When planning a lesson, I always start with this question, "How will my students benefit in the real world from this topic?" The second question I ask is "What kind of language should they know at this level?" and then I choose a video, audio or article, the language of which represents at least 60% of what they should know. Third, I look at the various themes of the context, and divide them accordingly, providing alternative words, phrases, and expressions. Fourth, I decide on the practice part of the lesson: a group debate? a group discussion? a role play? or all three?
At the start of the lesson, it's important to find out what your students know about a given topic first. The reason being, in teaching a language, we are not teaching "ideas" but rather how to express one's ideas using a given language. I have my student define the topic, give examples, and provide problems with solutions so that I can determine and assess their pre-existing language skills. if I know what they know, I can add to it by extending it. The students appreciate this as well.
In short, having the students talk about X can indeed become boring class after class, unless, that is, you set the lesson up so that you are leading the students towards a specific goal:
1. Students discuss what they know about the topic as the teacher monitors their conversations and takes note of good and bad uses of language related to the topic.
2. Using the board, the teacher shows the students their strengths and weaknesses (what the teacher took note of during the monitoring phase).
3. Using the board, the teacher introduces new language related to the topic. The teacher does this by drawing on the students' pre-existing language and adding alternative words, phrasesm and expressions, even cultural notes.
4. The students are given an article or video or audio related to the topic. They are asked to listen to a portion of it for e.g., the kinds of language the speakers use that is related to the topic.
5. The teacher goes over the students' findings, provides clarification, adds to the language, and continues with the text, video or audio.
6. The students come up with themes of the topic; i.e., if the topic is about stress, and the video is about dealing with stress on the job, related themes could be cross-cultural differences in how people from various cultures deal with stress at home, with friends, medical, and so on.
7. Have students decide if they would like to a) debate an issue on one of the themes, (b) discuss it or (c) role play it.
8. While students are practicing (a), (b), and/or (c)--not everyone has to do the same thing--the teacher monitors their progress, and stops the activity to give language feedback. This can be done group by group or whole class.
9. Add to the theme. Add conflict. For example, an employee is granted a raise in salary on the condition that s/he move to another city. The employee now tells the spouse about this, and who threatens divorce. How will the students be able to solve this problem using English?
Again, if you lead your students towards a goal that they can see, with the end result being useful to them in the real world (e.g., the language of compromise), your students won't be bored anymore.
Note, divide large groups into smaller groups of three or into pairs. Alternate groups, pairs, and use standing, sitting, and mingling to add to the dynamics of your lesson.
- For Teachers