TEFL Alumna Shares Her Best Lesson Planning Tricks
Lesson planning is an important skill and resource for teachers with benefits for the teacher, the students, and the institution accommodating them. By implementing this technique teachers are equipped with a guide that can instill confidence for themselves, as well as clarity for their students and employers.
This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Jason T. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.
One of the primary and more evident benefits of lesson planning is that it creates a clear structure for the lesson. This means that the teacher and students are aware of the focus of each session, which would increase the likelihood of successful learning objects. By clarifying goals, structuring lesson time and selecting resources or techniques specifically to support and achieve these aims, lesson planning is a major resource assisting teachers and students alike.
While also providing clarity and focus within the context of individual lessons, the process of lesson planning improves the wider continuity of the course and lessons in sequence. By having a firm understanding of what is covered in each lesson and keeping records of what is or is not accomplished within the lesson, there is material to construct a logical progression within the lessons and also to respond to any challenges which may underscore particular topics requiring further study.
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The clarity of study and the logical sequencing of lessons which are consolidated by lesson planning are both features of a forward or future-minded perspective. However, once the lessons have been completed, lesson plans become a record of what has been covered by classes, which techniques worked, where there were issues and which topics may need further revision. The function of maintaining a record is beneficial for the learning teacher, who can reflect on past lessons to derive knowledge from patterns that may emerge or recorded successes and failures. It also becomes a handy tool for reporting your activities and progress to your employer.
By creating and maintaining structure for lessons and also keeping records of what has been done in the past, lesson plans become a source of useful information on what needs to be reviewed and reconsidered. We have already touched on seeing teaching techniques that may or may not have been well received, but there is also the benefit of allowing for measured revision of covered material and notes on which topics may not have been fully comprehended. This allows teachers to adapt their planning to accommodate challenges arising in specific classes but also ensures that the students aren’t left fending for themselves in light of difficult topics that have been insufficiently allocated time in the initial plan.
For the new teacher, lesson planning is a huge comfort. By laying out the information which is expected to be covered within a course and ensuring it is properly distributed across the allocated time, you can be confident that everything is being covered. Another benefit here is that each lesson takes on a specific focus which enables teachers to properly prepare supporting resources and supplementary materials tailored to the particular topics of each lesson. This kind of structure provides support for less experienced teachers and provides a guide to follow when under the pressure of performing in front of a class.
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There is a potential here that teachers may rely too heavily on lesson plans and formats. It is important to always allow the lesson to be directed by the student's needs and to be accepting of the reality that classes will not run strictly to plan. The lesson plan is there to act more as a guide to assist in navigating the language learning process, but the ultimate focus should always be the students: meaning that the plan should adapt to the needs of a class and not the other way around.
Properly planned lessons can also be reassuring and beneficial for students in that it creates continuity and clarity even in the face of situations such as a teacher being absent. If a teacher needs to take time off, the presence of a lesson plan makes it much easier for another teacher to step into the role confidently (equipped with the knowledge of what has been covered, how it has been approached, what is being worked on currently, etc).
From these points, we can see that there are several benefits from proper lesson planning which extend teachers, students, and employers. This structure provides confidence and clarity for all involved provided it isn’t held too rigidly. TTT stands for Teacher Talking Time, ’of which teachers can't have too little. Teachers will speak more in class, when present knowledge, manage the classroom, correct students’ mistakes, praise students or provide feedback, and set up or demonstrate the classroom activities.
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Points to Remember
Here are some inadequacies of too much TTT. Firstly, TTT is opposite to STT (Student Talking Time), and more TTT means less STT. Teachers are already proficient in using English. Jeremy Harmer  believes that: Getting students to speak- to use the language they are learning- is a vital part of a teacher’s job. Students are the ones who need practice, in other words, not the teacher. Therefore, a good teacher maximizes STT and minimizes TTT.
Secondly, TTT can be over-used in managing the classroom, talking about things unrelated to target languages, such as social events and personal hobbies.
Thirdly, during teacher talking time, students will easily lose their interest, for just listening instead of talking. It also reduces the amount of time available for students to speak and actively participate in the class. Furthermore, TTT is usually used to explain the target language. When teachers speak, you may hardly hear the students say anything. It is difficult for teachers to know whether the students understand it or not.
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Ways to Solve Anticipated Problems
It has proven by many types of research that the most effective way for students to learn is to participate in the classroom. To ensure students being taught effectively and efficiently, teachers should minimize their speaking time, and create more opportunities for students to communicate in the classroom using the target language. How to decrease teacher speaking time? We can avoid unnecessary TTT as follows:
- Choose a simple language for explanations and instructions. Grading language is very important to avoid unnecessary further explanations, so try to use language that is at or below the level being taught.
- Use gestures, mimes, pictures or authentic materials such as books, maps, newspapers, audio and video recordings. You will see different learning types of students in a large class: visual, auditory, and kinesthetic. Auditory learners like to hear directions aloud, discuss what they are learning, and use word games, puzzles, riddles, and songs. Auditory learners learn through listening to spoken lessons and discussing information . Meanwhile, visual learners prefer to learn through graphs, videos, pictures, and graphical representations instead of. Kinesthetic learners prefer to study and learn using physical practice. They enjoy moving around, tracing, acting out concepts and stories. Based on different learning types, diversified teaching activities and materials can help students easily understand and learn far more than the linguistic codes.
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- Guide students to find the answer by themselves. Teachers should encourage students to answer questions without worrying about mistakes. If students can't answer the question, try to give some clues, rather than say and explain the answer immediately. It helps students understand the target language better. Meanwhile, instead of giving the only answer to some open questions, guiding methods can also help motivate divergent thinking and creativity.
- Set up more group work and interactive activities. When learning in a group, discussing and debating become possible, which usually develop a perfect environment to develop critical thinking skills, and where many problems can even be solved unconsciously. While feedback is needed, try to let students provide feedback to each other.
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