Top tips from an ESL professional so you don’t get bogged down in lesson planning. What you need to consider.
Lesson planning is the bane of most newly qualified teachers who often complain that they spend more time planning than teaching. However, more experienced ones claim that after a few years it becomes second nature and therefore less time-consuming.
Unless you are being formally observed, there is not a standard format for a lesson plan. There are teachers who scribble notes on post-it notes as reminders of what they need to do and others who put in more details and write down even the instructions they give to the students. Whatever you choose, before entering the classroom, it is a good idea to bear in mind the following.
Outline your aims clearly and in line with your students’ needs
It is pointless to plan a lesson based on your personal assumptions of what the students need. Do not rely entirely on a lesson plan that worked well with one group or on a lesson plan that you have taught many times before and therefore you feel sure about its outcome.
Each group Is different so plan according to their own expectations and interests. Still, you have to be realistic and take your students’ level into account. Decide what is going to be the focus of your lesson (grammar/vocabulary or skills) and make sure it is in accordance with what has already been taught and with what will be taught next.
It is also advisable to choose small aims. A common mistake teachers make is that they squeeze lots of things in a lesson plan and as a result they rush the students without giving them the necessary time to understand. Smaller aims make sure that the students work on their own pace and teachers do not race against time.
Decide what materials you will use in the classroom
One of the decisions that you need to make is whether you are going to use a coursebook or rely on other resources, such as authentic texts or your own materials. This will be mainly determined by your group and your lesson aims.
Is the content of the particular coursebook lesson appropriate for your students? Does it suit their interests? Do the tasks help you achieve your lesson aims? If not, omit the coursebook lesson altogether.
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However, this cannot become common practice firstly because the school you work for may not allow it and secondly because the students who bought the book want to get their money worth. So, if you do decide to use the coursebook, try making some changes. You can skip some of the activities, add new ones or adapt the existing ones to make them more appropriate for your students.
Choose tasks that are appropriate for the abilities of the students so that each one of them can achieve something.
Provide useful and motivating tasks that have a clear outcome and help you achieve your lesson aims. Avoid activities that focus on isolated items of language and prioritize those which put language items into a meaningful context for authentic language use.
The tasks should encourage use of the target language and ideally each activity should build on the previous one. Keeping the same context will also provide a coherent framework which will enable students to follow the flow of the lesson and keep them motivated till the end.
Decide how your students will interact with each other
Different activities require different interaction patterns and it is a good idea to think in advance how and with whom your students are going to work. Most teachers choose group or pair work but a bit more thought on individuals is also important.
For example, think who will the shy/the dominant/the only female/the weak/the oldest/ the youngest student work better with? Feeling comfortable and safe in the classroom is a prerequisite for learning to take place and it should not be ignored.
Is timing important?
Time worries most teachers but, unless you are being formally observed, you can be less rigid with timings. This is so because there are cases where the students need the same amount of time to understand one thing as they do to understand two.
You cannot predict in advance. So, allow students to work on their own pace but do make sure that most time is STT.