Lesson planning, to bring structure and organization to your lessons and the classroom. This can be a difficult process, especially for new teachers, as it can be hard to judge how much content a class can get through and at what speed. Preparing a lesson plan also has the advantage of providing your JTEs something physical to look at when explaining your lesson, so it helps on a communication level. In this roundtable we will discuss the process of creating an effective lesson plan and how to implement it in the classroom.
Establishing Clear Objectives
It is important to establish what you want to get out of the class. Whether it is a grammar point, a sentence or phrase structure, or just a review of vocabulary; the objectives of the lesson should be clear from the start. When you are designing a lesson you should keep these of objectives in focus. It doesn’t matter what kind of activity you are planning, from something in the textbook, a fun game, or some kind of long term project. You should keep in mind what you want the students to get out of the lesson.
It might be a good idea to map out your objects for the whole term or for the school year in advance. This will allow you to pace your lessons out and have long term goals for your students. Then you can break down your overall objectives into modules that you can make into lessons. This works best when you know how many classes you will have with the students.
It is important to keep in communication with your JTEs in this process. You and the JTEs might have different expectations and different goals for the class. Your situation will be different from others so you should work out this stage of the lesson planning process with your fellow teachers.
Building a Structure in your Lesson
Once you have your objectives figured out, you should start working on a list of activities you want to do during the class period. You can take different approaches to this phase of lesson planning. You can have a highly structured lesson, giving a set amount of time for each activity, and just hammer it out in the classroom. Alternatively you can be more fluid with your lesson plan and let the class guide you on the day. Both methods can work, so pick the method that best first you.
Regardless of how you plan on running a class, there are a few things to consider. Students will have a limited attention span, so long boring lessons doing the same thing the whole time will leave them easily distracted and make them sleepy.
A series of different activities can help keep students focused. Here are a couple of types of activities to think about:
- Warm Up Activities: Simple 3-5 minute games or activities to get students focused and using English at the beginning of class. Ask them some questions and have random students answer. You could review the previous lesson’s material by doing an impromptu dialogue with neighbors. Or if the students seem extra sleepy starting out, get them up and moving around with a lively game like columns and rows.
- Introductory Activity: A short activity to introduce a new topic or vocabulary. Maybe a dialogue exchange between you and the JTE or some kind of role play activity to get students thinking about the new topic. A 5-10 minute activity to demonstrate and introduce the students to the main activity will help students understand the process.
- The Main Activity: This is the main party of the lesson where you get students working on the topic. It could be a worksheet, interviewing other students, or some kind of game focused around the topic. These activities would take up the majority of the class and should be engaging and interesting for the students. Group work, dialogue, or team games work best when students need to do something the whole time. These activities take 20-35 minutes.
- Wrap-up or Review Activity: This is the final activity for the class, using the last 5-10 minutes of the class you can judge how well the students have understood the topic. This could be having individual students or pairs stand up and demonstrate the grammar point, or it could be a short worksheet or drill for students to individually show their understanding.
Of course your classes will be different, but having a variety of activities will keep students focused and interested. Above all your lessons should be fun and engaging, so try to get the most out of the time you have with them.
This component to lesson planning often requires some trial and error. Try to best judge how long an activity will take and adjust as you need during the class period. Some classes will require more time to explain the activity than others and likewise a worksheet might take longer to finish than in other classes. You should try to be flexible in your lesson planning to account for possible disruptions in your timing.
A suggestion to handle this is to have a couple of fixed time activities at the beginning and have an activity near the end of class that can be flexible and can be as long or as short as you need. Nothing can be more awkward than finishing class 5 minutes before the bell and have nothing to do, and nothing can be more frustrating when you run out of time and couldn’t finish the activity. This timing will become easier for you as you get to know your classes and JTEs.
Another good idea is to have a contingency activity in your pocket in case your activities wrap up quickly and you have some time to kill. Look through the lesson database on this site to get some ideas of some fast impromptu activities and games to toss in a lesson to fill in some time.