A note from TEFL Reflections: I must say I’m amazed that my last post ‘Lesson Plans – a waste of time?’ has cause such a stir. I honestly didn’t expect it, but I’m glad it did. Perhaps the discussion was long overdue.
So I’m delighted to keep it going. Here’s a summary written by Juliana of Breltchat, a regular chat on anything ELT held by #BRELT here, mostly in Portuguese, but sometimes in English too. Please note that while the chat mostly addressed planning in general, my previous post concerned detailed lesson plans written for formal observations or teacher training courses (e.g. CELTA, DELTA).
Briefly, the most important points raised by the participants during the discussion were:
- The importance of planning.
Almost all of the participants highlighted the need and importance of planning in order to guide the classroom practices, even if the planning is not done formally.
- The importance of having an objective in mind.
Most participants agreed that having an objective in mind to guide the procedures in class is fundamental to start the planning, be it a subject to be worked on, tasks to be performed or topics to be discussed in class.
- Use of digital tools to help planning.
Using tools, such as Power Point, Evernote and Lino in place of the traditional paper planning, was also suggested by the participants.
- Planning might change from one institution to the other (e.g: regular schools versus language courses).
There are differences between planning in a regular school and in a language course. These differences should be taken into consideration while planning, because the target audience and the approach are different.
- Keeping in mind the personalization of the planning.
Despite the fact that some schools do not allow modifications in their lesson planning, whenever possible, the teacher should personalize the planning according to the group and their needs, thus exercising teacher autonomy.
- Do not keep a single linear plan from the beginning to the end.Taking into consideration that the class is neither the same every day nor in its own occurrence, teachers should bear in mind that the plan cannot always be the same for all classes and all students. In addition, it should not be carried out item by item in an automatic way, because what works for one class might not work for another.
- Attention to problem identification.Participants also pointed to the need for an ongoing reflection pre- and post-class in order to smooth out the problems and build up new strategies and solutions.
- Attention to the students’ and group’s objectives so students’ and teachers’ planning do not clash.
Attention to the students’ objectives helps the lesson achieve success because the teacher’s objective is not always the same as the class’s and vice versa. In doing so, the teacher promotes motivation and interest in the class. It is always important to have the students’ needs in mind.
- Despite being important in the beginning of the career, try not relying exclusively on Teacher’s Guide.
To the novices, the Teacher’s Guide is a valuable guide. However, after some years of experience, following it literally might be risky, because it might make the lesson feel standardized and predictable since it will be lacking in teacher’s identity and students’ interests.
- Whenever possible, having a plan B (or C).
Having a plan B (or C) helps when the initial plan has not been so successful or it doesn’t suit students’ objectives. In order not to let the class sink or fail, an alternative plan is always handy. There are no recipes for classes and assuming that your initial plan is always going to work is really risky.
One participant drew attention to UbD (Understanding by Design) as a means of organizing your lesson. Called “Backward design”, UbD focuses on desired outcomes as a guide for planning.
- Multiple Intelligences and learning styles
Something else that was mentioned was the need to cater for multiple intelligences and learning styles in the plan. However, that topic was controversial.
Juliana Alves Mota is originally from São Paulo, the largest city in Brazil, but moved to the countryside in 2012. A former speech therapist and audiologist who discovered her love for teaching in 2010, she holds a CAE certificate and is currently working towards a degree in English and Portuguese from the University of São Paulo State – UNESP Araraquara. Dedicated to continuous professional development, she always attends online and face-to-face courses, as well as webinars, and has been a BrELT participant since 2014.