The usefulness of standard lesson plan formats as presented on TT courses (Oct 14, 2015)
This summary was written by Noreen Lam (@Noreen_Lam)
After a long (and I mean LONG) hiatus from #eltchat, due to incompatible times and such, I stumbled onto this one last week by coincidence. Many of us go through the route of a CELTA/other TEFL/TESOL certificate in order to become an ESL/EFL/ESOL teacher and learn to put together these elaborate, detailed lesson plans. Excruciating numbers of hours are poured into outlining our aims, timing, steps (both for T & Ss), possible problems, evaluation and analysis. During the training courses, we learn how to do it carefully and hopefully learn to assess all aspects of a lesson through this. However, once finished and no longer with a tutor breathing down your neck, who really sticks to these lesson plans? That was what I really wanted to know and I sat in, ready to read like mad, during the flurry that is #eltchat.
Formal LPs pros and cons
With @HadaLitim and @angelos_bollas moderating, @MarekKiczkowiak kicked it off with his opinion that the generic formal plans for assessed lessons are unrealistic and don’t reflect how most Ts usually plan. @KarimaEnnouri, who is a NQT starting her first post-CELTA job, will be continuing with this way of planning because it helps her keep track of steps and allow for reflection, and is also required at her new job. Quite the contrary to a further ed college in the UK, where @languageeteach works, which has apparently done away with formal LPs completely to save time!
@angelos_bollas says that training LPs have helped him prepare them mentally and reflect post-lesson, and notices some Ts he works with that don’t have the training struggling with planning. Being a trainer herself, @Marisa_C says they are essential for training purposes for Ts to focus on flow and exploiting stages fully. @HadaLitim agreed that LPs have given her the framework to do be able to write them if she really wanted.
In short, there was wholehearted agreement that they help with the thinking process, such as sequence, language focus and transitions between activities, and could be especially useful for new Ts who may need extra support/reminders. However, all agreed that pages and pages are totally unrealistic for daily use, and perhaps a bit restrictive, said @theteacherjames. @MarekKiczkowiak mentioned that during these training courses, Ts aren’t taught different, more realistic ways of writing LPs, things that he mentioned in his blog https://teflreflections.wordpress.com/2015/06/07/lesson-plans-a-waste-of-time/. @getgreatenglish shared a joural article about a different format of planning: http://m.eltj.oxfordjournals.org/content/69/3/228.full
To toss or not to toss?
As @languageeteach mentioned about their school, it became a matter of cut-and-paste for the Ts there, so getting rid of them just seemed logical.
@Marisa_C lauded the use of LPs to get Ts to analyze the class. Once you get enough experience, you can summarize and make a more simplified version for yourself. Also with time, you accumulate a materials bank with lots of LPs to fall back on if needed! Many agreed that it’s fantastic, but that you have to be cautious and modify rather than just reuse LPs as is, since what worked for one group may not work for another! If you are required to write dozens of LPs, such as @Marisa_C or @angelos_bollas have in the past, you learn to prepare great ones so that’s an advantage in itself, even if you may think otherwise at the time…
Different ways people plan
@ITLegge writes a running order, focusing on aims and steps to achieve those. I jot down notes or areas to be aware of and @HadaLitim makes some (essential) scribbles on hands/napkins. @Marisa_C suggested flowcharts and mindmaps to allow for more freedom in the case of Dogme style classes (see example: http://marisaconstantinides.edublogs.org/2011/04/08/another-dogme-lesson/#.VideOqRmhJk) and various people mentioned jotting down notes on ss’ books. @theteacherjames mentioned @dalecoulter’s lesson skeletons approach: note to self to look that one up! @GlenysHanson said that he has never used a formally written plan, but that keeping an open mind helps you be prepared, and he normally reflects post-lesson on ss’ problems and where to go from there. Several people use their plans, in whatever shape or form, to reflect and think about what worked or didn’t, in order to prepare for the next day. @angelo_bollas asked if anyone had ever used audio notes, and @ITLegge thought that it would be possible since they can record on the IWB at their school. Several of us are waiting to hear how that goes!
@HadaLitim reminded us that overplanning can be a bad thing, because of timing issues, and lack of focus and flexibility for diversions. Many people liked the idea of the flowchart, where you “choose your own adventure” depending on what happens during the lesson. I must say, on a personal note, that it was reassuring to hear that many of the more experienced people in the chat admit to overplanning, so being one with less experience, I don’t feel so bad! 🙂 Sometimes it’s frustrating, as @KateLloyd05 mentioned if you don’t get to the freer speaking part of the LP, because that’s like the dessert of the meal, but @angelos_bollas had a great idea to assign it for homework and get ss to record themselves. Others mentioned doing it the following day, which I myself have done. I find that it serves as a reminder, and literally forces students to see that they have to remember what they learned the previous lesson!
At the end, it seemed that most people don’t follow a formal LP approach after a training course, although we recognize the importance of learning it as new Ts. We just don’t have time in our busy days to do so, and it’s best if you find the way that works for you, keeping in mind essentials for a good lesson. It was great to hear about everyone’s style and get some ideas on how to modify my own planning. Another stimulating #eltchat! 🙂