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Lesson Planning and Collaboration: The Strengths of ESA

Lesson Planning and Collaboration: The Strengths of ESA | ITTT | TEFL Blog

A New Perspective on Lesson Planning Prior to beginning this course, I had only considered lesson planning in the form of worksheets and topics, a brief lecture here and there, and some talk activities placed sporadically throughout the lesson. I also understood the critical nature of talking and listening as a means of gaining proficiency in a new language, but I did not think there would be a way to square this need with other aspects of what I perceived to be my own general education experience.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this blog post are solely those of the author, an alumni of ITTT (International TEFL and TESOL Training). They do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of ITTT. The content provided in this post is for informational purposes only and should not be considered as official endorsement or representation by ITTT.

Introducing the Engage, Study, Activate (ESA) Model

The introduction of the Engage, Study, Activate (ESA) model addressed my preconceptions about what an engaging class might look like as a way to keep a class continually learning together through collaborative communication (student-talk time). ESA's grounding in a student-centered ethos made thinking about lesson planning an important exercise for thinking about the needs of students as they face the difficult task of learning a new language.

Engage: Fostering Comfort and Preparation

Each stage contains activities that can keep a class engaged and enjoying the process of language learning. From a lesson planning perspective, the Engage portion of a lesson allows for the students to use and evoke prior language, make note of what new language needs to be covered, and ultimately bring together the class in a way that intentionally prepares students for the material ahead in a way that is not intimidating, dull, or overbearing. In practical terms, this might look like some spoken prompts, visual materials, or a warm-up game. This can get the students talking and feeling comfortable, a necessary component when trying to get students to take risks with new vocabulary, concepts, and ideas pertaining to the language.

Study: Promoting Engagement and Confidence

The Study stage is useful in order to give students confidence over the new topic presented in class, and throughout the course, there were multiple examples of what this might look like. The study period might seem like the most dull part of a lesson; initially, I could not think of a way to make drilling sentence structures or reviewing vocabulary particularly interesting. However, the study period presented in the course presents the stage as a way to foster more engagement through collaboration between students. This might look like pair work going over fairly pre-prepared sentence structures, collaboration on worksheets with a group, or just simple talking practice. The teacher has the opportunity to engage as well with reading, writing, and speaking through more passive interactions with students aimed at building confidence through constructive feedback.

Activate: Culminating Experience and Real-Time Practice

The Activate phase allows for more free-flowing communication and collaboration on the topic of the day and can often serve as a culminating experience of the class. The activate phase could be thought of as a culminating activity or experience, where one could use activities such as role-playing, group presentations, scenarios, or plays utilizing scenarios, vocabulary, and topics from the class. The Activate phase can build on the initial engagement, prior student talk time, and drilling to establish practice in real-time.

ESA: A Community of Learners

Regardless of the need of a class, the ESA plan encompasses and emphasizes the engagement of the whole class, building a strong community through collaborative activities throughout the class. These lessons are multifaceted, and one can readily swap, repeat, or rearrange the order of ESA components depending on the material (think Boomerang, Straight Arrow, etc.). In this brief essay, I have focused on what might seem like more collaborative facets of language; talking and listening, but reading and writing can be taught using the same methods, strategies, and activities. Overall, the dynamic nature of the ESA model allows students to engage with one another at all levels and throughout the period, primarily making the class about their language learning experience.

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