by Sophia McMillan
(Shane Training Centre, Japan)
Planning and executing effective lessons is of course an extremely important part of teaching. The teacher should always ask themselves the following questions:
* What is the objective of the whole lesson?
* What is the aim of this activity?
* How are learners working together?
* Who is speaking to whom?
* Is the time being used efficiently?
The focus of any class should be on developing the communicative abilities of the learners. Ideally the speaking ratio should be 30 percent maximum teacher (TTT) and 70 percent minimum learners (STT).
As such teachers need to consider the following when planning lessons to maximize learner-learner interaction.
Whole Class Teaching: This approach is fine for controlled activities and can foster a sense of belonging in the classroom. However it can restrict learners from saying their own thing or can make them feel exposed if they are talking to the whole group (consider the culture of classes you are teaching). Also the transmission tends to be learner to teacher rather than learner to learner.
Learners Work Individually: This can increase the amount of talking time for individual learners, promotes learner autonomy and helps to control noisy classes. On the negative side it does not encourage co-operation and requires more attention from the teacher.
Pair-work: Increases STT, develops negotiation and co-operation skills. It is also quick to organize and helps learners solve problems together. It can be very noisy sometimes and may be hard to control. Pairing up learners of equal language skill can be important to avoid problems.
Group work: Increases STT, increases learner autonomy and participants can take a more passive role if they choose. Not all learners like this, as they prefer to be the centre of attention. Learner roles may fossilize (passive individuals are always passive and stronger ones tend to dominate).
Where learners sit in a classroom can determine:
* Their attitude to each other and to you
* Your attitude to them
* How they interact
* The types of activity they can perform
Learners often opt for their usual seat / place when they enter the classroom, often working with the same people. The teacher should optimize the best seating arrangements to encourage learner-learner interaction, how best to conduct an activity (e.g. group writing; mingle etc) and how best they (the teacher) can maintain the attention of the group.
Instructions should be:
The teacher’s instructions are the lynchpin to the success or failure of an activity these must be planned and measured. With practice, instructions improve but below are some key points:
• Make sure everyone knows what to do before the activity begins.
• Check that everyone has understood – a good rule of thumb: if the weakest learner has understood you can assume the strongest learner has also.
• If an activity involves using materials refer to these during the instructions.
• Demonstrate what needs to be done where possible.
• Support instructions with diagrams, gestures and physical guidance.
• Make sure learners know when to begin an activity.
• Give instructions before handing out work sheets etc.
It is easy to feel that once an activity has started there is little for the teacher to do. Indeed the better set up an activity is, the less the need for the teacher to ‘interfere’. However, monitoring ensures that learners are:
* Doing the activity correctly
* Do not need assistance
* Are not speaking Japanese when English would be more appropriate.
* Having their language usage carefully evaluated.
If a learner is giving inappropriate responses or using the target language inaccurately the teacher can take notes of these and feedback with the group later.
Teachers can monitor from a distance (good for noting general language errors and judging the pace of the activity) or close up (good for on the spot correction; listening for and dealing with particular problems; focusing on need specific learners). Try not to get too close as some learners may expect you to take over the activity or task.
Key points for a dynamic class
• Be enthusiastic – it can be a deterrent for learners if teachers seem not to be enjoying themselves.
• Spread your interest – do not focus purely on ‘the learners who know’ – make sure you are available for all learners in the class.
• Pay attention – listen to what learners say to you and respond to their needs.
• Recognize that your learners may have different abilities, skills and motivations for being in the class.
• Get them talking – invest as much learner-learner activities and opportunities as you can in the lesson. Get learners using the language!
• Have a purpose for doing something! To ensure success give learners a purpose for doing an activity.