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Trinity Certificate in TESOL

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When teaching, whether we are working from a course book or designing a lesson from scratch, we need a thorough plan of where we want to go and how we want to get there. It’s a little bit like planning a journey: you need to determine what to pack, which route to take, and you need to anticipate some of the problems you will encounter along the way. As with planning for a journey, effective lesson planning is one of the most important elements in successful teaching. A plan is a guide for the teacher on where to go and how to get there. In this Study Resource for the CertTESOL, we will have a closer look at: What is a lesson plan? Why do we need to write lesson plans? What is the key to lesson planning? What are the main stages of a lesson? What are some questions to ask myself when planning? How can we anticipate problems and solutions?

A lesson plan sets out what language and/or skills you intend to cover with your learners during the lesson (i.e. the aims of the lesson) and how you intend to do this (i.e. the activities that the learners will be engaged in to help them achieve these aims). In many ways, the lesson plan represents a mental picture of the thought and preparation that you have put into the lesson and how you envisage it unfolding in reality.

Your plan should include details about: learners learning aims context anticipated problems and solutions materials and aids procedure

The Procedure page may be laid out something like this: Stage Aim Teacher Activity Student Activity Interaction Timing

One of the most important reasons is for you to identify your aims for the lesson. You need to be able to pinpoint exactly what language items and skills you want your learners to be able to use better by the end of the lesson.

Careful planning and preparation will also: help you to think logically through the stages in relation to the time available keep you on target give you confidence give your learners confidence in you make sure that lesson is balanced and appropriate for class help you focus on teaching areas you need to improve in provide you with a useful record

Your learners Think about their language level, age, educational and cultural background, motivation, strengths and weaknesses, learning styles, etc. Try to base your activities and materials around the needs and interests of your group to make learning relevant. The better you know your learners, the more you can personalize your lesson content and make it suit your group.

Aims One of the main principles of planning is establishing clear and realistic aims that are achievable and meet the learners’ needs. Your aims specify language items that they will have learned and skills they will have improved by the end of the lesson. Aims are stated from the learners’ perspective, rather than focused on what the teacher is going to do. Some examples are: for learners to be able to use the past simple tense of irregular verbs when talking about their last holiday for learners to be able to read a news article for gist

Clearly stated aims, and achieving them, are key indicators of good plans and good teaching.

Context To make it meaningful to our learners, it is important that language is always encountered in context. Consider how the language naturally occurs, who uses it, about what, where, when, why, and how. Try to keep the situation relevant to your learners.

Variety Variety keeps the learners motivated and engaged, and also helps you cater for different learning styles within your class (visual, auditory, kinesthetic). Plan to vary your teaching techniques, activities, materials and interactions.

Learner involvement Try to engage the learners as much as possible: include plenty of student-centred activities and maximum student talking time, elicit language and concepts from the learners rather than tell them, and personalise language work so they can use English for describing their own lives.

Flexibility It is never possible to predict exactly what will happen in the classroom and you will sometimes need to adapt your plan to suit the circumstances. Consider optional activities that you may do if time allows or that you can skip if necessary.

For learners to benefit from classroom language learning they need to be motivated, exposed to the language, and given opportunities to use it. There are different ways of approaching and describing the staging of lessons. One such way is set out in How to Teach English (Longman, 2007 [2nd edition]), where Jeremy Harmer suggests the three stages of Engage, Study and Activate.

During the Engage phase, the teacher tries to arouse the learners’ interest and engage their involvement. This might be through a game, the use of pictures, an amusing story, etc. Learners who participate and enjoy themselves tend to make better progress.

The Study phase uses the engagement to direct attention to the meaning of language items, how they are used and formed. This may be related to pronunciation, grammar, lexis or skills development, and include analysis and controlled practice. The Study stage could be learner-centred or teacher-led.

For learners to develop their use of English they need to have a chance to produce it in a personalized and communicative way. In the Activate stage, tasks require the learners to use not only the target language of the lesson, but their full language knowledge.

Plan to include all these stages in your lessons.

1. What is the teaching point?
  specific language (in the context of grammar, lexis, and pronunciation)? specific skills (speaking, reading, listening, writing)?

Think about what you expect the learners to be able to do by the end of the lesson (your aims). 2. What is a good way to set the context for the language? This can be done by using a dialogue, a description, realia, pictures, mime, a story, questions, a reading text, etc. Consider when and how we use this language naturally. 3. How are you going to highlight the language to the learners? Tell the learners directly? Ask them to discover it? 4. What activities are you going to use? What order will they come in? How much time will each stage take? Suppose your learners take more, or less, time to carry out each activity? How could that affect the whole timing of the lesson? 5. What materials are you going to use: texts, pictures, CD, tasks? Are they relevant to your learners? Do they relate back to your aim? 6. What opportunities are you going to give learners to practise the language and use it in a meaningful way? 7. Consider your class management. How are you going to give your instructions? Are your learners going to work in pairs, groups, mingle? How can you give them a good variety of listening and talking to you, and working with each other? 8. How can you engage the learners at the beginning of the lesson? A good way of doing this is often through a warmer or an ice-breaker.

Even with the best preparation, unexpected difficulties and situations may arise. These may relate to both language and classroom management. As part of your planning, you need to predict pitfalls and suggest ways of dealing with them.

Anticipated difficulties concept what the grammatical or lexical item actually means e.g. when you appear to ask a question, are you actually giving an instruction, e.g. “Would you like to close your books, please …” how the structure is made (e.g. “I live in Montevideo”: present simple tense to describe current state.” when the item is used naturally and appropriately e.g. the roof of my house, the roof of my mouth … how to say the grammatical or lexical item, or how to copy the sound and intonation, e.g. similar spellings but different sounds – cough, rough, dough … timing, group dynamics, instructions, e.g. when will we work as a whole class, and when in groups how content can be specific to or sensitive in certain groups, e.g. What is the significance of a “birthday” in different cultures? Or “my family”?

As a trainee on a CertTESOL course, you are required to produce very detailed plans, as careful planning will help you process every aspect of your upcoming lesson.

After teaching, you will reflect on your plan, and receive feedback from your tutor.

You will learn how to plan individual lessons which normally extend over 40 to 60 minutes. However, as you become a more experienced teacher, you will need to take into account what your learners have done in previous lessons, with you or with another teacher, and what their whole syllabus or learning programme for – say – a week or a term looks like.

We hope you have enjoyed this introduction to Lesson Planning. Thank you to Fusion Teaching ([email protected]) for their work on this Trinity TESOL Study Resource

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