Lesson Planning

by Sophia McMillan
(Shane Training Centre, Japan)

* What’s a lesson plan?

Your lesson plan should be a framework for your lesson. A successful plan has a strong start and a clear finishing point. The stages in between are to get you from one to the other. A Lesson Plan is simply a step-by-step guide to what a teacher plans to do in the classroom on a given day: the more detailed the better. Ideally, you should be able to produce a plan that could be read by another teacher who would know exactly how to teach your class. A good plan might also include specific gestures and cues used in different parts of the lesson.

* How do I plan?
The best plans consider the finishing point or aims first (e.g. Role play “Eating in a restaurant”) and then work backwards to consider all the language and practice needed to be able to do that (e.g. making suggestions; food and drink vocabulary; listening practice; preparation time.)

* Why is planning important?
You need to consider your aims carefully. This will enable you to anticipate problems and consider solutions, it will ensure a balance of skills and activities in the lesson and above all it will give you confidence and make your teaching more professional.

* Why plan if I have a course book?
Course books often come with very clear teachers’ notes however each class is different and so the needs of each class will be different. This may affect your approach, tasks and activities in the class and problems that may arise in the lesson. Also planning with the text will allow you to anticipate what supplementary materials you could use.

* How flexible should a plan be?
All the best plans need to be flexible. Some things may not go as planned and any number of factors can affect how you have conceived an activity. You must be prepared to change parts or omit activities should the need occur. Planning also helps you develop contingency activities in case something goes wrong or activities finish too soon.

* What’s needed in a plan?
You need to consider:
• What learners already know
• What learners need to know
• Which language points or activities may prove difficult or problematic and how to solve them
• What activities are more motivating and rewarding for the learners

There is no single format for a lesson plan. Many schools have their own format and requirements. There is some agreement about what should be included:
* Warm-up: This can include a review (revision) of the previous lesson; linked to the current lesson.
* Presentation (or ESA format): Note the target language to be taught – and how you will teach it. Include how you will generate the learners’ interest in the language and how you might elicit the language you are planning to teach. Include details such as when you might model structures and dialogue – and when you will require a repeated response (choral response). Include a structure chart for the grammar – or the dialogue you intend to teach.
* Practice: Include the specific activities and materials. Ideally up to three practice activities – from most to least structured – giving the learners more freedom would be included.
* Production: This is where learners really learn and generalize a new language skill. Allow/encourage them to talk about themselves, their lives, or specific situations using their own information – but focusing on the target language – and practiced in the previous activities. Include exactly what you will ask them to do – and that you intend to monitor and encourage and correct them as needed in their use of the target language.
* Round-Up: Discuss/recap what has been studied and learnt during the lesson. This might be followed by a game that uses the target language.

Many experienced teachers write only minimally structured lesson plans as they will have developed a set routine for how they approach each lesson. New teachers should develop the habit of writing detailed lesson plan for at least the first six months to a year. This will require some real discipline, but it will pay off in terms of skill development over time.

After every class take some time to sit down and reflect on what went well, what did not go as well as anticipated and how things could be improved. This will help refining skills and personal development. If you save every lesson plan, it can save planning time if you teach a certain book repeatedly, you’ll find you need only a little polish on the lesson drawing from your reflective notes.

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