Lesson planning can sometimes be a source of stress and insecurity among teachers of all stages, but it doesn't have to be a struggle.
The following tips will give you an opportunity to look at planning in a new light. Organize yourself and mobilize your students by trying out the following 3 ways to create productive lessons.
How to Plan Productive Lessons
Organize Lessons by Themes or Grammar Points
Timing, repetition and practice all play fundamental roles in structuring interesting, well-timed lessons, as does zeroing in on themes or specific grammar points. One way to combine all of these elements while also doubling productivity is to organize lessons with a theme or grammar point. The point or theme should be a timely one that is central to what students really need to work on.
There are two roads you could go down here. One option is to inform students and engage them by getting them excited about a particular theme or grammar point. It could be fueled by an event or holiday that is coming up like the Presidential Inauguration or the Fourth of July. If this is the case, you should include the history of the event or holiday, and arrange a celebration or other memorable way to commemorate the event. In addition, lessons focusing on a particular grammar point can take center stage to prepare students for a project or assignment. It is a great way to involve students in choosing the point to focus on for a day, and have it culminate in one bigger activity later, like a debate or preparation for a significant outcome.
The second way that you could plan a lesson by theme or grammar point, is to do so without the students knowledge. For example, you may notice that students are struggling with pronouns in general. To approach the problem, you decide that every section of your lesson is going to somehow practice pronouns. This is a very productive way to incorporate grammar practice on one over-arching topic while working on other topics or themes at the same time. An example of doing this might be possessive pronouns. In each section of your lesson, you would include different types of practice for possessive pronouns. You could start out with classroom language and possessives, then move into adjectives practice with possessives, and lastly introduce your new point and somehow practice it, also using possessives.
Whichever way you choose, formulating lesson plans with one theme or grammar point can be incredibly stimulating for students and a nice change of pace for everyone. There are innumerable ways that you could adapt lessons in this way.
Take Notes and Invent New Ways to Practice Grammar
Often after months or years of lesson planning, the spark can go out of the process. Planning can become mundane and can often lead teachers to recycling plans over and over again adding little new content. To prevent this stagnation, try incorporating one new activity per week and carrying that into multiple classes, if appropriate. When you try out a new activity, game, or practice it can be useful to try it out in different groups and ranging levels, and note the results.
In order to develop new ideas, it is important to be present in your current lessons. Making it a habit to take notes during class is a wonderful way to document how your new and old ideas are taking shape. You can note how particular activities are going, what difficulties students are facing, and anything else that might be useful for future lessons. While facilitating activities ideas may strike you on how to tweak it to make it better or a new idea might materialize. Be sure to jot down ideas during lessons, and incorporate changes and new ideas to your lesson plans!
Include the Four Skills
While teaching ESL, it is essential to focus upon the four skills of language acquisition. The four skills are speaking, listening, reading and writing. It may become easy to put speaking and listening ahead of reading and writing, but it is crucial for the ESL learner to receive practice in each of the four areas each and every class. When sitting down to create lessons or review lessons you have already prepared, make sure that lessons include reading, writing, speaking and listening practice. This doesn't mean that every lesson must contain long, drawn-out activities in each area, but yet in practicing language, the four skills should be mixed together to create a natural cohesion. An example of this is taking one point, for example, family and designing activities that practice the four skills around that topic. You might start off with a verbal definition of family participants, followed by pronunciation and spelling practice of each of the roles. Then you could perform a board activity where students have to read and recognize each of the roles (brother, sister, aunt, etc) maybe by introducing a family tree. Then to wrap up the lesson, students create and write out their own family trees. In this lesson, there is one theme which incorporates practice of all four language skills.
In thinking about the four skills that create language, some lessons can be created that focus on two intertwining skills. The usual combinations are reading and writing or speaking and listening. Think about shifting those combinations for endless possibilities. You could combine listening and writing, speaking and reading, or speaking and writing. Challenge yourself to come up with interesting and unusual combinations!
Lesson planning can become a source of inspiration and a way to produce fresh ideas.
It is important to always pay attention to what students need and desire out of your class and tailor lessons to those individual needs. Planning can incorporate your personality combined with ingenious ideas to reach students and keep them advancing their language skills.
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