Lesson planning

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How much time do you spend preparing your lessons in advance? Are you a planner? Or do you like to let the lesson take its own course?

As a young student teacher I learned how to carefully plan my lessons. I would write out exactly what I planned to do during each part of the fifty-minute class: how I would warm-up the students, introduce new language, have students practice the language, and then probably a productive activity. In one column I would lay out the time, in another the portion of the text or the handouts that I would use, and additional notes in a third column. My master teacher remarked that I had occasional problems with timing. I was one of those teachers who would happily go off on an a semi-related tangent, just because the students and I thought it was interesting, and then belatedly notice that much of the class had passed without us focusing on the key parts of the lesson!

Later in my teaching career, I did less planning. I would go in  with only a rough outline, jotted down on a piece of paper, of what I hoped to accomplish in a given class. If I hadn’t taught the course before, or if the material was particularly difficult, then I might put some extra time and effort into planning, but otherwise, I felt that as long as I knew the material, my students, the course, and my teaching style, and I could put it all together without needing a detailed plan. Perhaps this is a question of experience? But I think that these classes came out pretty well.

What about you? Are you a planner? Do you usually “wing it?” What is the right balance for you between planning and being a free spirit in the classroom?

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  1. Peter Vahle Reply

    Hi Joe,

    I totally agree with the idea of ‘teach the learners, not the lesson plan’. I’ve been doing some research on the effectiveness of what has come to be called ‘Teaching Unplugged’. Have a look at Scott Thornbury’s book with the same title by Delta Publishing. It’s a great read does much to legitimize what many of us do on a regular basis.

  2. Joe Reply

    Good point, Peter. Yes, the dogme concept seems to have caught on in the European world of ELT but hasn’t had such an impact on this side of the Atlantic. Time will tell — but much of Meddings’ and Thornbury’s thinking is that standard textbooks are written in general terms and thus can’t meet the needs of the particular students that we have. Which, of course, is true. There’s a question, I think, of how far you want to take things . . .

  3. Judie Haynes Reply

    I travel around the U.S. providing professional development to classroom teachers of ELLs. I find that most schools require teachers to hand in plans. Some even go so far as to require citations of standards being taught. I think it is important for classroom teachers of ELLs to plan ahead so that they have the visuals and differentiated materials available during their lesson. The students sitting in front of classroom teachers are not the same today as they were 10 or 15 years ago. Teachers need to make plans in order to meet the needs of the ELLs in their class.
    That being said, as an ESL teacher, I taught mostly thematic units. I would write what unit I was teaching and what skills I would be developing and handed those plans in to my principal. However, I never looked at those plans during the lesson. I had a general idea in my head of what I was going to do and the materials gathered together in advance. I think it is important, however, for beginning teachers of ELLs to write complete plans and even veteran teachers should have some idea in their heads about what they are teaching.

  4. Kety Jomes Reply

    Nice reading! Being a teacher I can understand the importance of lesson planning. I always prepare lessons before taking the class and realized that I deliver the lessons in much effective way. In my opinion, it is solely the duty of a teacher to make his/her class interesting.

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