposed to show mastery of L2 and ability to see that what is done in the classroom could easily be transferred into real life.

The Engage stage is aimed at arousing the learner’s interest in the topic, the following Extempore task could be used to serve the purpose of the stage.

Extempore Task 1

Pair-work activity. Synchronous speaking using Extempore Sync

Note: I have always liked Earth Song to start raising awareness of environmental issues not only through the intersemiosis of the imagery used but through the words, which express how man is owning up to what is happening to the Earth. So, for the sake of boosting interest in the topic and promoting reflection is ideal.

The Explore stage is focused on having the learner take on the role of researcher. In this way, it is expected that they will theorize about the topic in question and will try to find the answers to the questions that will be raised.

Pre-Extempore tasks

Whole class.

1) debate on the most urgent local environmental issues to address in our country and 2) rank said issues according to their degree of seriousness and urgency in dealing with them

The Explain stage pursues clarification and a refinement on the topic being explored, by collaborative work mainly or by focused instruction (see note below).

Extempore Task 2

Individual work.

Asynchronous task using video recording to report findings about the research into one of the local environmental problems ranked before. Learners must use Internet sources to find information.

Note: It is at this stage that there could be a focus on form if needed, in theme-based bilingual or EFL programs. If that happened, then there would be sessions of focused linguistic instruction and practice through pedagogic tasks to scaffold the L2 to aid the learning process.

The Elaborate stage seeks to help the learner make connections between old and new information and connect concepts to real life situations.

Individual work.

Pre-Extempore Activity, exchange of downloaded videos.

Learners will work on the Extempore videos, which will have been classified and assigned according to problem—the teacher is expected to redistribute topics. Each learner will take down notes on the information a partner has reported on video and will create a brief log entry evaluating the feasibility of the solutions suggested by their partners. And they will be encouraged to brainstorm another possible quick fix to the problem.

Group work.

Learners will be paired (according to problem) to network and debate on the most effective solution to the environmental issue at stake. To this end, they will elaborate an action plan (see examples above, in “assessment”), which will be documented by a previously appointed team leader.

Extempore Task 3

Individual, asynchronous and consisting of two parts.

  1. Learner written self-assessment of the outcome:
  1. Oral report on self-assessment:

In a nutshell, both backward planning integrated with the 5E model of instruction and technology is an asset to L2 lesson design. It is about time to start switching lesson plan perspectives, to change our mindset and to centre on the results, rather than do traditional straightforward planning. And, above all, step up and go on this mind-blowing “road trip” for planning your lessons: both you and your students will truly enjoy the change. I’m sure about that.


Ellis, R. (2001). Researching Pedagogic Tasks. Routledge.

Ellis, R. (2003). Task-based language learning and teaching. Oxford, U.K: Oxford University Press.

McTighe, J., & Wiggins, G. (2004). Understanding by design: Professional development workbook. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision & Curriculum Development.

This is post was created by Cristina Chiusano. Dr. Chiusano is a Department chair at Universiad de Montevideo, Uruguay, an EFL instructor at the Teacher Training Program and Translation Degrees, Unversidad de Montevideo, and a Spanish teacher of online courses at Abiline Chirsitian University. She has a MA in TEFL and Spanish as a Foreign Language as well as a PhD(c) in Linguistics.

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