The Value of Lesson Planning
To effectively teach it is widely considered important that a plan is in place before commencing a lesson. This essay will provide evidence for this statement. First, the structure of a lesson plan and its effects will be examined and then contrasted with teaching by improvisation and its effects before presenting a final cost-benefit summary.
This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Christopher B. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.
Lesson planning simply refers to the practice of structured preparation before conducting a class. The form that this take is not set and while many templates exist to assist one in the planning of a lesson, the actual form the planning takes will vary from teacher to teacher.
Points to remember
Nevertheless, there exists a common set of factors that many teachers will consider when planning a lesson. These range from basic considerations such as the layout of the classroom to the objective of the lesson as a whole, of these considerations the learning objective of the class is commonly identified as the most important. Formulating a clear, and achievable learning objective appears to be crucial to the structure of a lesson plan; the learning objective acts as the foundation from which the lesson plan is built. On this foundation procedures are constructed, materials prepared, methodology considered and so on until the structure of the lesson is apparent to the teacher before the actual class. It is important to note here that no teacher will be able to predict with 100% certainty exactly how a class will happen and a lesson in which a teacher maintains total control to implement their plan will not be considered optimal in the majority of situations. Therefore, the structure of lesson plans tends to flexibility.
Advantages for teachers
Planning a lesson provides many benefits to a teacher. When the lesson is founded on a solid teaching objective this provides a focus for the lesson. A lesson with the focus usually entails a logical structure that is conducive to student learning. When a lesson is planned required materials can be prepared beforehand and often this results in a more time economical lesson, which means that less time is spent preparing activities in situ and more time doing them, for example instead of writing problems on the board the teacher may use a pre-prepared worksheet. A lesson plan also provides a way in which one can record what has been learned and how the students reacted to that learning. By contrasting used lesson plans with work in progress lesson plans a teacher can make informed decisions on how they continue their course. Lessons planned can also act as guides for substitute teachers if the teacher is unable to teach a class. This allows the course to continue with a minimum of interruption. The psychological effect of having a plan is not inconsiderable for both the teacher and students.
Advantages for students
In many cases, students will likely feel happier with a teacher who has a plan and knows, or at the very least appears to know, what they are doing and where their lessons are going, by having a plan in place a teacher will likely be able to project confidence, plan for contingencies, and improve the morale of the class overall. However, lesson planning can be a time-consuming activity and in many cases is a primary cause of late nights and a poor work/life balance amongst teachers.
The dark side of freestyle
Teaching by improvisation, or without a plan, by contrast, does not offer many benefits and often takes place as a contingency and is not usually considered ideal. It does come with some benefits, however. Primarily it is far less time-consuming. It also allows the teacher a great deal of flexibility with their class which means the lesson is unbound by planning and free form. This is not necessarily a detriment however it must be noted that a teacher who chooses to teach in this manner must have a very firm knowledge of the subject matter and be able to produce teaching activities on the fly. The detriments of teaching without a plan are multifarious, to use an example, a teacher may be teaching the history of WWII as a subject, in one lesson they may veer wildly across the entire history of the war as they remember various facts or new ideas occur to them. The result is informative, but an unfocused mass of information that the students will find difficult to remember. The teacher will also have to rely on the materials already present in the classroom as without a plan it would then be impossible to pre-prepare materials. This severely limits the scope of possible teaching activities.
Without a record of the lessons, and improvising teacher may find themselves reteaching old material or teaching something completely unconnected to the last lesson they taught resulting in confused and eventually unmotivated students. Where success is seen in improvised lessons, it is most often seen from experienced teachers who have internalized lessons or even entire courses that they have conducted in the past and so are not truly improvising but rather adapting. Improvisational teaching is not a good option where teachers may not have a significant depth of subject or teaching experience.
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Lesson planning allows a teacher to create a logically structured focused lesson, with a wide scope of teaching material that will most often not lean too heavily on the teacher’s knowledge of the subject matter or teaching experience. While improvisational teaching takes up less time and offers a greater degree of latitude during lessons, the detriments to the overall structure of the course lead to the conclusion that lesson planning has great value for teaching and it benefits the teacher who takes the time to do so.
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