Preparing a lesson (classroom materials)

curiosity

What I try to keep in mind when preparing any classroom material (or lesson generally) for my students –
my top 10!

The needs of my students as well as expectations / relevance
Clear purpose of the material / aim
Appropriate level and style
Design – Use colours or at least encourage your students (even adults) to use colours or highlighters when learning or working with your handouts. Use images, pictures that are eye-catching and can possible lead to discussion. Try to keep your materials in “shape”- easy to follow and understand. Avoid complicated and long instructions if possible.
Authenticity – working with real life topics, materials, videos or stories – bring the world to the classroom
Length – not too long and complicated or sophisticated, rather sort of catching and inspiring
Curiosity – everyone is curious and we learn better when we are really interested in something

curiosty_dictionary_effect
Playfulness – laugh and fun are magic ingredients. I know people who claim that when students want to learn something properly, the lesson has to be serious, it has to have an order and it doesn’t work with being playful in the classroom. Well, I think we can achieve as much using games and fun. Game and fun can be as meaningful as any drilling exercise. There are at least three positive factors of being playful in the classroom: 1. It creates a relaxed atmosphere (less anxiety →less stress →more talking/asking →more confidence →better results) , 2. It helps students remember the language in context and 3. It makes the learning less painful experience (after all, we all know that learning doesn’t end in with a certificate) and one of our main aims should be waking up the curiosity and willingness to learn and see learning as something natural and as pleasant as possible.
Multilayeredness– well, let me explain what I mean. I am not sure if I have just invented this but I guess, you may be familiar with what’s hiding behind the term. My latest handouts tend to be more or less just a frame for the lesson. I am becoming a fan of using technology not only in the classroom but also for kind of pre-lesson activities or follow-ups (you may call it homework). And sometimes there is no handout needed at all. Moreover, you don’t have to be always explicit in terms of stating what activity/task is for and strictly dividing it to parts such as listening, reading, grammar. I think, students like sort of structure (I keep stating some of the parts) but it’s not a coursebook and you can show them that grammar is everywhere, listening goes hand in hand with speaking and writing can be such a fun when you are not asked to write 10 sentences using the given words for instance. You can repeat/recycle a lot when your students are not focusing only on one grammar/language aspect.
Adaptability – if that’s possible prepare handouts or activities that you can easily adapt and use again (if not content then the structure – frame)

When preparing a lesson (with or without additional material –actually I can’t remember a lesson when I used ONLY course book), these are the adjectives that are on my mind “ natural – inspiring – coherent”. What about you?

Few of my lesson plans (handouts – these were created without further teachers’ notes so feel free to ask me if you need to explain anything there):

Keep fit

Computer language – lesson plan

In newspaper

pizza

volcano

curiosity2

#ELTchat – TEACHER TALKING TIME vs STUDENT TALKING TIME

dont-talk-to-me

2/2/2011 – #ELTchat – Effective ways to minimize TTT (Teacher Talking Time) and maximize STT (Student Talking Time)

“It is a common delusion that you make things better by talking about them.”
Dame Rose Macaulay
“The opposite of talking isn’t listening. The opposite of talking is waiting.”
Fran Lebowitz
“There is nothing so annoying as to have two people talking when you’re busy interrupting.”
Mark Twain

Last week we talked about the ways to promote learners’ autonomy and this week it was about TTT/STT in classroom. In many ways these two topics are related. What is the role of the teacher in the classroom? Who is/should be the centre of attention during the lesson?
One of the ELT methods, which restricted the amount of TTT in teaching/learning process, was Silent Way. The teacher should be silent as often as possible and students should be able to use the language for self-expression and become independent by relying on themselves (not teachers).
Later on, it was discussed that the optimal TTT/STT ratio is 30%/70%.
But, is TTT really that bad in the classroom?
Isn’t the overall classroom dynamics, sharing information and experience more important?

Why are some teachers talking too much?
• Fear of silence (music could help in that case) 🙁
• Some teachers are “talking at the students” not communicating with them
• Sometimes we forget to give the thinking time to our students
• Too long or complicated instructions/explanations…
• Not enough experience with teaching or lack of confidence

When is TTT good/effective?
• Language model (in case your students don’t have access to English except you)
• Listening activity (authentic), story telling
• In project/task-based classes – teacher as a model
• TTT used with a purpose (meaningful talking)
• Let your talk be genuine – you are a person not only teacher
• Keep it relevant and to the point
• Be spontaneous/flexible

How can we improve the quality of STT?
• Provide safe speaking situations (and relaxed atmosphere)
• Pair/group speaking tasks (group of three is great solution for shier students who can listen to the others in group and participate when they feel they want)
• Pyramid discussion
• Body language of a teacher (move in the classroom, your position in the class, help and encourage students, lower yourself when listening to students speaking, smile 🙂 )
• Encourage shy students – a lot of scaffolding, small steps
• Encourage your students to speak also outside the classroom – use voice recording for example
• Get your students move in the classroom from time to time (more natural for speaking than sitting and talking to a person on the left/right)
• Make sure the students understand the language they are supposed to use and know what to do
• Try to avoid boredom and confusion over task
• Show interest in what your students say
• Let them speak from a personal point of view rather than course book
• Pretend you have lost your voice, write a topic on board, let them talk about it, write a vocabulary and self-correct themselves
• Authentic small talk
• Give yourself and your students 5 minutes of repeating what they learned
• Ask few students to monitor the speaking activity of others and then give feedback
• Have your students make quick personal posters (A4) and then present them in pairs/groups/circles
• Use role plays, improvisations
• “find someone who” kind of activities
• Keep in mind that activities need to be set up so all the students (strong as well as weak) are encouraged to speak
• Arrange class party
• Students pecha kucha in pairs
• Be the same person in/out of the classroom
• Information gap activities
• Board games
• Use provoking news, headlines, quotes to get them express their opinion (sth they want to speak about)
• “each student has 6 beans, they give back a bean once they contribute to conversation”
• Password game: write vocabulary vertically down index card. 2nd card covers all but 1st word. Teacher shows a student word, student gives clues so other students can guess

AND A GREAT SUM BY CHUCK SANDY: “In sum: Be balanced. Use TTT judiciously. Make it effective. Be real. Engage SS w/meaningful work.Step back.Let learning happen.”

Further reading

– My favourite “go-to” lesson application by Jason Renshaw
– some great gesture training in Teach Like a Champion
– Silent Way video with Donald Cherry

ACTION AND LOCATION

phone

I would like to share my experience with one of the activities from Ken Wilson’s book Drama and Improvisation.
Just recently we have talked about the importance of humour in the classroom (#ELTChat). Well, it seems you simply can’t plan the funniest moments in your classroom.
I hope you will find it at least a bit funny (it was so funny in the classroom).

It was a group of lower pre-intermediate business students and we played the game before writing the test to make the atmosphere a bit more relaxed.

Here is their conversation:
A: Hello!
B: Hello! Martinka speaking! How are you?
A: I am fine, thanks but I am busy now.
B: Really? Where are you?
A: (draws L card) In the jungle!
B: (laughs) What are you doing there?
A: (draws A card) I am flying!
B: (still laughing)
A: My plane crashed and I am in 2000 metres. Can you help me?
B: (Martinka obviously shocked, processing the information) Do you have a parachute?
A:Yes, I do. One yellow and one red.
B: pull the string!
(TIME LIMIT – they have to finish the conversation somehow!)
B: OK, have a nice day!
A: I have a nice view. (bum bum crash crash – he REALLY made the sounds!!!)

Well, I am definitely going to try this activity again! Have fun (and nice view!) 🙂

drama and improvisation