TEFL Q and A, Chapter 11: Planning Your Lessons

Q: Now I've got some idea of how to teach basic things such as vocabulary, grammar, and skills. But I've got no idea about the bigger picture. How could I put all this knowledge together to teach a whole course?

A: Good point. If you go back to chapter 5 (on speech functions), you'll remember we talked about doing things with language. Before you teach a whole course, you need to think about all the things you want your class to be able to do with language by the end of the course.

Q: What are some examples?

A: For an elementary class, one key thing might be checking if someone is available for a future meeting; for an intermediate class, one key thing might be giving advice; and for an advanced class, one key thing might be expressing tentative agreement.

Q: OK, but what's the relevance of this when I'm teaching a whole course?

A: You need to make a list of these things for each class and arrange them so that they get more and more difficult.

Q: That sounds very demanding.

A: True, but in practice it's highly likely that you'll find yourself being asked to use a course book that contains its own list of objectives. It is very important that you don't lose sight of the course book's objectives when you teach.

Q: How can I do that?

A: By writing a good lesson plan for each lesson you teach.

Q: What should such a plan consist of?

A: I'd recommend that you divide your plans into two parts.

Q: What should the first part consist of?

A: The first part should include the level of the class, the length of the lesson, the type of lesson (here you say whether the lesson has more emphasis on vocabulary, skills, language, or a combination of any of these), and the lesson objectives.

Q: What should I write under "lesson objectives"?

A: You should write something like "By the end of the lesson the students should be able to...."

Q: How should I finish that sentence?

A: Her are some suggestions: "...decline an invitation," "...pay someone a compliment," "...complain to a waiter in a restaurant," "...understand the main points of the text on...."

Q: What should I do if it's a vocabulary-based lesson?

A: You can write "...understand and say (with reasonable pronunciation) the following words/phrases...."

Q: OK, I think I'm getting the idea. But how can I really be sure that I'm meeting these objectives in class?

A: There should be points in each lesson when students are able to demonstrate these things.

Q: For example?

A: For example, when you check meaning (and students give the right answers to your questions), when students say the words you want them to learn (e.g., in group and individual repetition), and when students practise their speech functions in role plays.

Q: So these are really key parts of every lesson, right?

A: Every part of a lesson is really important. But these parts certainly demonstrate whether you're doing your job properly or not. If the students perform poorly, you would then have to reteach the lesson (or certain parts of it).

Q: You mentioned two parts of every lesson plan. What's the second part?

A: On a separate sheet of paper, you need to write the details of the lesson you're going to teach.

Q: What should I write in this second part?

A: There are three key things: the time of each stage, what each stage consists of (describing both what you are doing and what the students are doing), and teaching aids (e.g., whiteboard, pictures, cassette player). You need to create columns for each, and please note that the final column (for aids) might often be vacant (you don’t always use aids for every stage of a lesson). Also note that you can use the lesson plan template in the appendix.

Q: How much detail do I need to write down?

A: To start with, as much as you possibly can. Otherwise, you're likely to forget little stages that may be very important for the success of a lesson.

Q: Such as?

A: Such as eliciting the target language. Many new teachers tend to jump in and just say the target language without waiting for the students to come up with the answer.

Q: OK, I'll try to remember that. Should all the lessons I teach be seen as separate units? Or should I try to link them together in some way?

A: That's a very good question. You certainly do need to link your lessons together. That way, the students will feel they're having a proper course (as opposed to just a series of unconnected lessons).

Q: How can I link lessons together?

A: By revising. Each lesson plan (and therefore each lesson) should begin with revision of not only what you did in the previous lesson but also what you covered in lessons before that.

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