What Makes a Good Lesson Plan?
Sep 30, 2014 Lesson Planning 2186 Views
DO ALL TEACHERS HAVE LESSON PLANS?
Amongst teachers, the question of whether or not one should always have a detailed lesson plan is up for debate. Some strongly believe that the possession of a detailed written plan hinders the ability of a teacher to be flexible and really respond to their students’ needs as they arise. They say that lesson plans can result in mechanistic and predictable lessons. Moreover, the more experience one gets in teaching, the less need there is for an actual written document. That is not to say that a teacher does not plan what they are going to teach, but that they feel less need to formally write it down. Experienced or not, however, a teacher should always plan what they are going to teach. There are few who would be confident enough to begin a class without the foggiest idea of what they are actually going to present for the next hour. However, amongst new TEFL teachers, you will find that you do benefit from, and want to have, a formally written lesson plan to guide you through your paces and keep the lesson organised in your head. Indeed, your colleagues and your students will expect such professionalism and preparation from you, and if you are ever monitored by an observer they will ask for a lesson plan for reference. How you use a lesson plan, once it is written, is up to you. There are some teachers who, once in the classroom, pay less attention to their plan as they respond to ad hoc situations and student questions in a lesson. Others will follow their plans quite closely, although always allowing room for flexibility. Whatever you decide to do, there are real benefits from writing a lesson plan for the trainee teacher.
WHY SHOULD A TRAINEE TEFL TEACHER HAVE A LESSON PLAN?
When you begin a career as a teacher, the whole experience from undertaking a course to eventually arriving at teaching your first class can be a little daunting. There is a lot of information to absorb, plenty of theory and pragmatic advice to receive, as well as a bank of language to teach. Most trainee teachers have never taught in front of a class before. Nerves can run high, and a teacher can fret in such a situation. The best way to allay nerves and fears is to be prepared. The more you think about a lesson before you give it, the better you will be in its delivery. This is because you will have allowed yourself the opportunity to decide on the aim of the lesson and how to achieve it: i.e. what your students will be learning, why they should be learning it and how they are going to do so. You can then anticipate any problems which may arise and think of potential solutions. In short, a lesson plan allows you to set things straight in your head – to structure a lesson logically and clearly. The result of this process will be making you a more confident and relaxed teacher who can deliver a lesson with a clear direction and point. Students will only be thankful for this – none want a chaotic and messy language class. Moreover, a lesson plan allows you to review aspects of the lesson before it has been given, which you can then adjust if necessary. For instance, if from your lesson plan, it looks as though you have not given enough time to free practice, then you can scale back other activities as necessary to boost the former’s proportion. In a similar way, with a lesson plan you can judge estimated timings of the various stages and activities so that you ensure you do not run out of activities before the lesson is finished, or indeed run out of time before your last stage is over. From this, you should always have extra activities up your sleeve, or be ready to adapt your activities to save time.Overall, you can assess if the lesson seems student-centred enough. The key to TEFL is giving your students enough time to practice using English, as this will probably be the only time during the week they can practise the language. A lesson plan should reflect this and allow for STT (Student Talking Time) as much as possible. That STT should be balanced between pair work, group work and whole-class work, which again can be reflected in the lesson plan. Therefore, a lesson plan is a highly useful document which allows you to plan ahead a more effective lesson.
WHAT MAKES A GOOD LESSON PLAN?
In order to write a good lesson plan, the first thing a teacher needs to think about is flexibility. There must be a careful balance to ensure the plan has an organised structure yet one which can be adapted as and when needed. For example, this could mean extending the presentation stage of a lesson if it becomes clear the students’ have not grasped the form or meaning of a particular grammar structure, or shortening controlled activities that seem to be boring students in favour of a livelier activity in the free production stage. Timings are very important to teachers, but they need to be flexible. If something is taking longer than anticipated, a teacher has to adjust their plan to focus on delivering the main aim of the lesson, whilst dropping activities that may have supported only secondary, subsidiary aims. Quite simply it is of little use having a strict and entrenched plan in an environment that is heavily influenced by the behaviour, needs and desires of students. Without question students need to be guided, and benefit from a clear, well-thought out lesson – the result of a lesson plan – but that lesson cannot be so inflexible that it cannot be changed when required. A lesson plan is meant to be a helpful guide; a reference for the teacher to use during class – but it is not meant to be an absolute blue-print to follow without fail. There will be many on-the-spot decisions a teacher will have to make in order to respond to students’ needs yet achieve the main aim of the lesson. These will alter the plan. Plans are guides, not blue prints. In-built flexibility is paramount. However, as plans are guides, it is very important that they should be laid out in a clear and organised manner so that a teacher can refer to it with ease in a lesson. A teacher should be able to quickly scan the document, understand where they are and what they need to cover next. Similarly, a plan should be detailed enough that if another teacher were to cover your lesson for whatever reason, they would be able to on the basis of your plan. As a result, a plan should be structured, informative and neat. The most effective lessons are organised around appropriate, attainable and well-defined aims which fit into the wider schedule of work based around the course syllabus. These aims would have considered the language level of the class, the students’ interests and learner motivations. Once the aim has been decided, the teacher must research what target language they will present based on what they assume the students’ already know and what they should know by the end of the lesson. At this point, it is critical a teacher anticipates the problems which may arise in the classroom when presenting and practicing the target language and come up with potential solutions. This will prevent any unwelcome surprises and allow the teacher to react most effectively in the classroom. The presentation stage and activity stages should then be arranged according to these aims and their estimated timings and mode of interaction written down. Stages should flow in a logical sequence from one to the other, and students should understand what they are doing and why they are doing it. In other words the students should be able to appreciate the overall progression and point of a lesson. Activities planned should be varied, fun and stimulating with changes of pace and different types of interaction accounted for. Timings should be estimated in order for a teacher to judge whether she is likely to finish on time or not, or if activities should be added or left off. Finally the teacher will review what language materials and visual aids they might need to bring to class to support their teaching. If all this is considered in the writing of a lesson plan, then the teacher has most likely prepared what will be a wellthought out lesson. A flexible plan which is clear, informative and logical in terms of its pre-plan and procedural stages is the best foundation for an effective lesson. It really is one of the most important tools with which a teacher can arm herself with to combat the potential for confusion in TEFL. At this point, it would be useful to assess in more depth each separate component of a typical lesson plan to give you the confidence to start thinking about how you might want to write plans yourself. Remember, there is no right or wrong way to write a plan – really it is up to the individual style and preference of the teacher. However what follows below is a layout with proven efficacy. To read more about lesson plans, why dont you try out our course at www.teachteflfirst.com.