Will I Be Given a Curriculum to Teach From?
Mar 4, 2010 Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) 2962 Views
You can pose this very question at the interview stage when you apply for a job, but don't let a potential negative answer put you off. Some schools are incredibly organised, with a clear syllabus and curriculum, and files full of cross reference systems. These help you to source materials from which to teach when they should be used. However, a system which is relatively free and provides little guidance can actually give you great scope to be creative, responding to your students' particular needs. The key question you need to ask is, "How could I organise a curriculum and a syllabus if I needed to?"
Let's start by being clear what we are talking about.
Some basic definitions
Often a formal document or plan specifying the things which need to be studied over a particular period of time. It may be suggested by the government or the body in charge of the school you are teaching at. It should also mention how the learning will be assessed and how you should go about teaching (something about the methods you will use, e.g. communicative, using I.T. and so on).
The list of things that you should cover over a period of time, and their actual content. It may specify certain aspects of reading, writing, listening and speaking skills which need to be covered. It may list a whole selection of vocabulary or a number of different grammatical tenses and structures to be studied.
This is one aspect of the curriculum. For example, it could refer to a block of lessons in a particular school term. Or it could be a set of lessons especially studying one aspect of language learning, such as 'Basic Pronunciation'. It is a collection of lessons which are held together by an overall time framework or topic theme and could be as short as a few hours or last for a whole school year.
A course book list of contents:
For each lesson you teach, you should ideally have one main overall aim. You could state this at the top of your plan by saying, "By the end of the lesson, students should be able to.....[use present perfect to express aspects of their life experience]." It might be a topic themed plan such as, "Students will learn about and practise describing.... [favourite sports and hobbies]."
A lesson plan aim:
Sometimes this is referred to as the 'map' of the book. It is usually found on the first few pages and often features a table of contents organised by unit numbers. It often lists aspects of grammar, listening, reading, writing and speaking covered in each unit or chapter of the course book. This is a very valuable resource and reference for all teachers, from novice to experienced. It can also be used as a substitute curriculum or syllabus.
A lesson plan objective:
You might have a number of sub-aims or small objectives that you would like to introduce at various stages of the lesson. This could be things such as: review past participles in preparation for use with present perfect; practice the pronunciation of -ed regular past participles; compile a list of hobbies to create interest in the topic; and son on.
Using a Course Book as a Curriculum Guideline
As a teacher, you should definitely take responsibility for creating some objectives and an overall aim for each lesson that you teach. You may find the map at the front of the course book really helpful as a guideline for choosing the topics and content of your course. You might decide to tackle a unit or half a unit each week. Alternatively, you may like to cherry pick from the course book, leaving out things which are irrelevant to your learners. For the new teacher, the first few pages of a course book can give you a great feel for what level those learners are likely to be at. Don't try to pack too much into one lesson, but at the same time, keep a few activities up your sleeve in case your students turn out to be super quick at doing the tasks you set. This is especially true of children.
Doing a Needs Analysis to organise a curriculum / syllabus
You should consider doing a needs analysis in the following circumstances:
- there is no curriculum, syllabus or guideline supplied by the school where you work
- you have a one-to-one student.
- you are teaching what you were told to teach, but the students seem frustrated and unresponsive to what you have planned to do
If you Google 'EFL needs analysis examples' and you will get all sorts of useful information on this topic. In essence you need to know the answers to the following questions for each area (grammar, vocabulary, speaking + pronunciation, reading, listening and writing):
- What are your strengths and weaknesses in English?
- What particular things would you like to work on?
- Why and when do you need to use English?
- How often do you use English?
- Do you use it with native or non-native speakers?
- Are you hoping to do a particular exam at the end of your study?
For this class, the priority is lots of pronunciation and speaking practice, especially with telephone language. They should also do some grammar reviews. Although the scores for emails and presentations are similar, only one person has a special need for emails. Maybe Sally could be directed to do some private study on emailing, since it is not important to most of the class.
On a final note, go to http://www.dcsf.gov.uk/curriculum_esol/ to find some examples of the sort of thing adults are expected to be able to do at various learner levels.