I must tell you it’s great to be back in Madrid. The weather’s changed and it seems like autumn’s reached even this southern spot of Europe.
As I promised you in my last blog, this time my topic would be lesson aims or in other words why we do that and not the other thing in our lessons. Well, every time you ask your students do an ESL activity, complete the exercise or just form little groups you need to have a clear picture of WHY you do that. Knowing the reason as I stated in my previous blog will definitely make your actions in front of the class and therefore the whole lesson more meaningful.
I would like to share four general questions that you have to ask yourself on those confusing lesson planning days.
1. what is the practical value of this?
It’s crucial to have a practically useful lesson. You need to ask yourself if the particular activity that you chose to do either from your own materials or from the given coursebook brings some practical good for your students. For example, if you would expect them to know how to use present perfect in their own contexts after this activity. You need to remember that all the exercises or activities in the course book don’t have to be done unless you see a practical value of it for your students. Course books are designed for thousands and thousands of students therefore you can’t believe that everything that’s included there will be useful for your group of students. Be ready to substitute, redesign, skip etc. at the same time keeping in my the practical value of the things you choose to modify.
2. does it involve the development of some intellectual skills?
Apart from the practical value of the activities we choose to do we must realize that even the learning of a foreign language is an intellectual activity that requires skills of analyzing, applying, understanding and creating. We have to make sure that students have the chance of developing the intellectual skills they have. For instance, ask yourself if the particular activity allows your students apply the existing and new knowledge of a grammatical point in order to solve the linguistic problem that is given. This means that you as a teacher need to avoid mechanical give- and- take knowledge exchange with your students. Let them think for solutions and let them experiment by giving directions and tools for the that.
3. can they get to know themselves better?
Learning a foreign language can always be turned into an exciting social activity. The students will definitely benefit more from interacting with each other, therefore another thing you need to keep in mind when designing your lesson is that your students need to have opportunities to find themselves in different social situations, even if they’re simulations within a lesson. In other words try to experiment with different organizational forms, e.g. pair work, group work, mingling activities or even involve some other learners who are not usually there in order to let your students develop their personality skills within a social context. For example, make sure that the discussion that you decided to do in separate groups of students allowed them practice active listening skills (by encouraging them to ask questions to their group mates in order to clarify the matters). Sometimes even the most introvert students turn out to be the soul of the group for their own surprise.
4. can they learn something new besides the target language?
Teachers often tend to focus too much on the subject they teach. This may lead to some kind of isolation and inability to connect the new knowledge with the world. Therefore I always make sure my students are able to comment on some topical issues that are going on in the world, for example, by reading authentic texts taken from the newspapers or magazines that are dealing with issues that are important today. In other words I make sure my students can learn something new besides English in my lessons. It could be some cooking techniques or useful fitness exercises. Just let the target language show its importance to your students in different contexts that could be completely new to them and that could contribute to the general knowledge about the world.
All in all remember not to stick to these questions very strictly, the lesson has to be natural, meaningful and as I’d already mentioned in my previous blogs, in absolute harmony. Keep these questions in mind as well as the peculiarities of your students in order to create a priceless flow and exchange of knowledge and experiences.