As an aside from my usual topics about using computers for language education, recently I am involved in a teacher training programme and would like to share an article I am working on to assist new teachers to plan a lesson.
As part of the course, trainees need to present evaluation lessons using a grammar based syllabus prepared with PPP.
I hope this will be interesting to other teacher trainers and helpful to trainees, and I would like to hear your comments and criticisms.
Planning a Grammar Lesson with PPP
This article is concerned with preparing an English conversation lesson for a holistic, structural, four skills syllabus and is aimed at new teachers or those unfamiliar with grammar based syllabus or the PPP model of lesson planning (Present, Practice, Produce). For simplicity, it takes a deductive approach. It is presented as if the teacher has no L1 ability or is not permitted to use it in the classroom.
Grammar based syllabus are one of the oldest methods of teaching English. The idea is that language can be learnt by a series of grammatical rules, presented according to notions of simplicity and complexity. A typical grammar based syllabus will start with simple tenses and fundamentals and work its way through past, future and increasingly difficult structures. Each lesson introduces one grammar item which must be mastered before moving to the next.
Despite coming under heavy criticism and many emerging alternative syllabus, grammar based syllabus are still popular, and are a valid tool in a language educator's arsenal . Contemporary grammar based syllabus often take a holistic, four skills approach to language learning. i.e, the lessons are communicative with authentic texts and real topics; they engage the learner in speaking, listening, reading and writing exercises.
PPP is one popular model of planning a lesson. Language is presented in context using methods including mimes, illustrations, visual stories and realia. The target language is then modelled and practiced using drills and controlled activities like gap fills or sentence matching. Finally, the students get to try to produce the target language on their own in a free activity without direct support from the instructor. This model is also intuitive to teaching outside the field of language education where students are first introduced to the topic they are learning, are guided through the process with an instructor, and then get to try by themselves with the instructor on the sideline for when things go wrong.
Begin with the End in Mind -Production
The goal of your lesson is to enable your students to be able to freely produce the target language of your lesson in a meaningful context. Therefore, firstly you need to determine what it is that you want them to produce. For example, if your lesson is simple present for everyday events, you might want the students to be able to talk about things that they and others do on a regular basis, and to be able to ask questions about what other people do every day. You would probably want them to be able to use the negative form as well. Your target language for this might look something like:
I/ you/ Sarah and Dave | do/ don't do something | at this time He/ she/ Bob/ Sarah | does/ doesn't do something
What | do you | do | at this time? does he/ she
Do you | do something | at this time? Does he/ she
Yes | I do/ he does No | I don't/ she doesn't
List of activities goes here: get up, brush my teeth etc
List of useful expressions goes here: Wow, really?, I do, too!, etc
Or, more simply:
Simple present: positive, negative, question form
List of activities
List of useful expressions
In conjunction with determining the language that you want your students to produce, you need to find or create an exercise/ exercises that will give them the opportunity to freely practice this TL (Target Language).
Suitable choices for production activities include:
- Role plays
- Information gaps
- Problem solving
The activity should be one that once you have set it up, the students can perform by themselves with you to one side taking notes of students' mistakes. It is important to provide class feedback and error correction at the end of a production exercise.
One obvious source for such an exercise is English language textbooks, which may well also have the other stages of the lesson and plenty of extra material provided for you. You can also search the internet for activities created by other teachers or design your own. Colleagues and contemporaries are always a useful resource at every stage of your career.
Once you know the target language for your lesson and have production activities for students to freely practice that language, you will be better able to prepare the presentation and practice stages of your lesson. This is because you will be aware of what the students need to know and be able to successfully communicate in order to complete the lesson.
Break a Leg -Presentation
You already know the target language required for your students to complete the production stage of the lesson. Now you need to think about how you will present that TL to them.
Language you use in the classroom should be at a level where the students know at least enough to be able to infer what you are saying from what they do understand or your actions. For lower level students, that can be quite a challenge. You can use language you have taught before, and with experience you may have a fairly good idea of what they are able to understand. However, it is often better and always important to utilise plenty of non-verbal communication.
Use mimes, pictures (flash cards, magazines...), illustrate stories while you tell them on the board or bring real objects into the classroom. If you like to get crazy, you could do a skit, puppet show or play dress up.
You might also try soliciting the topic of the lesson, which has the added advantage of helping you to assess the students' ability to perform the lesson. For example, when teaching can, jump up and down trying to touch the ceiling, then pick out students and get them to try. See if any of them say "I can't!" Picture speculation is another great way to lead into a lesson and possibly solicit the TL.
Once you have introduced the topic in a way they can understand it, put it up on the board and start modelling the TL. You do not need to model every possible sentence for the lesson. One of the points of a grammar based syllabus is that the learner learns the language like a collection of building blocks that can be snapped together to create language. You only need to model key sentences, vocabulary and expressions necessary to complete the lesson. Carrying on from the earlier example of a lesson for simple present for everyday events, you might present the following model sentences and vocabulary:
I wake up at 6am in the morning.
I don't eat breakfast.
What do you do in the evening?
Do you take a shower at night?
in the morning
in the afternoon
in the evening
take a shower
go to school
I do, too!
There may be other forms you need to model additionally, such as third person singular if the students have not already learnt it.
Model your key sentences with stress and intonation. You might even want to mark the stress and intonation on the board. Use non-verbal communication to present vocabulary (pictures, illustrations on the board, mimes, realia).
Always check for understanding and at this early stage, provide plenty of correction. Do not just ask, "Do you understand?" Ask simple questions (yes/ no, either/ or are good), or get them to demonstrate their understanding, like pointing to the correct picture/ word.
Once the students demonstrate that they understand the syntax and semantics of the presented language, it is time to move into the practice phase of the lesson.
Practice Makes Perfect
This is the point where the TL has been presented and the students get to try using it in controlled activities with instructor support. Suitable activities for practice include:
- Substitution drills
- Gap fills
- Sentence transformations
- Matching sentences to pictures
Student books and workbooks usually provide plenty of good practice activities that can be tailored to your lesson (remember, your goal is to enable the students to complete the production phase that you have already planned).
It is a good idea to choose more than one practice activity. If your production exercise is oral, then you should provide at least one oral activity, like a drill or a game, that ideally uses every form of the target grammar (positive, negative and question form). Written practice activities are especially useful because they provide a reference that the students can use for revision.
This stage also requires plenty of instructor support, error correction and checking for understanding. Be careful to explain each activity so the students know what to do. Perform examples. Keep coming back to students who make mistakes in the drills until everyone gets it right. Monitor every activity and correct individual and group problems as you become aware of them.
You will continue the practice phase until you are satisfied that your students understand and are able to fluently and accurately complete the practice activities. For this reason, it is important to prepare enough practice in case the lesson is difficult for your students, but also be prepared to cut them short once you are confident they are able to produce the TL on their own.
In addition to the three P's, you should also have warmer and filler activities on hand. Warmers are for the beginning of the lesson when your students may still be half asleep or are still thinking about something else. Fillers are for when your students complete the lesson early and you need something to keep you going to the bell. These activities should be light and fun. Games are ideal, or possibly a nice conversation about what you did at the weekend.
Categories: Teacher Articles