Lesson planning 101: 5 tips to get you started
Have you ever encountered a teacher who seemed slightly disorganized or absent-minded, always unsure of what topic to tackle next?
The thing is, I have no doubt that this teacher is friendly and intelligent, but their classes seem to just bounce unpredictably from one topic to another!
Although they may have been a genuinely amiable person, learning with them was likely challenging.
When a teacher isn’t organized and fully prepared to teach, students can sense it immediately: lengthy pauses and puzzled expressions disrupt the class’s momentum and undermine students’ confidence in their learning journey.
Fortunately, you can avoid being this type of teacher!
There are some simple things that can guide you so you will never feel at loss in front of the class!
So, let’s find out what those are, shall we?
1. Be mindful of time
“I have fifty minutes of material prepared for my class, but what should I do with the remaining ten?”
We’ve all been there, and honestly, it’s a challenge every teacher faces.
Time is a precious resource. It presents an opportunity to make a positive impact on our students’ lives and learning experiences.Our responsibility as educators is not merely to fill this time, but to utilize it to its fullest potential. Start by assessing the time you have, and let it guide your decision-making process.
To keep your class engaged and make the most of your time, try weaving in interactive activities that complement the lesson’s main points.
These could be group debates, collaborative problem-solving tasks, or quick quizzes to check students’ understanding. Don’t forget to set aside a few minutes at the end for a recap or to address any remaining questions.
Remember, as an educator, you have the power to shape the minds of your students. Make every minute count!
2. Decide your learning objectives
Ask yourself, “by the end of the class, what are my students going to be able to do?”
Consider this literally and have a concrete answer. Think of it like this: you have a class from 3 to 4 pm. By 4 pm, your students should have learned at least one new skill. What will it be?
Here are some examples:
- By the end of this lesson, my students should be able to use simple past tense
- By the end of this lesson, my students should know the vocabulary for family members
- By the end of this lesson, my students should be able to use modal verb
- By the end of this lesson, my students should be able to pronounce tricky sound (for example though, thought, sought, bought, etc)
Then, ask yourself, “how will I know my students have mastered this skill?” Use a simple assessment system so that success becomes obvious and measurable. Consider the following indicators:
- The students no longer need correction in this area
- The tricky sound is now clearer
- The students spontaneously use newly learned words in their sentences
- The students can express their thoughts more and rely less on dictionary
3. Be mindful of structure and teacher talk time
Picture this: a new teacher enters the classroom, eager to share their knowledge, but ends up talking too much. We’ve all been there, and even experienced teachers can fall into this trap.
Although it’s understandable, we can always improve. Embracing Communicative Methodology, which removes the teacher from the center of the learning process, leads to many positive outcomes.
The less you dominate the conversation, the more your students will gain confidence and fill the silence with their own voices. Learning to take a step back is one of the most important lessons for teachers everywhere, especially ESL teachers.
To help focus on this, assign a “direction” to each step of the class, such as teacher-to-student (T-S), dialogue (T-S-T), or pair work (S-S).
A classic lesson structure might look like this:
- Review (5 mins, T-S-T)
- Presentation (5-10 mins, T-S with check questions)
- Controlled practice (10 mins, S-S with feedback)
- Free practice (10 mins, S-S with feedback)
- Consolidation/homework setting/practice through games (10 mins, mixed)
Ask yourself: who should be doing most of the talking in each section? In all but the ‘Presentation’ stage, the students should take the lead by answering review questions, working in pairs, and offering opinions.
Design activities for each step. Review work could be a quick quiz, a puzzle, a team-based worksheet, or simply asking questions to gauge students’ understanding of past material.
The ‘Presentation’ stage is crucial, so aim to minimize your talk time while still delivering essential information. Consider what your students would prefer: a lengthy lecture on modal verbs or a few engaging examples followed by an opportunity to create their own? Practice this step in front of a mirror or camera, and challenge yourself to cut down your explanation time while maintaining clarity.
Remember, striking the right balance between teacher talk time and student participation can make a world of difference in the learning experience. By carefully considering the structure and direction of your lessons, you can create a more engaging and effective classroom environment.
4. Gather your resources
As you gain experience, you’ll accumulate a treasure trove of useful and engaging teaching tools.
Something as basic as colorful whiteboard markers can captivate your students’ attention, but your arsenal could also include real objects, puppets, flashcards, card games, dice, colored paper, stopwatches, and glue sticks. These versatile items can enhance any lesson, making learning more interactive and enjoyable.
Aim to teach a word or concept in a way your students may never have experienced before. This creative approach not only engages them but also makes the lesson more memorable. The novelty of these methods can help students absorb and retain information more effectively.
Try to come prepared with relevant facts and figures about the topic you are teaching. For example, if you’re teaching about the continents, encourage your students to guess the highest and lowest recorded temperatures, the longest rivers, or the tallest mountains on each continent.
Why? Most people like facts and trivia. Facts can be extremely helpful to create an engaging lesson. It also demonstrates through preparation too! Trust me, your students will appreciate it!
To expand your collection of teaching resources, consider exploring online platforms and educator communities for fresh ideas and materials. Don’t forget to share your own tried-and-true strategies as well!
Ultimately, the goal is to create an exciting and stimulating learning environment where your students are eager to participate and absorb new knowledge. By gathering a diverse array of teaching tools and resources, you can craft lessons that inspire curiosity and make learning a joy for both you and your students.
5. Assign meaningful homework
Fortunately, the days of monotonous writing or repetitive gap-fill exercises are mostly behind us!
Homework serves as an additional form of practice, typically completed independently. Ensure that the tasks you assign are as valuable as possible, with each question designed to genuinely assess students’ understanding and ability to apply the material on their own.
Encourage vocabulary practice through a range of complete sentences, all crafted by the students themselves. Assign grammar homework in paragraph form, requiring multiple uses of the same structure in various contexts.
Multiple-choice exercises, as many educators are gradually realizing, can be a waste of time. Instead, focus on tasks that foster production and comprehension, rather than those that merely keep students busy with little cognitive effort.
Invite students to reflect on their own learning: “Do I truly understand this? Can I apply this concept independently?” If they genuinely feel confident with the material, encourage them to move on to other tasks. Remind your students to practice what they need until they are comfortable with the content.
In a nutshell, crafting captivating and effective lessons involves several key components: planning thoughtfully, optimizing time usage, balancing teacher talk time with student participation, gathering versatile teaching resources, and assigning meaningful homework. By taking these aspects into account, you can create an exciting and stimulating learning environment that fosters curiosity, encourages active participation, and inspires a love for learning.
Remember to continuously explore new ideas, collaborate with fellow educators, and adapt your approach to meet the unique needs of your students. By doing so, you’ll not only make every minute of class time count but also leave a lasting impression on your students’ educational journey.
Do you want to develop yourself as an educator?
At IELC, we give you the opportunity to join a great team, develop yourself, and make a difference to Indonesia’s future by teaching English the right way to the next generation of English learners.
You will also get access to continuous training and professional development and get to meet fantastic, like-minded colleagues and team members.
Take the first step to enjoy a supportive and fun working environment, develop yourself, and get a rewarding job with IELC.