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Whether you want to teach reading, writing, speaking, or listening skills to learners of English as a second language (ESL), you'll want to use a lesson plan, especially if you're a new teacher.
Lesson plans are important as they help set the aim and objective of a lesson, provide step-by-step guidance on how the lesson will flow, help with timing, and draw attention to the key skills and/or vocabulary needed for the class.
Lesson plans can also help you grow as a teacher by providing an opportunity for reflection and possible ideas for future lessons to come.
Ask any English as a second language teacher, and they will tell you the importance of lesson plans. A well-thought-out lesson plan will benefit the students and the teacher and ensure lessons stay aligned with chosen curriculums.
Some benefits of lesson plans include:
Helps students and teachers understand and work towards the main objective of the lesson.
Secondary objectives for the lesson can be set, meaning the teacher can encourage students to work on another skill simultaneously without losing focus.
Gives the teacher a chance to predict any issues and difficult language concepts that may appear.
Preplanning highlights any resources that may be needed for the lesson.
Helps the teacher follow an appropriate format for the lesson objective.
The teacher can preplan how long they will spend on each section, thus helping with time management.
The teacher can look back at their lesson plans to remember what has been covered and reflect on what went well and what didn't.
The teacher can plan the communication style of each activity (e.g., will the activity be the teacher talking to students, students talking to each other, or open class feedback?) This can help keep teacher talk time low and ensure that the students are given plenty of time to talk themselves.
Without a lesson plan, it's easy for lessons to become fun and entertaining but unaligned with the curriculum or learning objectives.
Before you begin planning a lesson, you need an idea of exactly what you want to teach. The best language courses will follow some curriculum to ensure students are introduced to the correct language at the best time; therefore, the first place to look for lesson ideas is within the assigned curriculum or textbook.
Before we look at some different formats for lesson plans, let's outline the basic components every lesson plan should include.
Each lesson should have an objective (aka an aim), i.e., what will the students learn and why? You should consider which of the five skills students will practice and what they will be able to do at the end of the lesson that they couldn't do at the beginning.
The five skills in language learning are speaking, listening, reading, writing, and grammar.
The objective should be the starting point for any lesson plan and should be referred back to through the planning process to ensure the lesson is "staying on track."
Most good lesson plans will have more than one objective, outlining a main communicative aim (what the students will be able to say/do after the lesson) and a sub-aim (what additional skills will be practiced throughout the lesson).
When we teach grammar, especially tricky and complex concepts, we typically incorporate another aim to "distract" the student from the grammar and prevent them from becoming overwhelmed or bored by it. For example, the past perfect progressive tense might be taught via a speaking lesson about the students' lives prior to starting the language course.
Here are some example objectives:
Main communicative aim: "The students will be able to discuss cooking and give some simple cooking instructions."
Sub-aim: "The students will improve their receptive listening skills."
Main communicative aim: "Students will be able to discuss artwork using positive, negative, and neutral adjectives."
Sub-aim: "Students will build on their vocabulary by learning new adjectives."
Main communicative aim: "The students will be able to discuss what they were doing in life before starting this class."
Sub-aim: "Students will practice using the past perfect progressive tense."
It's important to ensure that the lesson's objective is attainable and suitable for the level of your students. A lesson that is too easy will easily bore students, whereas a lesson that is too difficult can scare and demotivate students.
Building upon the last statement about the student's level, there are other critical details that need to be considered when planning a lesson. Some of these include:
Class size: This is an important consideration when it comes to classroom management and communication patterns, i.e., is the class big enough to break into groups and pairs?
Ages: The average age of the class will impact your planning dramatically. The way we teach adults and children can be very different, and not many adults enjoy learning through singing nursery rhymes!
Class level: You should be provided with an approximation of the students' level before planning begins — this level should be used as a guideline when looking for resources for the lesson. Typically, language learner levels are divided into beginner, pre-intermediate, intermediate, and advanced. It's likely there will be differing language levels within a class, so it's a good idea to have some additional activities planned for early finishers.
Lesson planning can help teachers decide what resources they might need before class begins.
Some possible considerations include:
Will students be using textbooks? What contingencies are in place if a student doesn't have their book?
Will students be using worksheets? Are there spare copies?
If using technology, are all the necessary cables, etc., in place? What contingencies are in place if the internet or power is down?
Is it possible to bring in realia to support students learning?
The term realia refers to real-life examples of language, such as newspapers, menus, magazines, flyers, etc. Using realia can be hugely beneficial for language learners as it provides an opportunity for them to see how native speakers of the language communicate.
It's a good idea to plan how long will be spent on each activity; this will ensure students have sufficient time to spend on each activity and can also keep a lesson on track. A good lesson plan will allow enough time at the end of the lesson to review what has been covered, correct mistakes, and congratulate good language use.
As you've been reading this explanation, you've hopefully noticed some problems that can arise during a lesson — the same should be done when lesson planning. Some potential problems we've already mentioned and some others include:
Mismatched language levels among students
Anticipated problems can also refer to potential learning blocks with the language itself; conducting a language analysis can help with this. Language analysis involves identifying difficult language that might arise in the lesson and learning all about it before class begins. The meaning, form (e.g., word class), and pronunciation of the target language should be learned when conducting a language analysis.
