Lesson planning sucks.
- First, it takes a lot of time;
- Next, that’s time you could be doing something else;
- Finally, a lot of the times the lessons you plan don’t work!
Boy, all three of those things are frustrating, and that’s why I want to talk about lesson planning as an ESL teacher.
When you first start out you’re going to plan a lot, I mean like two hours for a one hour lesson. You’ll sit in that teacher’s office staring into the student book and teacher companion book like they hold the secrets of the universe.
They don’t, and most of the time you won’t get very many good ideas from them. Eventually you’ll have to come up with those ideas yourself, and the good news is that when you use your original ideas you really cut down on lesson planning.
I spent about ten to fifteen minutes planning a two-hour lesson by the time I finished teaching ESL. Most of the time that was a long time, as I routinely saved my old lessons and used them again. In those cases lesson planning took all of a minute as I went back into my old files and found it.
You’re going to teach the same thing over and over when you’re an ESL teacher. Either it’ll be the exact same class – maybe Chapter 3 on Household Items or Unit 4B on Asking for Directions – or you’ll have the same class but will now teach the same thing, just with a little bit harder grammar and vocabulary – Chapter 7 on Shopping for Household Items or Unit 7A on Reading a Map.
After awhile you’ll just know how to do that…and don’t make the biggest mistake I saw so many new teaches make time and time again – they forgot they knew English!
You don’t need to look up simple answers in the book. You don’t need to open Google to look up some grammar point. Your students don’t know! Wing it and you’ll get it right and move one. Don’t lose those students’ attention, letting the less-interested drag the class down into chaos.
You have to keep your class moving, at the cost of everything else, even little Sally’s poor pronunciation on ‘sh.’ If you don’t do this you’ll lose them. Sometimes in war you have to make sacrifices, and that ‘sh’ will have to go for now so you can get her to make a complete sentence. And make no mistake, ESL is a war, and you’ll fight many battles like this one.
To help you fight those battles you need weapons. These weapons aren’t high-powered assault rifles or even concealed knifes – no, they’re hidden-away fun worksheets and thumb-drives full of PowerPoints.
The point is, these are just one more little weapon in your arsenal, one more trick in your ESL back of tricks, and one more thing you can have printed out and ready to go when that time hits – and it inevitably will – when you have absolutely nothing to do in class because:
- A: The students hate everything you prepared and think it’s boring as hell;
- B: You thought you’d planned enough stuff but moved through it too quickly and now are high and dry with nothing;
- C: You don’t plan and just go into class with what you have and wing it, hoping everything works out.
Now, we’re getting more advanced here…more into the stages you’ll go through as an ESL teacher.
For instance, I really tried to plan a lot when I was a new teacher, but it resulted in ‘A’ up there, with me having lots of boring lessons.
After awhile I had good stuff but we just moved through it too quickly and then I had to twiddle my thumbs for the last twenty minutes of class, just like ‘B’ up there.
Finally, during my last year or two of teaching, I really just gave up…which is kind of when you come up with the best ideas because you play everything by ear, shoot from the hip, and let magic happen.
Some teachers don’t like that, and to them it looks like you’re doing nothing, but $10 says few of the teachers I worked with are still teaching or dispensing ESL advice, while I’m doing so each day (have you joined my Google+ ESL group yet?).
In conclusion, take the free stuff on my website and use it for as long as you can. When you run out, hopefully you’ll have come up with some original ideas or reached the end of your contract. What am I saying, you know you can!