Have fun with a lesson plan :)

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Yup, that’s my actual notebook 🙂

 

When I was a student, my professors emphasised the importance of making lesson plans, but then they referred to people who were about to start teaching. Well, I have been teaching for more than a decade (oh, gosh!) and I still write a short lesson plan for every lesson I have. I’ll try to share my ideas here, but be careful before you follow me and turn into a creepily well-organised pedantic nightmare.

The main thing about the lesson plan is that I feel better knowing beforehand what the future holds – usually when my students write tests I browse through the SB and plan my lessons up to the next test (usually 2-3 units ahead). Then I estimate how much time I’ll need to cover the book material, which exercises are useful and which I’ll skip – and how much time off I’ll have. That’s really important because I can prepare a game or more grammar exercises, depending on what the students may need.

Having a lesson plan like the one I took a photo of, allows me to make little notes: student A has to do additional homework, remember to check it/ student B needs more passive voice exercises and so on. It’s really useful, especially when you keep forgetting stuff like this (I do :)) Also, I keep my old notebooks because I keep reusing and modifying activities and exercises. Learning from my own mistakes, the proper way of a teacher.

Apart from being a great help for me, I find my lesson plans surprisingly beneficial for my students. First of all, I can give them a date of our next test 2-3 weeks beforehand – they really appreciate it. Secondly, I have no problem with “What are we going to do next week because I’ll be absent” stuff – I can tell them exactly which part of the book we’re going to cover. We all know our course is well planned and managed according to the plan. Plus, when we know we’re going to finish the whole book (it’s quite important in the private language schools, plus it does give a sense of accomplishment, when you can close the book realising you’ve covered the whole material – properly), we still can plan a lesson (or three) off the book – play board games, go to the café, have a nice discussion etc.

You might argue that having lesson plans for each and every lesson kills intuition and ability to improvise, but I disagree. The lesson plans I make are concise enough to put a lot of additional activities made up on the spot, and they give me valuable info – if I spend 30 minutes on speaking (instead of planned 20), I’ll have to cut reading (planned for 20 minutes) down to 10-15 minutes.

It takes me up to half an hour a week, to plan my classes, but it helps me immensely in class management.

 

 

“First writing” tips

Writing can be one of the most tiresome endeavours of a student – can you recall your own papers, compositions, etc? Surely, not the funniest part of learning 🙂 My language teachers assumed I was able to write a nice story, so they never bothered to teach me how to write. Only at university did I learn what a topic sentence is 🙂

I see no reason not to pass the knowledge further on and teach some writing techniques to my own students. I’ve realised that the sooner they get the basics, the better their writing compositions are.

I think you can start even with elementary students, doing some exercises. Here, I wrote a simple sentence and asked my students to expand it by adding words and phrases. That’s what we got:

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On my last lesson, with my pre-intermediate group of teenagers, I explained what a topic sentence is and we decided to make a short outline of a story using only simple topic sentences. That’s what we got:

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Next, we thought about what exactly we are going to include in the paragraphs. We could do it together, deciding to write one story with the same plot and details, but at that moment my students started to grow their own ideas, so we just made a general outline:

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And then, I asked them to write down some keywords and phrases. It’s a pre-intermediate level, so it’s not too crazy 🙂 but on the more advanced levels I ask my students to add 2-3 items of sophisticated vocabulary, some phrasal verbs, an idiom or two, maybe a proverb. We tend to forget all those nice words while writing (especially on a test), but planning – and writing down – ideas, before we start writing, is a really good idea.

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That’s the final outline.

Next, I asked my students to elaborate the topic sentences the way we did during these simple exercises (like the one in the first photo). That’s how I’m able to monitor their work 🙂

Writing a full story (based on the outline, naturally) is their homework.

Since I include a short essay/composition on every test, I give my students more time to deal with this part, but I ask them to write not only the complete task, but also the process – topic sentences, ideas, keywords. It helps me to observe their progress and help them in those aspects they struggle with.

I hope you’ll find the idea worth giving it a try 🙂

(Thank you, group Washington, a.k.a. LeniweBuły, for your cooperation 😉 )

Tenses review – a quickie

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Having started teaching adults again, I faced a serious problem – forgetfulness 🙂 Especially, on the more advanced levels I meet people who used to learn English, and they can speak fluently, but when confronted with ‘let’s review perfect aspects today, eh?’ they go suspiciously silent. Well, it doesn’t really surprise me, as it’s really simple – if you don’t use more complex grammar every day, you’re bound to forget the rules and no wonder you’re not in the mood to deal with Future Perfect Continuous 🙂

So, just to make my – and my students’ – life easier, I’ve decided to make a cheat sheet for all the tenses & aspects, their uses and syntax. I’m happy to share it, but I’d also appreciate your insight – is there anything I have missed? Maybe I should add some details (was thinking about typical time expressions but decided against it, after all).

Anyway – you can find the cheat sheet here: Tenses review and I hope you’ll find it as useful as I do 🙂