It's a good idea to leave a small space at the end of a lesson plan to leave notes and reflections on what went well and what could be improved and built upon for next time.
We now have a good idea of everything "extra" that's needed in a lesson plan, but what about the steps in the lesson itself?
The type of lesson plan to use depends on the type of lesson being taught (we'll cover different formats for teaching different skills next!); however, there is one lesson plan framework that every ESL teacher should know - the PPP format.
PPP stands for Presentation Practice Production
The PPP format is perfect for teaching new grammar concepts; however, it's also the basis for other types of lesson plans, so it is the perfect place to start.
The presentation stage is when the teacher introduces the students to the new concept/language construct they will learn in class. This stage typically happens after a warm-up activity.
As we mentioned earlier, it's best to "conceal" grammar concepts within something else, such as a written piece of text, a video, a song, etc. In summary, the language should be placed in context to make it more engaging for the students.
The presentation stage also involves drawing students' attention to the grammar concept being taught and asking them questions to elicit (get the students to provide) the purpose and meaning.
The practice stage is when students get an opportunity to practice what they've learned in a controlled way, meaning students are given preexisting language to work with, such as sentence frames, provided answers, and true or false questions. This stage often involves textbooks, worksheets, or provided questions on the board. Once the students have completed the activity, it's a good idea to go through the answers together — this way, students can help each other, and the teacher can correct any mistakes and provide more guidance where needed.
The final stage is the creative stage, where students can use the new language in real-life and meaningful scenarios. One of the most critical aspects of this stage is ensuring all students have an opportunity to talk. Suitable activities for this stage include:
While the students are talking to each other, the teacher should observe and take notes of any common mistakes - these mistakes can be corrected after the activity.
As we mentioned previously, the format of a lesson plan depends on the objective of the lesson. For example, the stages of a listening lesson will be slightly different from a writing lesson. We've already covered the format for a grammar lesson (PPP), so let's look at the other four skills now.
Here is a basic lesson plan format that can be followed for both listening and reading lessons:
|Lesson Stage||Stage Aims|
|Warm-up||To set the context.|
|Pre-reading/listening||To get students thinking about the topic and to activate preexisting knowledge.|
|Reading/listening for gist||To encourage students to skim and scan, looking for key details and the overall point of the text/audio.|
|Reading/listening for detail||To get students to look for specific details within the text/audio.|
|Post-reading/listening talk||To give the students an opportunity to discuss what they've learned, ask any questions, and practice any new language.|
|Feedback||An opportunity for the teacher to provide feedback on good work and correct any mistakes.|
Here is a basic speaking lesson plan format:
|Lesson Stage||Stage Aims|
|Warm-up||To set the context and engage the students.|
|Introduce the speaking activity||Model the activity for the students and give them an opportunity to practice and ask questions.|
|Speaking activity||Students conduct a speaking task in pairs or groups.|
|Feedback||The teacher gives feedback and corrects vital mistakes.|
|Speaking activity repeated||Students have the opportunity to practice the speaking task again, taking feedback onboard.|
|Feedback||The teacher provides more feedback.|
Here is a basic listening lesson plan format:
|Lesson Stage||Stage Aims|
|Warm-up||To set the context and engage the students.|
|Text analysis||To provide students with a model text and help them analyze the target language within.|
|Controlled practice||To give students a chance to practice writing the target language using sentence frameworks.|
|Writing preparation||To give the students a chance to create a draft or plan and to brainstorm ideas.|
|Writing||To give students time to write.|
|Feedback||To give students an opportunity to read each other's work and receive feedback.|
Lesson plans are important as they can help set and maintain the objective of a lesson, help with time management, help identify and mitigate potential problems, and provide an opportunity for reflection.
The steps of a lesson plan will depend on which skills are being taught in the lesson. A common format that can be followed is PPP - presentation, production, practice.
When creating a lesson plan, you should consider the following:
A lesson plan is a guide for a lesson. It should include the plan for the lesson as well as key details, such as the class size, the resources needed, and anticipated problems.
Each lesson plan will differ slightly depending on the lesson. However, four key stages include:
Name three class details that should be considered before you begin lesson planning.
What is realia?
Examples of real-life language use, e.g., magazines, flyers, posters, newspapers, etc.
What does PPP stand for?
Presentation, Practice, Production
List three potential anticipated problems for a lesson plan.
True or false, the format of a grammar lesson should be the same as a writing lesson?
In which stage should the context of the lesson be set?
In the warm-up
A good lesson plan has at least how many aims/objectives?
What is the main communicative aim?
What the students will be able to do/say at the end of the lesson.
A good lesson plan should leave space at the end for what?
Which activity could be used in the presentation stage of a PPP lesson?
A video that contains the target language
Which activity could be used in the practice stage of a PPP lesson?
A vocabulary matching worksheet
Which activity could be used in the production stage of a PPP lesson?
A fake interview
A good lesson will allow the teacher time to do what at the end of class?
Provide feedback on good language use and error correct common mistakes
Where is the best place to get lesson plan ideas?
In the assigned curriculum and/or textbook
What does reading for gist mean?
Skimming and scanning a text to understand its main points and what the text is all about.
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