Writing a Typical EFL Lesson Plan
Dr. Abdulmahmoud Idrees Ibrahim
Lesson planning or preparation is not as simple as the trainees think. It is a real dilemma for the teachers especially those who are at the beginning of their career. As far as I believe, lesson planning in the pedagogical process, is the basis of successful teaching. Hill and Dobbyn (1976) argue that planning a lesson is a matter of knowing:
a. What you want to do?
b. How to do it?
c. How to find out if you have succeeded?
It is generally assumed that lesson planning is a rather neglected area for most teachers. Calderhead (1984: 82) argues that although much of the thinking that guides classroom activities occurs during lesson planning, teachers receive little official time or assistance for this. This is because planning is, generally, an individual pursuit that involves minimal consultation with others. However, if teachers could have the opportunity to discuss the lesson planning collaboratively, they might have valuable knowledge and in sights to exchange. Richards, et al (1985: 163) define a lesson plan as a description or outline of:
o the objectives a teacher has set for a lesson.
o the activities and procedures the teacher will use to achieve and the order to be followed, and.
o the material and resources which will be used.
However, lesson planning is a complex procedure of selection which the teacher goes through, drawing on his experience and knowledge. According to Dangerfield in Matthews, et al (1985), a lesson plan should provide at least the following:
a. A clear explicit presentation of aims and of procedure, through, which they are achieved (within the course of the lesson).
o aims should be valid in terms of the students needs.
o aims could be measureable and practically achieved.
o activities should match and achieve the stated aims.
b. A reminder of the order of events, aids to be arranged and collected, page numbers and cassette counter numbers, details of vocabulary to pre-teach, etc.
c. An at-a glance check of the projected rough timing of each stage; the balance of practice of the four language skills, variation in activities, and interaction patterns.
d. A record for future reference and re-use (post - lesson comments added and perhaps suggested alternative strategies).
e. Anticipated problems (with suggested means of handling them).
Calderhead (1984: 69) claims that in planning teachers translate the syllabus guidelines, institutional expectations and their own beliefs about education into guides for action in the classroom. He argues that it is that aspect of teaching, which provides the structure and purpose for what teachers and students do in the classroom.
Although, a successful lesson planning is crucial in the very process, Kailani and Muqattash (1995) suggest that the teacher should:
o familiarize himself with the instructional materials he is required to utilize in his teaching.
o decide in advance which aspects of the unit are to be given more stress.
o find out the degree of proficiency the students must develop with respect to these aspects.
As a matter of fact, an effective lesson planning contains a good record of the teacher's own ideas and comments. Although the teacher's notes accompanying the textbook generally give the most basic information about teaching methodology, the teacher should add several ideas of his own to improve the lesson and to gear it towards effective teaching.
Statement of the Problem
Preparation is defined in terms of the preparations that teachers make for teaching. It generally follows a certain procedure or formula and covers a wide range of activities.
The lesson planning should create the following situations:
1. insures the minimum requirement for the success of a lesson and the effectiveness of teaching. Besides,
2. helps teachers to assess their students' progress and to anticipate problems that may occur in the lesson,
3. helps to adjust and prepare a teacher for various eventualities that could arise during the course of a lesson, and
4. makes important contributions to classroom management.
Teachers’ preparation includes more than simply lesson preparation. It also involves making long-term decisions about the syllabus but this topic is restricted to lesson preparation and arrangement.
Lesson Planning Formula
There is no one single rigid formula for a well planned lesson to be followed strictly. Marland (1975: 84) argues that a lesson has to be organized as a sequence arranged in time and the pattern of the learning activities must fit both the educational aims and of fixed time. Time structuring is very important because the student in a school is in a time – structured environment; since it is the pacing of the lesson that creates the feeling of satisfaction.
Types of Lesson Planning
Calderhead (1984) mentions three types of lesson planning. They are:
1. Incremental planning:
Some thinking this type involves little thought in advance about the lesson and its curricula context. A high value is put on spontaneity, of staying in close contact with the students; interests and on day – to – day development and of their knowledge and skills.
2. Comprehensive planning
This type involves more thought both about individual lessons and about their place within the whole course. A clearer idea of the knowledge and skills to be achieved is directly stated.
3. Survival planning
Some teachers do a lot of systematic lesson planning. However, others seem to rely on the classroom routine. The planning which is done by the latter is mostly done during teaching when they snatch time to think about what comes next. Of course this type of planning is not recommended as it inevitably adds to the burden that teachers have to think about during lessons. This situation possibly increases the tension that some teachers experience.
