As a TEFLOnline.com tutor, I have observed that lesson planning is the one part of the ESL teacher’s toolbox that many trainees struggle to master. This is likely because they misunderstand its purpose and see it as an administrative chore rather than what it is — their best friend in the classroom. A carefully written TEFL lesson plan actually frees teachers to do what they do best: to give attention to their students in the classroom without worrying about what comes next.
One type of lesson plan model that we use for TEFLOnline.com has the acronym PPP, which stands for the three stages included in the plan: Presentation, Practice, and Production.
Presenting concepts with your lesson plan
The first stage of the lesson plan ensures that the teacher prepares his or her students by presenting the day’s lesson in a meaningful context within their language course.
Giving opportunities for practice in your lesson plan
Next, the teacher’s lesson plan should ensure that students get to practice new skills in a way that doesn’t overwhelm them, and that encourages them to achieve a successful, managed progression through the learning curve.
Encouraging students to produce language with your lesson plan
The effective plan also ensures that students produce something in every lesson that allows them to see for themselves just how well they are doing. The goal of every lesson, after all, is to enable each student do something that they could not do before the lesson started. This feedback encourages motivation, which leads to a willing and attentive class when they arrive for their next lesson.
Before all of these steps, though, comes the objective.
You may see also see them called aims, learner goals or teacher goals, but regardless of what you call them, it’s important to include learner-centered, measurable objectives for each TEFL lesson. Objective writing shouldn’t be thought of as a bureaucratic exercise, because it is extremely helpful to teachers, themselves; a well-written objective will guide the teacher to create the PPP stages of the lesson plan.
A good way to start any objective is with the phrase, “By the end of the lesson, students will…” If you examine each of your teaching ideas and strategies in the light of your objective, you will quickly see if the strategy is the right one by asking yourself the following questions:
- Does this exercise move me closer to my objective?
- Is there a clear line from the presentation stage to the production stage with all the activities of the practice stages falling neatly along that line?
A positive answer to both these questions is necessary to include an activity in the plan. It can be very tempting to put lots of fun activities and games into a plan without thinking about whether or not they bring us closer to our goals. It is easy to get lost in the texture of the plan, in wanting it to be so stimulating (and wanting our students to enjoy our performance skills) that we lose sight of the overall objective.
- Objectives must describe actions (behaviors), not feelings or high-level cognitive processes because an objective can only be measured if it is clear, unambiguous and describes observable events.
- Objectives will describe intended outcomes unambiguously and be written in such a way that that several observers, watching independently, could all agree as to whether the objectives had been attained.
- This means avoiding comparative terms in your objective statements like the students are “better able to”, “improved their listening (or other) skills” or “feel more confident doing (a certain task).”
Is the objective measurable?
To be measurable, the outcomes must be described in terms of behavior: speaking, writing, listening, reporting, hesitating, pausing, declining, identifying, stating, and so on. Unmeasurable outcomes include understanding, feeling, thinking, enjoying, knowing, learning, and so on. These words describe processes occurring in the minds of the students, privately. Thus, they cannot be seen and cannot be measured.
By writing objectives that can be measured, both you and your students can see the successful (or unsuccessful) outcomes of each lesson. Lessons that haven’t been as effective as you hoped, therefore, can be rewritten. It must follow then, over a given period of time your plans will get better and your confidence as a teacher will grow.
Objective setting and lesson planning, then, are creative tools that will take your teaching to a higher level and your students to their optimum performance.