Let me start from lesson planning. What is it? What do teachers need it for?
A lesson plan is the teacher’s road map of what students need to learn and how it will be done effectively during the class time. Before you plan your lesson, you will first need to identify the learning objectives for the class meeting. Then, you can design appropriate learning activities and develop strategies to obtain feedback on student learning. Different teachers write their plans in different ways but here are some things to think about when we write our plans. A successful lesson plan addresses and integrates these three key components:
Aims/Objectives for student learning
Strategies to check student understanding
At the planning stage of your lesson, you need to think about your aims and objectives:
✓ Aims are the overall points you want students to understand as a result of the lesson.
Sample aims may be:
• To provide revision and practice of the present perfect.
• To increase rapport amongst the students.
• To teach vocabulary for hobbies and interests.
• To teach students to express likes and dislikes using the structure I (don’t) like + a gerund (a verb with ‘ing’ added).
✓ Objectives are the skills you want students to be able to demonstrate by the end of the lesson or their accomplishments during the lesson.
Objectives relate to specific activities.
Sample objectives may include specific goals, for instance that students should:
• Be able to compare their travel experiences with other people by saying ‘Have you ever . . . ?’
• Write a questionnaire using verbs associated with travel in the
present perfect, and try it out on at least three other students.
• Learn the vocabulary for their hobbies and interests, including
• Know when to use the gerund and when to use the noun.
• Know how to write sentences requiring the gerund.
• Discuss their likes and interests together in groups
Even in a conversation class you ought to have a clear idea of what you intend the lesson to accomplish.
There are six steps to guide you when you create your lesson plans. Each step is accompanied by a set of questions meant to prompt reflection and aid you in designing your teaching and learning activities.
1) Outline learning objectives
The first step is to determine what you want students to learn and be able to do at the end of the lesson. To help you specify your objectives for student learning, answer the following questions:
What is the topic of the lesson?
What do I want students to learn?
What do I want them to understand and be able to do at the end of lesson?
What do I want them to take away from this particular lesson?
Once you outline the learning objectives for the class meeting, rank them in terms of their importance. This step will prepare you for managing class time and accomplishing the more important learning objectives in case you are pressed for time. Consider the following questions:
What are the most important concepts, ideas, or skills I want students to be able to grasp and apply?
Why are they important?
If I ran out of time, which ones could not be omitted?
And conversely, which ones could I skip if pressed for time?
2) Develop the introduction
Now that you have your learning objectives in order of their importance, design the specific activities you will use to get students to understand and apply what they have learned. Because you will have a diverse body of students with different academic and personal experiences, they may already be familiar with the topic. That is why you might start with a question or activity to gauge students’ knowledge of the subject or possibly, their preconceived notions about it.
Develop a creative introduction to the topic to stimulate interest and encourage thinking. You can use a variety of approaches to engage students (e.g., personal anecdote, historical event, thought-provoking dilemma, real-world example, short video clip, practical application, probing question, etc.).
One of the best ways to generate a number of ideas in a short amount of time is brainstorming or ice brakers.
Consider the following questions when planning your introduction:
How will I check whether students know anything about the topic or have any preconceived notions about it?
What are some commonly held ideas (or possibly misconceptions) about this topic that students might be familiar with or might espouse?
What will I do to introduce the topic?
3) Plan the specific learning activities (the main body of the lesson)
Prepare several different ways of explaining the material (real-life examples, analogies, visuals, etc.) to catch the attention of more students and appeal to different learning styles. As you plan your examples and activities, estimate how much time you will spend on each. Build in time for extended explanation or discussion, but also be prepared to move on quickly to different applications or problems, and to identify strategies that check for understanding. These questions would help you design the learning activities you will use:
What will I do to explain the topic?
What will I do to illustrate the topic in a different way?
How can I engage students in the topic?
What are some relevant real-life examples, analogies, or situations that can help students understand the topic?
What will students need to do to help them understand the topic better?
4) Plan to check for understanding
Now that you have explained the topic and illustrated it with different examples, you need to check for student understanding – how will you know that students are learning? Think about specific questions you can ask students in order to check for understanding, write them down, and then paraphrase them so that you are prepared to ask the questions in different ways. Try to predict the answers your questions will generate. Decide on whether you want students to respond orally or in writing. You can also ask yourself these questions:
What questions will I ask students to check for understanding?
What will I have students do to demonstrate that they are following?
Going back to my list of learning objectives, what activity can I have students do to check whether each of those has been accomplished?
An important strategy that will also help you with time management is to anticipate students’ questions. When planning your lesson, decide what kinds of questions will be productive for discussion and what questions might sidetrack the class. Think about and decide on the balance between covering content (accomplishing your learning objectives) and ensuring that students understand.
5) Develop a conclusion and a preview
Go over the material covered in class by summarizing the main points of the lesson. You can do this in a number of ways: you can state the main points yourself (“Today we talked about…”), you can ask a student to help you summarize them, or you can even ask all students to write down on a piece of paper what they think were the main points of the lesson. You can review the students’ answers to gauge their understanding of the topic and then explain anything unclear the following class. Conclude the lesson not only by summarizing the main points, but also by previewing the next lesson. How does the topic relate to the one that’s coming? This preview will spur students’ interest and help them connect the different ideas within a larger context.
6) Create a realistic timeline
A list of ten learning objectives is not realistic, so narrow down your list to the two or three key concepts, ideas, or skills you want students to learn. Instructors also agree that they often need to adjust their lesson plan during class depending on what the students need. Your list of prioritized learning objectives will help you make decisions on the spot and adjust your lesson plan as needed. Having additional examples or alternative activities will also allow you to be flexible. A realistic timeline will reflect your flexibility and readiness to adapt to the specific classroom environment. Here are some strategies for creating a realistic timeline:
Estimate how much time each of the activities will take, then plan some extra time for each;
When you prepare your lesson plan, next to each activity indicate how much time you expect it will take;
Plan a few minutes at the end of class to answer any remaining questions and to sum up key points;
Plan an extra activity or discussion question in case you have time left;
Be flexible – be ready to adjust your lesson plan to students’ needs and focus on what seems to be more productive rather than sticking to your original plan.