The Lesson Plan Procedure
Before writing the lesson plan, the teacher has to spend a few minutes thinking about what to be taught and how to be taught. The teacher will need to consider many aspects that precede the lesson plan as Harmer (1983) calls it the pre-plan. These aspects are not a matter of luxury but, they are very essential for building an accurate lesson plan. These aspects as follow:
A. Aims: The role of the aims helps in limiting the scope of the lesson. The numbers of aims vary depending on the nature of the lesson and its topic, but will probably range between two and five aims. The aims also depend on whether the lesson involves presenting a new structure or function. The teacher must ask if the aims of the lesson are designed for developing items previously introduced or to develop specific skills. the aim/s must be measureable and precise. Teachers should avoid writing such as “to teach reading comprehension”. (Which aspect of this skill should be specified?) On the other hand, writing “to teach the past tense” (are you going to teach all of it in one lesson). Instead it should be written “to give Ss a means of talking about habits in the past using ( used to)” or '' by the end of the lesson the Ss will be able to talk about intention in the future using '' going to''. Teachers should bear in mind that there are many guidelines for stating a lesson aims
o Lesson plan aims should all relate to the main topic of the lesson.
o Each of the aims should be measurable.
o Each aim should be student-centered.
For example if the teacher wants to state aims for the topic of the Past Perfect verb tense the following will be a good suggestion. Every one of them is related to the topic and they are all can be measured.
ü By the end of the lesson, students will be able to distinguish Past Perfect sentences from Simple Past sentences.
ü By the end of the lesson, students will be able to demonstrate knowledge of the proper form of the Past Perfect by writing five sentences in the Past Perfect.
ü By the end of the lesson, student will be able to demonstrate correct usage of the Past Perfect by speaking (or writing) three sentences correctly using this tense.
All the aims are student-centered; therefore an aim that states, "By the end of the lesson, students will understand the Past Perfect," cannot be measured. (How do I know if the students understand it or not if they don't somehow demonstrate what they have learned?)
B. Analysis: The teacher must analyze the new language to be taught and areas of learning difficulties must be predicted. The analysis of the language usually leads to consulting a dictionary and grammar since good teaching depends on accuracy of pronunciation concept, meaning, and usage.
C. Activities: the teacher needs to think about the type number of activities that are suitable for his/her lesson bearing in mind the factors of age and learning styles. He should involve all the students? (pair-work; group work; choral drilling, writing exercises etc.)
D. Audiovisual: the teacher should think about what kind of teaching aids, resources and realia (real objects for use in class) are proper for his/her lesson. (using pictures; flashcards using tape; reading a passage; pair-work; pin-men on the BB, a bagful of shopping, flashcards; group-work; Ss correction and the like) absolutely these aids reduce the TTT (Teacher Talking Time). Finally, the teacher must bear in mind that his/her lesson is well balanced and has a fair timing format.
Writing an Organized Lesson Plan
The lesson should be designed and executed according to a certain procedure or structure to fulfill the lesson aims efficiently. Besides that, the steps of an English language lesson have become standardized and the timings of the following steps should act as a guide:
This part of the lesson is relatively short. It takes approximately about five minutes. It is sometimes called ‘revision’ or ‘pre- presentation’. The purpose of the stage is to activate, refresh, sensitize, revise and check the Ss knowledge, skills, and experience for warming up or the teacher may take a quick oral check on homework exercise. The role of the teacher at this step is prompter, assessor and helper. It is an aid if this leads into the new lesson, but it is not necessarily always something taken from the previous lesson. When the teacher writes his/her lesson plan, should think carefully about what he/she wants to revise. At this part of the lesson neither the student nor the teacher should be writing, moreover we should encourage the students to interact with each other, not only with you the teacher. So, what are the types of interaction? The types of interaction applied are (T-S), (T-S), (T-S), (S-T), (S-S), (S-G). Therefore, wherever possible, the students should be a asking as well as answering questions. Always the good lesson begins with the student and ends with him.
This is the second step and it takes form ten to fifteen munities approximately for 40-minute-lesson. The teacher presents the new material paying attention to teaching new vocabulary or structures concepts, and concepts. As well as, introducing new content, which include new themes or topics with accurate language, pronunciation or spelling. On the other hand, the students must:
- be ready for the new language.
- understand the new language.
- know which aspects of the new language are important.
- remember the new language long enough to start practicing it.
Teacher Time Talking (TTT) is necessarily more than the Students Time Talking (STT) as the students do little talking, however they are not at all passive. This is because the beginning of presentation is completely teacher-centered. Emphasis here is on accuracy. The teacher must be very keen to accurate language, pronunciation, meaning and written form. Students may copy the new language with model examples to their copybooks whenever it is needed.
Presenting New Language
The teacher must make sure that the students already know the vocabulary of the new structure that will be presented. Each new item must be presented in sufficient and clear enough contexts to make the meaning utterly clear. Two of the most useful ways of presenting structures are the dialogue and contrasting pairs of sentences, “the main concern at this step should be the teaching of the spoken language specially for the early levels, and for many of rationales dialogues seem to be best suited for this purpose because they :
- present the spoken language directly in situations in which it is most commonly used ;
- permit and encourage the learners to practice the language in the same way;
- encourage active participation in the lesson (Byrne 1986: 23)
Presenting New Words
Presenting new vocabulary needs a certain technique to be stuck in the students’ memory. Students should grasp the meaning of the new word at the same time as they learn the pronunciation. Sound and meaning should go together in the students’ minds, as closely as possible, from the first moment that they meet a new word to help immediate understanding. New words must be presented in the context of structures or sentence patterns that the students already know well.
Almost the new words must be presented in more than one context to make the meaning clear. This is called multiple contextualization which is an vital technique in presenting new vocabulary. Moreover, presentation is always memorable if it uses several senses (e.g. hearing, seeing, touching, even smelling and tasting). Try to give a number of different kinds of presentation, do not always use explanation. Try to use more than one of the students’ senses in most presentations. The following is a list of different techniques of presenting new words. It is advisable for the teacher to use two or more in the same presentation:
1. Visual aids (including simple blackboard drawings)
2. Gestures, mime and acting,
3. Real objects (Realia)
4. Multiple Contextualization,
5. Explanation in English,
6. Contrast with words the students know (opposites, synonyms… etc.)
7. Prefixes and suffixes on known words (happy, unhappy, happiness)
8. Demonstration (e.g. in – on- under – above),
9. Translation (rarely used and only when an exact equivalent exists. it is probably better to use this to confirm that the students have understood correctly – but do not even do this very often.
10. Sound Effects (is not common, but sometimes very helpful)
This step comparatively is the longest one and it may take up to fifteen minutes, ever since the students need a lot of practice with the newly presented language. The practice stage will usually begin with mechanical choral drills and will progress through substitution drills to controlled pair work.
The role of the teacher at this stage serves as monitor and facilitator. The teacher provides the students with the maximum amount of practice and does a minimum amount of talking. He/she starts with highly controlled drills and gradually moves to less controlled and semi-free practice. In other words, s/he progressively reduces her/his control over what the students practice. On the other hand the students’ role is to do most of the talking - practicing for themselves the already presented material. Thus, (TTT) is evidently less than (STT).
o When the students work in groups and pairs, the teacher takes the role of a monitor while visiting the various groups.
o In the practice stage, repetition and application are important.
o They should also make use of their new knowledge authentically. Emphasis here is on the balance between accuracy and fluency. The teacher would correct only major errors and mistakes committed by some students using various correction techniques.
This stage may take up to ten minutes. The teacher’s role at this stage is to act as a guide, adviser or authority, providing the student with well prepared activities for free expression. He should concentrate on free and communicative practice; if the students cannot use the new language in an accepted way for themselves then they have not learnt the new language. He should not interrupt to correct the errors, but to jot them down to be corrected in a remedial session. .
On the other hand students’ role is to exchange ideas, talk to each other directly and not via the medium of the teacher. They are almost independent and and the process should be exclusively student-centered. Emphasis is on fluency and free expressions. Higgens & Bates, (1984: 15) explain that “…in doing this, (the students) draw on their own knowledge and experience and so make the language more personal to themselves. The importance of the activity is that students are using the language to make personal contributions to their peer, group or class”.
This step can come either before or after the production stage and may last ten minutes more. It does not matter, but the important thing is that - at some steps of the lesson - the students will have to write something, in order to consolidate what they have learnt. This may involve exercise from the workbook or copying model text from the board or any teaching aids.
This step is the final one and it should not exceed five minutes. The teacher is highly responsible to check that the students have understood what he/r has just taught them and met the lesson plan aims. The evaluation may be concept questions; written homework; or a quiz. The teacher must explain the homework which is relevant to what has been learnt. Every lesson should be ended with this kind of activity to get the students involved in the language most of the time since the language is foreign and need more practice or exposure so as to be learnt better. All exercises should be written and answers should be in complete accurate sentences.
These steps can be used to write all of the best EFL lesson plans; including lesson plans for reading, writing, speaking, listening and grammar even if the teacher uses the modern technology.
Conclusion and Pedagogical Implication
If we ask ourselves what is ‘a good lesson plan’, the answer will be what has been generally agreed among educationalist that a ‘good’ lesson plan usually should cover at least the following features:
o Experienced attention to routine affairs such as taking attendance, checking seating, lighting, ventilation, picking up waste papers, clothing …etc.
o Revision of work done during the previous lesson.
o New material, introduced in a variety of ways and linked with what has done earlier as well as a variety of presenting techniques and a selection of tasks.
o Cycling and testing of the new material.
o Time for students, questions and inquiries.
o Homework and extra activities for more exposure.
o The presentation is not a monologue by the teacher
o During the presentation and practice stages, Ss’ books should be closed.
However, a lesson plan should always be flexible. In the classroom things hardly ever go according to prescribed plan. Consequently, the teacher should not be adamant to do what is only in his preparation, but he should be witty to deal with unexpected conditions.
Not less than seventy percent of the lessons taught should have the above format of planning, but not all; the teacher may want to spend a lesson developing skill- using a cassette/video tape or a film for the whole lesson or text. Furthermore, the lesson may consist of a number of mini-presentations or the whole lesson may be revision.
The following table below is an attempt to summarize the main points which have been declared in our lesson planning. The above format is for a ‘typical’ lesson – recommended not obligatory
Tabulating the Steps of a Typical Lesson
Talking to teacher
Talking to each other
Explain new language
Writing up model examples
Responding to teacher
Copying model examples
Make Ss use the language
Talking to teach other
Monitoring each other
Ss use the new language communicatively
Correcting each other
Reading a text / dialogue
Reinforce Ss understanding through writing
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